Monday, January 28, 2008

women and black folks have better brains, right?

Barack Obama's surprise high-scores in the primaries are being remarked on for one thing. In any opening paragraph they'll tell you about the colour of his skin.

Americans woke up to the historic possibility that the day when they might have a black president was closer than they thought - not just within their lifetime, but within the year.

He is apparently 'the skinny kid with the funny name'. Sorry, but someone who is 46 and a wealthy experienced politician is not a kid.

The other serious Democrat contender, Hillary Clinton, is generally referred to by her first name (so much cuddlier and more feminine), and of course there's one factor that gets more prominent mention than any other. Jerry Springer's comments in the Guardian the other week are typical

It would do wonders for America's psyche, as well as the world's perception of us, to go from Texas macho to a woman. All that negative reaction we've got for trying to beat up on the world would be dispensed with overnight by a woman president...

I think, two or three days before the election, there are going to be an awful lot of women (and also feminist men) who aren't that political and might not even tell their husbands or their boyfriends who are quietly going to go into the polls, and, by God, tomorrow morning I'm going to wake up with a woman president. That would be so uplifting.

There is a one-word answer to that: Thatcher.

When Bush was first (not) elected, I was on a message board arguing with someone who reckoned it bodes well because Bush had appointed the most ethnically diverse cabinet in American history. Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell's blackness is as meaningful as Barack Obama's.

When Blair was first elected an intelligent friend told me with a straight face that it was going to be good because Blair had kids with him in Number 10 and that would make him act responsibly for the future.

Thank god for Vasiliy and Svetlana Stalin, eh? Imagine what their dad would've got up to if he'd been childless.

It's not about the colour of skin, the ability to reproduce, nor the genitals lounging in your groin. It's about whose interests you serve.

The leader is, at best, a mere figurehead, and more often a mascot or a puppet. Nobody gets to run a country - least of all the USA - without getting hefty donations from corporate power. Who else has access to the hundreds of millions of dollars it takes to get elected? Next question, what do those donors expect for their money?

Yet over and over people make it about 'the type of person'. I was recently on a message board being told by a previously intelligent person that we should all support Obama instead of the politically indistinguishable other candidates.

It has nothing to do with 'political strategies' or his 'agenda' and it has everything to do with the fact that I am a pretty good judge of character

Even if someone were an impeccably good judge of character for someone they've only ever seen on TV in the middle of a campaign to make you like them, what on earth else should we judge potential leaders on except their political strategy and agenda?

Making it about some matey personality thing is a denial of all that's gone before and is deliberately shying away from thinking about what the candidates actually stand for, what they will actually do.

Every change is welcomed because we've grown to hate the betrayal of the incumbent (hell, people even felt Gordon Brown's takeover was cause for jubilation). This alone should be enough of a lesson; power itself is the problem.

Irrespective of their speeches and any personal ideals, the premier has to serve the interests who put them there and keep them there. These are unlikely to be your interests, even if you approve of Mrs Clinton's type of genitals or Mr Obama's skin tone.


Anonymous said...

There is something amusing about the way this is being presented as "do you want to be perceived as more racist or sexist as a country"?

Of course, not enough attention is being paid to the big question of can they win beyond their party's nomination. I seriously don't think either will. And, that's not a matter of genitals or skin. The Republican's are loving the fact that they're getting practically no coverage. Less chance to fuck up.

merrick said...

Tony, regarding the Republicans, I think the matey-personality politics could cut both ways.

On the one hand you're right, their people are not getting the chance to be clearly stupid and Dan Quayle themselves into defeat. Also, the personality thing makes people blame Bush rather than the Republicans, politicians or government in general. This pushes people to think that a different fossil-funded Republican might be radically different to Bush.

However, people who buy into the matey-personality thing need to feel matey before they'll vote for someone. All this Clinton and Obama saturation gives a chance for that familiarity to grow. Republicans skulking in the shadows don't have that.