I’ve been wondering why Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, has such momentum in this presidential race. He basically came out of nowhere—that 2004 Democratic National Convention speech (how did he get picked for that?) made him our great next Democratic presidential hopeful. I understand that he’s young and that he represents a changing of the guard. I just don’t understand the particulars, how one speech that put him in the national spotlight also made it seem a given that he’s qualified enough to be our next president, and that he has a good shot of winning. Sometimes I wonder if people are supporting him because he’s black. Yes, he has the goods: charm, personality, an interesting background yet one that fits in with the status quo (lawyer), he’s young and ready to make a change…and he’s black, so why not? It’s that extra oomph that puts him ahead.
Contrast that with Hillary, who I feel is blackmarked by a lot of people because of her name. The brilliant op-ed piece by Gloria Steinem in today’s Times (#1 on the email list too!) articulates so well why the feminist in me wants to support Hillary. I know she’s worked hard her entire life, is considered an excellent senator, and really wants to be president because she wants to change things. So many people I know are anti-Hillary—and honestly, for the most part, I can’t remember why. Other than being who she is, her baggage defines her, and those are the main reasons that people don’t like her. She’s in a no-win position, damned if you do, damned if you don’t, regarding her background, experience, and the people who support her, because people don’t want to listen. They know that she’s just going to bring corruption and scandal to the office, that she reeks of the ‘90s. Although we curiously are a nostalgic nation when it comes to popular culture today, it doesn’t seem to work for the candidates referring to themselves as Kennedy-, Reagan-, or Lincolnesque. Maybe it’s because there’s a war on, and nobody is trying to be Roosevelt.
As I write this, I haven’t seen Hillary’s emotional outburst yet, I’ve only read about it. But even so, I get it. Campaigning for anything, devoting so much time and energy to any cause, let alone president, is completely giving your all. Of course it’s emotional. Every single thing these candidates do is scrutinized, and with Hillary it’s double. The pressure is exhausting and nonstop, and I applaud her for being human and for being real. Hillary, in a sense, has been preparing for this her entire life, and I’ve always liked seeing the person behind the persona, so to speak. It’s important to see it in our leaders, the people we admire and who get recognition for actively trying to make a difference in this world so we can really see how hard they work and how things get done, instead of just seeing celebrities buying cereal in the grocery store, the defunct mode of seeing famous people as ordinary citizens.
Maybe Hillary really is like Reese Witherspoon’s character in Election. Tracey Flick is a manipulative bitch, but she’s fascinating. And she does put her all into that damn election.