I live in a Super Tuesday state and for months I have been preparing to go the polls and cast my Democratic primary ballot for John Edwards. I'm a liberal Democrat, a single mama, well-educated and gay......not exactly Edwards' core demographic, so I guess my choice of him as my candidate was surprising.
In fact, for a woman whose formative teenage political experience was the selection of Geraldine Ferraro as Walter Mondale's 1984 running mate; who attended a Jesse Jackson Rainbow Coalition rally in 1988, you'd think that I'd be a firm supporter of either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. In fact, I like them both a great deal and I'd be proud to call either one of them my party's nominee.
And yet, I wanted to be an Edwards voter tomorrow. Though I'm a California native and currently live on the east coast, I lived in Nashville, Tennessee for five years and that time convinced me that Southerners understand race and poverty and the intersection of the two in the United States. I guess that people who live elsewhere understand them as well, but not as innately as Southerners. And so I liked Edwards because of his advocacy for the poor, his interest in the left-behind in American society, and his track record at the two. His healthcare policy was the most flushed out of all the Democratic candidates. He understood that a jobs program is a complicated and necessary thing for those left behind by a modernizing economy. He was articulate and thoughtful; I figured he could pull along a southern state or two come the general election. He was my first choice. But it was a luxurious choice, confident with the knowledge that my back ups were also excellent candidates.
And now we come to election day and it's time for me to select a back up candidate. Public opinion data collected by the Pew research Center suggests that Edwards supports have mostly gone over the Obama camp, so I'll start there. I've been a fan of Obama since he first ran for the Illinois Senate seat he currently holds. For the last few years, I've played his 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention in my political sciences classes. I played it as a sample of powerful political rhetoric and the appeal of new ideas. I like what Obama says; I like his political track record; I like his promise of a new way of conducting politics in Washington; I like the way he inspires young voters. I like the idea that my seven year old son may come of political age while an African-American occupies the White House. I think that Obama is easily electable; in fact, I think that he matches up best against John McCain, the likely Republican nominee.
And yet, I'm not sure. Because the fact is that I like Hillary Clinton as well. She's got a proven track record of legislative accomplishment, especially on issues related to children. She's whip smart and she understands the political system. She's a woman in a nation in which 52% of us are women though we have never elected a woman president. I worry that a certain portion of the nation excoriates Clinton for no good reason ----- that proportion of the electorate whom I would call the "anyone but Hillary" group.
I think that Hillary Clinton has received astoundingly poor treatment by the national media and I think it's because of her gender. In 1992, when her husband ran for the presidency she was seen a first lady who would be too powerful; too influential. When her husband had a very public affair with a much younger woman, she was hectored for staying married to the man who was the father of her child. Now, as a successful and powerful elected official in her own right, the media asks if electing Hillary is just going to get us another eight years of a Bill Clinton White House.
I am reminded of the fact that women don't serve in elected office at anything close to the same rate as men. Women make 75 cents to every dollar earned by an American man. Women and their children are more likely to be poor then men. Women care for the nation's children and the nation's elderly. Yet American women are not as interested or as engaged in politics as men. A 2006 study conducted by the University of Michigan revealed that while 42% of men characterized themselves as "very interested" in government and public affairs, only 34% of women said the same. Men are demonstrably more knowledgeable about politics than women and that bothers me.
I know that the one sure way to get women more interested in their government and its policies is to elect more women to political office. In states like California, Maine, and Washington where both of their members of the U.S. Senate are women, women are more engaged in the political process. They are more interested and more knowledgeable; they are more politically effective. When girls and women see a government that includes and respects them, they expect to participate and be included.
I can't lose tomorrow: either of the Democratic candidates is an historical first for my nation and my party. Both of them will show my son that any child in America can grow up to be the president. Both of them are ready to lead and serve my nation and my world.
But in the name of sisterhood and solidarity I will cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton.