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June 13, 2008

Sex and Color

Roy Meachum

Admittedly there are people who get all out of shape over color. There are probably as many for whom human plumbing counts. For all the ranting by media gurus, neither the one candidate's gender nor her opponent's African roots had much to do with the Democratic primary's outcome.


That opinion goes strongly against what we've heard over the past week. But unlike most commentators I don't dream up things I think you want to hear.


Hillary Clinton may have lost votes because she is of the female persuasion. As demonstrated frequently in our history, some people fear and hate all descendents of America's slaves. Barack Obama does not fit in that category, his color does.


There is no way I can accept winning and losing descending to the level of individual bigotry. It certainly didn't for me. Senator Obama told me what I wanted to hear; Hillary Clinton didn't. It's that simple and that complex. I like his change. I snorted at her proposal she could make the good ol' boys perform tricks.


This nation stands as morally bankrupt. I couldn't be a part of any movement that continues that situation. At times the Clintonites apparently celebrated her promise as someone who can get things done. And that is probably true. In order to bring home the bacon, however, the former First Lady necessarily would scratch somebody's back. Of course, her husband could do it for her. The ex-president is vastly more experienced in feeding politicians' weaknesses.


What really did them in was their own hubris. If you don't know the Greek word, it means the overweening pride that goes before a fall. And both the former First Couple had more than their share. Until Iowa, the bickering among the Clintons was probably about who would get what when they took back the White House.


The man called "the first black president," by a distinguished African American poet, misread badly the strength of his support among former slaves and others. They listened with willing ears when Mr. Clinton spoke. But they didn't belong to him. He had no license to practice reckless racism. But he did.


Doubtless, some men detested the idea that a woman might occupy the highest office in the nation. The arrogant attitude that Mrs. Clinton assumed toward all her competition early on did nothing to assuage. Those were real tears in New Hampshire. She had lost the momentum; the nomination was no longer hers, by acclamation.


As readers know, I never thought Hillary Clinton was owed the White House. That notion might have developed because her husband's successor trashed the Oval Office. We may very well never know how thoroughly. Passing time reveals more and more the way the Bush-Cheney administration ruled by self-assumed divine right.


There were more than hints in the Clinton campaign that, for all her posturing, the candidate strongly felt a tendency that was very much similar. Certainly, prolonging the contest until the bitter end showed a lack of respect for the process. "Something might happen" falls into the divine right mode, as if she were expecting a miracle to support her faith – in herself.


She came to epitomize many women's hopes that Mrs. Clinton could undo all the slights and wrongs their sisters suffered through centuries. She became Mother Earth who could do no wrong. But she did.


Did anybody notice that, except for personal assistants, she was surrounded by campaign executives who are totally male, led by the man she married. Anyone was deluded if they imagined Hillary Clinton would be the very model of a very strong female chief executive. Not hardly, as we say in my native South. Running in the primary was a decision handed over by her husband's good ol' boy network.


Barack Obama may be others' creature, as is Hillary Clinton. The size of his campaign's contributions demonstrates he is far from alone. Aside from advisers, which Warren Harding called the "kitchen cabinet," there is no individual who stands out. The presumptive nominee brings to the modern era a touch of Mr. Eliot's Prufrock: "politic, cautious and meticulous," as he describes himself.


Nothing about his past cautions that the son of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother will ride roughshod through the Washington night. I cannot imagine a skunk lurking in his closet that might embarrass the American people. Mr. Obama is black in the mold of Colin Powell; they both give great respect to fellow human beings while demanding only their share.


At this juncture, absolutely no one can say, including me, whether his plans for reform will really see the light of day. I have bet all my political capitol on the feeling that he will try; not like Newt Gingrich whose famous "Contract with America" turned into a platform for personal riches, through books and assorted pay-offs. The former First Lady's genuine efforts for altering the process figured to dissolve quickly in the face of having to treat with old friends from the political past. Being in Washington only two years, the senator from Illinois has little "past" to slow him down.


During the recent campaign, to my knowledge, Senator Obama deliberately ducked opportunities to smack the challenger in her chops; she suffered no such constraints.


All in all, while the political world can change upside-down in a single twirl, I have come to believe this is an honorable, Christian gentleman with the best of intentions.


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