The airwaves are filled with pundits claiming that this election represents a sea change in US politics. For the first time the Democrats will nominate either a woman or a black man to be President. That much we know.
The appearance of change is not devoid of substance, but the substance on which that appearance rests is not the end of racism and sexism in America, but the more subtle reflections of those realities following black folks and women into areas previously denied them and held as the birthright of white men.
Racial and sexual division has always existed at the bottom of the social pyramid. It has helped keep the shape of that pyramid for centuries. The previous struggles against racism and sexism have broken down most of the legal discrimination practiced against women and black people. As blacks and women slowly move into areas previously off limits to them racial and sexual divisions will be newly negotiated. This is at the heart of Hillary’s claim that Obama is “not ready” to be President yet.
In the charged reality of US racial politics this can only be interpreted as telling black folks to get back in line; it’s not yet your turn. In the dry goods stores of the Jim Crow south you got in line to the counter asking the clerk for your groceries in the days before supermarkets. Whites had the automatic right to move up the line. A black woman could stay in cue all day as one white woman after another came in and moved ahead to make their purchases.
And when Obama’s campaign asks rhetorically exactly what Hillary’s much vaunted 35 years of policy experience entails when she spent most of those years as the wife of Governor then President Clinton it ignores completely the reality that women have traditionally often exerted profound influence on society through the one of the few means of influence open to them, their husbands.
The dismissal of this, unfortunate but real, historic truth of gender roles in society by the Obama campaign reinforces the notion that men lead and women follow. From From Livia Augusta to Abagail Adams women have, from behind the scenes, developed and implemented policy of profundity.
The examples of renegotiating some of the historic briefs of race and gender will certainly continue to exacerbate racial and gender tensions in the Party and the campaigns.
And what then of class realities? Those aren’t talked about. The bourgeois prognosticators on TV constantly remind us that though America has been riven by racial division we have, thankfully, steered clear of the class war that has so paralyzed European politics. Clinton wishes to “unite the country”and Obama claims that “we are one people”. That is code not to bring up class politics, ensuring that the politics of the ruling class will be the only politics on display in the elections.
Addendum: Hillary will be the candidate of the Democratic Party barring any of tomorrow’s unforeseens.
Aside: Blaring Charles Mingus in the morning of a Saturday slept in blows aways the accumulated effects of a week of insomnia, work and school. It is recommended.