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Hillary and Obama: A Study in Contrasts

Not that I think Hillary’s gender-baiting rhetoric from the last 72 hours needs more coverage, but I think there is a larger point being lost in this. Sure, it’s sort of ridiculous to keep telling us that a woman is tough enough to stand up to the bullying of dictators around the world, and then squeal about the sexism of her opponents attacking her for being woefully unimpressive in a debate. That’s not what really stands out to me, though.

What really stands out is the difference in Obama and Hillary. Obama could have played the race card against Hillary early on. When he first questioned the coronation process that many argue is taking place, Hillary sent her minions to savage him – to accuse him of breaking some imaginary pledge to run a campaign without uttering her name.

Obama, in turn, could easily have replied that this was an attempt by the monochromatic cast of Hillary’s campaign to keep the black man down. He could have arranged a conference call filled with African-American supporters claiming this was ‘an attempt to make Obama be the white man’s slave.” They didn’t. They didn’t dredge up the imagery of black on white crime. They didn’t try to make the campaign about race. They fought about the substance of the charges, and defended themselves without resorting to stereotypes.

Honestly, it leaves me even more convinced that this race is Obama’s to lose. Regardless of Mark Penn’s pronouncement that women are going to be all over this, I think the more they try to play that card, the worse they’re going to do.

Hillary’s numbers are already very soft with men. A recent poll I read (and forgive me for not being able to find the source) indicated that 40% of men already believe that Hillary is absoutely unacceptable as a candidate. This was before her women vs. men rhetoric kicked in. It’s unlikely that this will earn her more favor among men. That aside, however, I have heard grumblings from a lot of women that this does them all a disservice. That Hillary’s crocodile tears belittle the cause of feminism by hiding behind it.

Perhaps this entire scene was choreographed. Somewhere in the deep bowels of Camp Hillary, they may have seen an eventual stumble as inevitable and believed they could make hay out of a charge of sexism. It would not surprise me. In fact, I suspect that’s the case. It does not change the fact that it is politics of the lowest order.

It will be interesting to see if there is a price to be paid by Hillary for this tactic. Obama doesn’t feel the need to enlist the politics of race to elect the first Black President. Does Hillary believe she has to cry sexism in order to unite a political sisterhood? If so, will it get her enough women who agree to counter the number turned off by her methods?

Written by Michael Turk