03 November 2007

Oh Hillary...

Victim or a Party Crasher in the 'All-Boys Club'?
This is not just DC drama, but I can't just ignore the presidential election. I want to like Hillary more. I think there is a Stephen Colbert word for that, but I can't recall. Anyway, I want to like Hillary, a strong liberal woman running for president. When I was younger I feared that the first woman president would have to be a conservative, a la Margret Thatcher.

Even the many women who populate and play increasingly important roles in presidential and other campaigns recognize -- often to their annoyance -- that the vernacular of politics is that of blood sport and gamesmanship and that the pressurized atmosphere inside these campaigns is more a combination of locker room and fraternity than classroom and sorority. So there is a ready audience for what Clinton is saying about the world she seeks to conquer.

Politics is not the first place we have seen this language as a road block to women becoming involved. In business, in science, in anyplace that has been dominated by men, we see that the language used is more violent and aggressive than people think women should use. Then of course we get caught in the catch 22, to make it we have to be aggressive, but if we are aggressive as women that is seen as off putting.

The language of evolution and natural selection used to be just as violent and aggressive. It was thought that all the choices, all the selection, was done by aggressive males. It took decades to show that females have just as much of a role. In some species the females really have most of the power about who they mate with and which genes are passed on. But now we are in a place where the role of females in evolution is more acknowledged, if not fully known.

The language of politics hasn't changed and neither has the expectation about how the candidates should treat each other. Hillary is left walking a fine line between acting in the same aggressive manner as the other candidates, and pointing out the aggressive manner in which the other candidates are acting. She is asked to be able to hold her own, but also not point out that history is stacked against her. They say that she can't both play by the rules and critique the rules at the same time. But if your not in the game in the first place you can't critique the rules either. Great.

That said, Barack Obama has a point.

"Look, I don't think that people doubt that Senator Clinton is tough," Obama said. "She's used to playing in national politics. And in fact, that is one of the things that she has suggested is why she should be elected is because she's been playing in this rough and tumble stage. So it doesn't make sense for her, after having run that way for eight months, the first time that people start challenging her point of view that suddenly she backs off and says, "Don't pick on me." I think that that is not obviously how we would expect her to operate if she were president."

The valid point is that Hillary is making what might generously called a critique of the aggressive nature of politics after a poor performance at the debate and a stinging ad by the Edwards campaign. The timing is a little questionable.

I want to like one of the candidates, really like one, but none of them are perfect and its hard to choose. Its easy after the primaries, but thats not the point. Sigh.

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