Thursday, June 26, 2008

American voters and the “cult of loyalty”

I wrote this on 2/17/08 when the Clintons were becoming more and more unappealing to me.

Thank you Bill and Hillary Clinton for successfully ending your love affair with the American public. Honestly, you had a good run. Americans are loyal as fuck when it comes to politics, aren’t they?

It’s ironic as hell that politics would be the field where people switch fundamental ideologies in a matter of days without a second thought. But not the American voters. No. You can depend on their loyalty. Well, in many cases, it manifests itself as a stubborn unwillingness to change their minds. If they liked a candidate in ’97 and he’s running again in ’08 he’d have to burn down a nursing home and steal from children’s fund for them to even begin thinking about the possibility of voting for another candidate. Either way, one thing is for sure. It’s gonna take a lot more than simply taking issue with that candidate’s stance on important issues.

Let’s be honest. As Americans, we have been notorious for electing presidents based on looks, musical ability (eh-em saxophone player), religion, last name, charisma etc. We’re not too fond of putting someone in the White House because they have good ideas. At least not in the years I’ve been a voter or old enough to be personally aware of voting trends. We as a public are becoming less and less aware of WHO is really running for president. I wish I could say I wasn’t even a little bit shocked the other night as I watched Jay Leno showing citizens (of all ages, races and genders thank GOD) he had met on the street pictures of people like Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and asking them to identify those people. As you can probably imagine, it was a complete bust. Not only did they not recognize current candidates’ pictures but, in many cases, it didn’t even ring a bell when Leno suggested their names. For our sake, I’m hoping this was conducted in the most vapid unaware part of Hollywood and is no reflection on the population as a whole but I cannot say I’m hopeful. I just cannot fathom living in a country where I know nothing about who is currently and who is petitioning to run it. Of course, at the end of the segment, Leno says, “You get the government you deserve!” and it’s funny but you can also tell he’s a little disgusted as well. Seriously, these are the people to whom the candidates are campaigning? People who cannot even remember candidate’s names, much less the details of their health plans? And here I am expecting voting results to make sense.

Honestly, the Clintons could have gotten re-elected (let’s just call it what it is) in a heartbeat. They wouldn’t have had to do much, just let their old faithful supporters know they're running and periodically conjure up grandiose images of the good years with the Clintons in the White House (especially in this day and age when the Clinton era economically seems so far away). No detailed ideas for healthcare would have been necessary, no millions of dollars needed to be spent. All they had to do was stand up on the stage and say, “hey guys! We’re running! Put us back in the White House!” There would have been no demand for a campaign of substance. The Clinton loyalty would have done all the work. Hell, I consider myself to be of considerable intelligence with great concern for the political future of this country and I was ready to vote for Hillary on principle!

Unfortunately for them, a wrench named Barack Obama was thrown into the system. Obama is not a name that conjures up years of financial prosperity. He doesn’t have a legacy to point to when he asks voters to put him in the White House. Frankly, if this election is business as usual, he’d have very little chance convincing anyone to elect him over a Clinton™. Luckily for him, the Clintons have managed to do the impossible. They’ve managed to lose a good amount of the old American loyalty that would have made them a shoo-in to the White House. And that is quite a feat. So much so that you can see many people trying to hold on to a positive idea of the Clintons by any means necessary: old guard feminist arguments, pity and even demonizing a very encouraging message of hope coming from the Obama campaign. Frankly, it’s quite embarrassing. They did this to themselves. With a combination of negativity, insincerity and a lack of passion, the Clinton’s have managed to push a lot of their old friends away. Take me for example (yes, I’m presumptive enough to consider myself as one of their old friends, anwat!?) I’m a little ashamed to say that I was once part of the group of black women who LOVED me some Bill Clinton. Sheepishly, I must admit that I might have called him the first black president once or twice in the past (I’m so embarrassed!). I remember his campaign song from ’92 (Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow…it’ll soon be here! Yesterday’s gone!) and I mourned the end of his second term with the solemnity and sincerity I would have had for the untimely death of a young child full of promise and talent—I was a melodramatic high school senior who was enrolled in an election elective course in school and convinced I would save the world one day. My support for Hillary was no exception. I, like most others viewed them as a unit. Her good ideas were his and his dedication to important issues was hers. I didn’t hesitate to elect her as a New York senator even though she was nothing close to a New Yorker because I eagerly anticipated her run for the presidency and knew that this position would be stepping stone on her path to the White House (even then, we all subliminally knew she was a plotting old witch who always aspired to be president). To me, it didn’t get any better than that: a Clinton who is a WOMAN back in the office?! Double Trouble! According to tradition, she’d be something akin to the first black female president (gag!)

Ugh, I’m sorry. I got a little carried away there but you get my point. Hillary had my support. I guess part of it was my inability to imagine another candidate who could challenge the promise a Hillary candidacy held (apparently, she didn’t either! ha ha ha!) And another part of it was…good old Clinton loyalty. Well, although I am American, I am not part of that loyal to a fault population. I still believe my vote is to be earned. Not to say I didn’t want Clinton to earn it. I was definitely rooting for her. But if she could turn off some of those “cult of loyalty” voters then they’ve done a pretty shit-tastic job of campaigning.

Of course the Obama factor doesn’t help. Anyone running against this man would find themselves in a difficult situation that is relatively new on the American political scene (at least to this generation of voters). But if anyone could beat Barack Obama (and let’s be very clear, I don’t think anyone should beat him), it would have to be a FEMALE Clinton. You can’t think up a more challenging opponent on paper. But ay…therein lies the rub. Unfortunately for the Clints, they’re not running on paper. They’re running in real time and every negative and cynical (and overtly racist for that matter) comment deals a blow to the loyalty that would have gotten her elected. Every insincere smile, every effort to hide Hillary’s power hunger and dress it up as a strong and genuine desire to help women and children diminishes the possibility of her getting votes from America’s thinking population. I’m sure if she were running against yet another uninspired candidate whose taken steps on a very protracted progression to the White House, she’d win. But when you have passion in a race, good old loyalty will NOT cut it. Even if you get every feminist on the face of the earth to write you a pitiful New York Times Op-Ed to make any women not supporting you feel traitorous to her gender. Even if you CRY. Even if you spend over 5 million dollars of your own money on your campaign. You can’t fight passion with any of that bullshit. Hillary has never had passion. She’s had loyalty. And that might have been good enough in any other election year. This time around though, it’s just not enough.