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Obama vs. Hillary: Sexual Politics and The Black Female Vote

By Mary Alice Miller
Its official! The road to the 2008 Democratic nomination for President of the United States is no longer a coronation pageant for Queen Hillary. Barack Obama and to a lesser degree John Edwards have become formidable challengers.
There has been a lot of buzz regarding the Black female vote and who it leans toward- Obama or Hillary? The Black female vote may be a decisive force in choosing the next Democratic nominee for President of the United States because North Carolina’s Jan. 8th Primary and several of the large Super Tuesday states, including California and New York, have large blocks of Black female voters.
Hillary Clinton was  presumed to have both the Black vote and the women’s vote in  her hip pocket. The assumption of control of the Black vote is a legacy of her husband’s popularity among Black Democrats. The women’s vote may be because Hillary’s goal is to become the first female president of the United States.
Most political campaigns focus their get-out-the-vote efforts on Black females. The 2008 presidential campaign is no exception.  Common knowledge is that Black females vote more than Black males. Some Black men are known to voluntarily give up their vote because of apathy and distrust of the system. Others have their vote involuntarily taken away because of contact with the criminal justice system at some point in their lives.
The debate over the Black female vote is heightening lately with Obama closing the polling numbers gap between his and Hillary’s campaigns. Interviews with Black female voters reveal allegiances with both Obama and Hillary for obvious reasons- Obama because he is Black, Hillary because she is female. Little focus has been paid to the sexual politics underlying specific leanings.
Hillary has definitively tied her campaign to her husband’s years in office. Black folks supposed love of Bill began with his saxophone performance on the “Arsenio Hall Show.” In 1998, Toni Morrison, Princeton professor and Nobel laureate, called Bill “our first Black president.”
The relationship between Bill and Hill resonates emotionally with Black females, many of whom know what it feels like when  their man has repeatedly embarrassed them in public. While ignoring her husband’s history of taking advantage of vulnerable women from Jennifer Flowers to Monica Lewinsky, Hillary is touting her non elected position as First Lady in the White House as qualification for the office of president. Bill Clinton’s presidency was filled with unintended consequences. Welfare reform, free, not fair, trade agreements that accelerated the exodus of outsourced blue- and white-collar jobs, extreme sentencing guidelines for crack as opposed to cocaine, and the NAFTA program that devastated the economy on the Mexican side of the U.S. border, leading to the largest illegal immigrant surge since the Puritans, have all had devastating effects on Black women and the Black community as a whole.
Barack Obama also resonates with the Black female voter. When Julianne Malveaux asked, “Is Obama Black enough?”, no one in polite society said what many thought- “Of course he is Black; his father abandoned the family!” Too many Black women know what that feels like. Obama, however, is not to be blamed for the sins of his father. In fact, Obama made a conscious decision to be a better man than his father: he acquired a quality education, chose to work with his people, married Michelle, a Black woman, and remains married while raising their two daughters.
What, exactly, does Jesse Jackson mean when he asserts Barack Obama is not Black enough? Does Jackson really believe Obama should follow the example of some old-guard civil rights leaders (and too many men in the Black community), go outside of his marriage and have out-of-wedlock children? Would Obama be Black enough then? Two generations, post-civil rights, have lived this social dysfunction. Many grew up watching their mothers mistreated and the children abandoned. We all see the devastating effects of this value system on the social fabric of Black America. Post-civil rights generations want something different in our lives and in the White House.
Former Ambassador Andrew Young revealed his disrespect for the Black female vote by “joking” on national television that “Bill is every bit as Black as Barack. He’s probably gone with more Black women than Barack.” No one can contest that Bill prowled quite a bit during his marriage, but with Black women? And why should Young think sexual prowess with Black women is a barometer of anything? Emotional abuse of Black women should not be used to give Bill a third term as president by proxy.
Young also demonstrated his lack of knowledge of the U. S. Constitution when he said: “It’s not a matter of being inexperienced. It’s a matter of being young.” Stating he wants “Barack Obama to be president in 2016.” Article II of the Constitution states a president must be a citizen of the United States, 35 years old and a resident for 14 years. Obama qualifies on all counts. Young’s wish that Obama wait until 2016 sounds like the argument the Old South gave when resisting civil rights for African-Americans.
Hillary has been accusing Obama of lacking experience for the office of president. But eight years of Hill discussing federal policy during pillow talk with her husband, the elected president, is not experience. Hill accuses Obama of being calculating, and uses Obama’s kindergarten essay, “I want to be President”, as an example of his lifelong ambition. Hill’s carpetbagger move to NY in order to become U.S. Senator on her way back to the White House apparently does not count as being either calculating or overly ambitious.
If Obama is overly ambitious, so too is Oprah, the most popular woman in television. Oprah’s weekend of campaigning for Obama in Iowa, North Carolina and New Hampshire brought out record crowds. Yes, many came out just  to see Oprah. Her endorsement did what it was expected to do- garner attention for Obama. Oprah was not expected to get votes for Obama. He must do that for himself.
The Clinton campaign has prematurely declared Hill the presumptive Democratic nominee, despite Obama’s competitive poll numbers and fund-raising.  Hill does not seem to notice the palpable hatred of her by many segments across the country that began during her husband’s first term in office when Bill campaigned by offering “two for the price of one”. No one voted for Hillary to be anything during her husband’s two terms. Hillary’s failed “health care reform” as First Lady does not help.  Conservatives are salivating at the mouth, waiting for her to become the nominee.
Since Oprah’s campaign weekend with Obama, Hillary has brought out her big guns- a now-fired campaign manager who insinuated Obama sold drugs as a teen, and Bill wh asserts an Obama nomination is a “roll-of-the-dice”.
Susan B. Anthony was very angry when after the Civil War, Black men got the right to vote before white women did with the passage of   the 19th Amendment. Anthony spewed her vitriol in spite of the participation of Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass in the First (white) Women’s Convention at Seneca Falls, NY. If Hill is upset now at Obama’s competitive popularity in the poll’s among Black and white prospective voters, will she become ungraciously unhinged if and/or when Obama officially becomes the Democratic nominee?  Time will tell. The Iowa Caucus is Jan. 3rd. The New Hampshire and North Carolina Primaries are Jan. 8. Super Tuesday is Feb. 5th.

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