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The Sisters are Steamed

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 20, 2008; 9:06 AM

Women are pretty ticked off these days.

That's the clear message emerging from the latest round of media post-mortems on Hillary Clinton's losing candidacy, which journalists now frame as a fait accompli. (And maybe there's something to that, with Politico reporting that "Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager and confidante, Patti Solis Doyle, and Senator Barack Obama's top advisor have informally discussed the former Clintonite's going to work for the Obama campaign in the general election." Et tu, Patti?)

Numerous women -- journalists themselves and those interviewed by journalists -- believe the former first lady has gotten a raw deal, especially from the media. It's no accident that Hillary's positive ad in Oregon takes a swipe at Tim Russert, Chris Matthews and George Stephanopoulos--all men, last time I checked, and one of them her former White House colleague.

On an emotional level, it's easy to understand why many female voters feel they're been robbed. For the first time in their lifetimes, they could see one of their own occupying the Oval Office. And, in the space of a few weeks, that dream began to evaporate.

Had the contest gone the other way, certainly many African American voters would have felt they had been deprived of a historic chance to elect the first black president.

But there is a certain degree of identity politics in this narrative, one that the media haven't been shy about pushing this season. Should all women vote for Hillary because she's a woman, and assume that men who oppose her are sexist (and women who back Obama are traitors)? Should all African Americans support Obama because of his race and assume that whites who vote against him are racist? Doesn't that reduce both candidates to one-dimensional symbols and ignore the substance of what they have to say or how they would govern?

Somewhere in Hillary's inevitability phase, the trailblazing nature of her effort got lost. She became the establishment candidate, the return-to-the-'90s candidate, and the wow factor--which has always surrounded Obama--simply faded. (There are 16 female senators; Obama is the only black member of the Senate, and only the third African American since Reconstruction to serve in that body. But still, all of the 43 presidents have been--what's the word?--men.)

Look, I don't have any problem with women and blacks supporting their own, just as generations of Irish Americans, Italian Americans, Hispanics and Jews have tended to do. It's why Michael Dukakis was able to raise a lot of money from Greeks and Mitt Romney from Mormons. But there has to be more involved in picking a president. Or does there?

The NYT frames it this way:

"Mrs. Clinton's all-but-certain defeat brings with it a reckoning about what her run represents for women: a historic if incomplete triumph or a depressing reminder of why few pursue high political office in the first place.

"The answers have immediate political implications. If many of Mrs. Clinton's legions of female supporters believe she was undone even in part by gender discrimination, how eagerly will they embrace Senator Barack Obama, the man who beat her?"

The WP is on the same page:


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