Clinton Campaign Conference Call, May 7, 2008
3:12, Geoff Garin, chief strategist for the Clinton campaign, discusses gains and losses of white voters and subcategories within that
31:39, Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe, on Clinton's prospects among key segments of the voting population who are not Appalachian whites (i.e., coastal whites and non-whites, New South inhabitants, midwestern whites and nonwhites, voters between 18-35, etc)
Dear Senator Clinton,
Last night as you gave your victory speech in Indiana, I think you finally realized what many have known and felt for a long time. Your campaign is over.
I'm hoping you have the courage to drop out now, quickly, graciously, and magnanimously. And throw all your formidable energy and tenacity into backing Senator Obama, our Democratic Party nominee.
Let me say who I am a little bit: I'm the mother of a 4.5 year old boy and a "recovering" academic, originally trained to teach literature
at the college level, and I am so proud of the young people of America
and how they've stood up for our country. So proud, as if every college
student who helped canvass for his/her candidate was my own star student.
So proud--as if every grade school kid who held a mock election or
studied or covered this historic presidential race was my own child.
Our youth have so much energy and idealism. When coupled with the training and the opportunities we can give them, there's no limit to what they can do. Your campaign has helped to catalyze young people's interest in current and world affairs, and I hope we reap the rewards for generations to come.
I'll sound like a crusty old fart when I say it, but their souls have not been fettered by doubt and impossibility that comes from cynical resignation. Young people who are today 17 and 18 were only 10 when 9/11 happened. They're old enough to have witnessed the national grief and soul-searching, to have their ideas about what America is and should be profoundly tested as we all questioned in those dark days. And they're old enough to have grown up with President Bush's solution to provocation, attack and violence: more provocation, attack and violence. More death. They see the failure of old ways of doing things.
I'll be honest, I've hardened against you quite a bit over the past three months, Senator Clinton. I still remember when I learned you'd been elected senator of New York in 2000. I was thrilled. I knew it was a first step for you on the way to what you've always wanted--the presidency.
But after 9/11, when I'd learned you'd voted to authorize the Iraq war two short years later, I felt enraged at your decision. We millions in America and around the world were begging you in Congress to stop Bush. Twenty-three of your brave colleagues voted against the authorization. You didn't.
It wasn't only the times that pushed you into the neo-McCarthyism
that Bush so loathsomely burdened us with. At a moment when we needed to
be big, to dig deep, and to be brave, Bush made us small, shallow, and
craven. With his words "with us or against us," he led us there and it
is unforgiveable how we as a society followed. We needed you to break
You took an even sharper hawkish turn, voting to ok the use of cluster bombs (cluster bombs, Senator Clinton! I know you've seen the pictures of children from countries where we've dropped those bombs and I know you've seen their shattered limbs and bloodied stumps. They were out playing as children will do. Playing!). Voting even to give President Bush tacit permission to invade Iran via the Kyl-Lieberman Iran Amendment. I wondered what on earth you were doing. What kind of extreme, appalling calculation was this?
Even so, I held on to the belief that you were still a feminist deep within. Your domestic agenda is detailed, well-thought through, and obviously well-considered. Your health care plan is bold and I took it as a sign that there was still a large remnant of who you were in 1973 in the person you were in 1993 and in the person you were in 2007. But the person who generated those policies increasingly bears no relation to your foreign policy persona and your campaign persona.
I was willing to give you a second chance for a brief time after Super Tuesday. My first choice has always been Obama, but there was a time when I would've gladly voted for you, too.
It wasn't until you started you losing and saw your senate colleague Obama win 11 states in a row that your campaign took on an ugly tenor. I'm sure the "abandonment" by former supporters of your campaign, like Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), must have felt like an incredible betrayal. And many people still believe that all African Americans vote for the biracial African American candidate out of blind identity politics. Rather, African American voters, among the most loyal, discerning, and truly the salt-of-the-earth base of the Democratic Party, a group of voters who through the crucible of slavery have bequeathed to this country a tremendous instinct for justice--these African American voters were yours to lose. They were with you during President Clinton's impeachment and started your campaign with you.
Some would say to me, you're Asian American, what do you care how African American voters vote? (Or about white voters, for that matter.) That's exactly it, I'm Asian American and I don't need to be told what racism looks, smells, and feels like. Sadly, I've sampled a little more than I've ever wanted growing up here. But joyously and wonderfully, I've met many more people whose hearts are too big for such a belittling idea as racism. I've benefited from the people who came before me and my parents. They marched, and sang, protested and prayed, and got their skulls cracked or worse in shaking this country out of its nightmare addiction to race.
What disappointed me was how instead of fighting for your African American base, instead of reminding them of how you've stood by African Americans and other people of color and trusting in their good faith, ability to discern, and independence of mind, you turned on them. Where was the case you made for yourself as an ally? The courage of your convictions? Could only one person be the advocate for racial equality? Why not two? The vinegar of your insinuations pushed them to Obama. Of course, he drew them with the honey of his many political gifts, his progressive record, and his genuine inclusiveness. But who knows how many black voters would've stayed with you, had you stayed loyal to them?
I don't want to rehearse that long, ugly descent into what you
yourself know as "kitchen sink" politics. But I know as a woman of
color feminist, what feminism means to me is not an idea of
'woman' that exists separate from my ethnicity, as white mainstream
feminism would have it. In 1851, freed former slave woman Sojourner Truth asked a group of white women abolitionists, "Ain't I a woman?" Her cry is one so many of us still hear every time a certain kind of feminism demands that an African American woman be 3/5 of a white woman or 3/5 of a black man, depending on who she's with.
It means instead that I believe in something called "intersectional analysis" where we are all a braid of interlaced identities. Some identities are chosen, some are conferred by birth. There isn't one that comes "first." But above all, this kind of third wave feminism insists that we ourselves are not free til we are all free. A feminism that abandons anti-racism, for example, is just a woman outlier who broke out and did well for herself. Feminism is building the elevator from scratch and sending it back for the next one to rise. Feminism is coalitional politics--at minimum not adding to the racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and so on that exists out there. And at best, being a good ally, if not actually taking up for one another. This is what I've conveyed to young men and women when I taught at the college level. This is what young people can learn now, if they're open to it. This is nothing new--as a young woman you marched, protested, and organized on these same principles.
What if you hadn't ceded the ebb of some African American supporters to simple identity politics? What if you had embraced your part in this alliance, and you and Senator Obama had joined forces? I'm not alone in regretting that glorious possibility. The fact that it seemed within reach for a shining millisecond only sharpens my lament. Who knows if Senator Obama would have really been open to it? The point is, he never cut off that possibility with scurrilous attacks on you. Can you honestly say you've met the same standard?
But when you manipulated racial codes in order to shore up electoral support, you showed me that you abandoned the commitment to anti-racism that's a core part of being a feminist. You said loud and clear that you'd opted out of coalitional politics.
It wouldn't have hurt and angered me so much unless I'd actually thought you were a feminist to begin with. What kind of sisterhood is this? I didn't leave you. You left me. Senator Clinton, with every move that aped the traditional brandishment of power by an earlier, less wise generation of men--war, brawling, being "tough on crime/tough on security", venturing the "obliteration" of another country--you left me and forged some caricature of imaginary honorary manhood, slugging back shots of Crown Royal and duck hunting. A caricature whose ridiculous end led your surrogate James Carville to proudly assert you had more than the normal number of testicles. What happened to your dignity? And how is this left-handed "praise" different than the misogynist slams you've endured from pundits in the MSM? Did your many male advisors sell you out? Or did you willingly sell yourself out?
The other thing about third wave feminism as it's practiced today is how, through intersectional analysis, we allow for the ways that power has been unjustly exercised upon us, but acknowledge that braided into our complex selves are identities that confer privilege. Straight in a heterosexist/homophobic world--privileged. Educated in a world where many are not, or incompletely so--privileged. White in a world where it's unthinkingly taken as the norm--privileged. Able-bodied in a world designed for able-bodied, illness-free people--privileged. Wealthy instead of struggling--privileged. What intersectional analysis demands is intellectual honesty about where you've experienced advantage and disadvantage, and the spiritual mettle to refuse simple guilt and to own what we've all experienced on both sides of the coin. We carry our own water. Because as powerful as one might be--wealthy, white, educated, straight, able-bodied--we're all vulnerable in surprising ways. I could see your vulnerability every time a tv news pundit made an overtly sexist comment about you. I could see your vulnerability last night as you spoke, knowing that something crucial had irrevocably changed in your campaign and no amount of bravado could hide that self-knowledge from your deepest heart of hearts. Or the state of your campaign from those of us watching you.
Throughout your campaign, you often made light of Senator Obama's relative youth. You turned his gentlemanliness into faintness of heart or lack of resolve. His restraint became weakness in your depiction. But maybe in his restraint, he was wiser than you with your attacks. Because now having said what you've said about him, your road to redemption is longer. You will have that much more to account for when you are next in the Senate rotunda together.
