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Posted in: Feminism, Culture Wars & Censorship

Published on Aug 26, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Michelle and Joe Looked Grim as Hillary Endorsed Obama in a Masterfully Minimal Way


As Hillary addressed the DNC, the unforgiving cameras kept panning back to Michelle Obama who was sitting with Joe Biden. Neither Michelle nor Joe managed to crack more than one smile apiece–well, perhaps two, even as Hillary insisted, over and over again, that the Democratic Party must unite behind Obama–not because he is an astounding leader, or The One, but simply because he is the Democratic candidate. During every ovation, both the future First Lady and her husband’s Vice-Presidential choice remained grim-lipped, expressionless, sometimes even angry-faced. (Joe Biden was caught on camera warmly embracing former President Jimmy Carter. So much for “change.”)

In a sense, just as Hillary stood by her man Bill, she is also, just as strategically, standing by her man Obama. But not exactly. In her speech, Hillary never described herself as a “wife” and she positioned herself more as a descendant of the early suffragists and as a fighter in the movement for women’s rights than as a from-the-gut supporter of Obama. She said that her mother was born before women had the right to vote but that her daughter had exercised that very right to vote for her own mother for the Presidency.

Hillary did not extol Obama as a fully vetted leader with an impressive track record but rather as the one the Democrats have chosen. She emphasized the Democratic party and her loyalty to it more than to its candidate. Nevertheless, it was a polished performance.

Hillary’s speech was professional, disciplined, a lawerly “closing argument,” but I do not believe her heart was in it. She cannot be faulted for anything that she said and yet the speech left everything to be desired. Perhaps that’s why Michelle and Joe looked so grim.

The eighteen million cracks (votes for Hillary) in the Presidential glass ceiling did not shatter that ceiling. I have been battling for women’s rights longer than Hillary has and I am weary and sad not only about the Party’s and the media’s sexism but about a lost national opportunity that may not come our way again for some time.

Aware of the historical moment, I had dressed up to vote for Hillary in New York City. Yes, of course, it is also historic to be able to vote an African-American into office, especially one so eloquent and smooth–so why do I feel that I’ve just re-lived the fight over whether only freed black men–and not white or black women– have the right to vote?

I am feeling historically weary. This is the Longest Revolution. And make no mistake: I have never “loved” Hillary. She lacks all charisma, she comes with “baggage,” and yet, in terms of hard work, discipline, and experience, I came to believe that she would have made an amazing President. And Vice-President.

The moment Hillary’s speech ended, I started receiving emails from feminists who are still planning to vote for McCain.

I don’t know what I will do on Election Day: Sleep late, leave town, write in a candidate who is not even running, (like Hillary, not Ralph Nader), vote for Obama, vote for McCain? Whatever I do, I think I will take Hillary’s advice who said, quoting Harriet Tubman, (who may or may not have said exactly this):

“When you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods keep going. If they’re shouting after you keep going. Don’t ever stop, keep going. If you want a taste of freedom keep going.”

Hillary: I will just “keep on going” towards that taste of freedom. Hope that you, too, take your own advice.


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