Senator Clinton, when you decided that anti-racism was no longer a part of your feminism, the one you hurt through the exercise of that skin privilege was not the people of color you betrayed. The person hurt most by your abandonment of anti-racist principles and actions was you yourself. You see, what we realize through intersectional analysis is that racism is bad for white people, because it breeds suspicion and misunderstanding, meanness and fear. Classism is bad for rich people--thinking that you are entitled to everything materially, you lose sight of the value of things with no price tag and your heart grows narrow and cheapened. Privilege, while seductive and inescapable, is a poisoned fruit. You lost the respect of a rainbow of people--not only African Americans, but others who are repulsed at your treatment of them--who would like to believe that the blight on our country we know as racism is lessening with every interracial marriage or adoption, every interracial friendship, every opportunity for people from different backgrounds to come together and peaceably co-exist whether at work, or in play.
We as a society cannot afford a single-issue politics of
aggrievement. For the betterment of ourselves and our world we have to
move beyond it. It doesn't tell the truth about who we are or how complicated the problems are that we face.
Senator Obama periodically says something in his stump speeches and in his books that I believe, and I believe he means wholeheartedly: our world will be different when we see children and say not "those kids," but "our kids."
This is how I understand his words: when you teach, the people whose names you awkwardly learn from the class roster at the beginning of the semester start out as strangers to you. You put out feelers, they test you back. At some point you build trust, and you're joking and laughing with one another. One student's inability to grasp a key point of information will keep you up at night--how can I explain this better to him or her? This student needs this kind of challenge tailored to his or her need. How can I unlock student X's potential? You worry about them and fret over how best to nourish their minds and hearts. As you spend time together, a bond forms and you can't help but think of "those kids" as "my kids."
Here's another way to look at it, one that comes from the core of how I experience motherhood: when we understand that raining down cluster bombs on another country where children, being just like all the other children around the world, will play in areas where live bombs lie on the ground, and those cluster bombs will explode and tear apart those children--those children could be our children. On 9/11, those children were our children. Those people were our people. The terrorists who hurt us were chiefly known for their provocation, attack and violence.
When we become known for provocation, attack and violence in kind, it's not only the people we hurt but ourselves who become diminished. Can and should we defend ourselves? Of course. Can and should we act unilaterally and pre-emptively on false evidence? No.
There were times as a college instructor I really wondered if feminism was merely academic. A set of nice-sounding ideals that had no application in "the real world." An interesting way to read a book but a way to live that's doubtful in an applied sense. Watching young people who've breathed in the insights of third wave feminism at a young age and cross-pollinated these critical ways of thinking and being in the peace movement, the environmental movement, the fashion, high-tech, and entertainment worlds, or in public life, I have to believe it is a useful tool.
Watching your campaign implode I see and understand that if you had taken the high road more often, if you had driven home the message of your competence, vision, and ability with the same vociferousness as you drove home your opponent's actual or perceived weaknesses, you would be winning RIGHT NOW. And very possibly, Senator Obama would be winning right alongside you. Something could've been worked out. We would be reveling in the riches of the best our culture has to offer.
I don't think I'm alone in saying that my anger and my regret at what could have been has been at times unbearable. We so badly need to step into an unknown, somewhat troubled future together. We had that chance. Now I think we can't step into that river again, not in the same way.
Senator Clinton, feminism is not academic. It was a guiding star of your life once and I'd like to see you make it so again. I'd like to see you embrace and digest what intersectional analysis means--as opposed to single-issue second wave feminism--so your understanding of power is such that you are not always and only its victim, but its wise, generous arbiter, both in your domestic agenda and your foreign policy outlook. So your first reflex isn't to gird yourself for a fight, but to flex with empathy and strength. I'd like to see you reconnect with your allies again, in word and deed. If it means recognizing that this was not your time, and you are perhaps not the woman, then to accept the realization with grace and dignity and not hold it against those who appear to dangle the prize just out of reach.
Because did they? No. No one did this to you; no one is your greatest enemy except yourself. You are that powerful.
If only you would recognize it.
There is so much you've already given to this country. I hope you can find the right role to exploit your gifts and strengths, because we still need you.
Jane Chu Public (aka Cynematic)
Cynematic is shocked that you're reading the bottom of this page. She often writes personal correspondence to people of note, then is too cheap/lazy to mail the letter, so she posts it online. Therapy via epistolary means. And she kinda misses teaching sometimes. She blogs at P i l l o w b o o k.