Thursday, February 14, 2008

Changing Demographics

I am the Hillary Clinton demographic in every way. The only problem for Hillary is that I’m not supporting her anymore, and I’m not alone.

Demographically speaking, I’m over sixty, poor, without a college degree, a feminist, female, sort of white. Health Care is a huge issue for me. Maintaining solvency in the the Social Security system is also a huge issue. The erosion of Civil Liberties is another big issue for me. But here is where we part company. Her vote for the Iraq invasion is something that has been a problem for me since the day she made that vote. Her vote against the Levin Amendment is another problem. He ties to big corporate interests is another problem, and now her unwillingness to simply state that her vote was wrong, a mistake, and to apologize for that vote is another problem and begins to make her look stubborn and simply unwilling to do the right thing. So, I worry that as President she will be unwilling to acknowledge mistakes and take corrective measures. This has been the kind of leadership we’ve suffered through during the Bush years, and I want a change from that kind of political blundering.

Then there is the Primary race. Even with the reservations I stated earlier, I was supporting her candidacy until the night of the South Carolina Primary. It was then that I saw two things that changed my mind, and caused me to switch my support from Senator Clinton to Senator Obama. The first was the demographics of that South Carolina race. Barack Obama had deep support among the African American community—that was expected. What was not expected was his support among white voters of every demographic—especially young voters, first time voters. I have complained to my young friends over the years that nothing will change until they begin to vote in large numbers. It is an event that has the potential to take back power from special interests—mainly big corporate interests, the lobbyists, the political cronies, and power brokers, and put it back in the hands of voters. It will only happen when we the people get off our super-sized asses and get ourselves to the poles. Elections in the past thirty or forty years have been decided by a slim majority of a slim slice of committed diehard old voters. Young people grew cynical and disaffected and then just disinterested. I heard things like. “How can my one vote make any difference?” And, “They’re all a bunch of crooks and ego maniacs anyway.” So election cycle after election cycle, the percentage of people actually going to the poles grew smaller and smaller.

And throughout that time span the news media grew more and more right wing. So that in order to be “fair and balanced” every political story was presented as if there was no correct position, and all sides were equally valid. And so coverage of big news stories became increasingly skewed to the right, lessening the coverage given to those issues that were seen as “left wing.” And populist was called “socialist.” Over time these ideas became accepted wisdom—The Truth. During this seismic shift in the political landscape, politicians on the left moved to the center, and then to the right. It was at the end of this shift that George W. Bush came on the scene, touted as the “Compassionate Conservative.” And under his leadership we have moved terrifyingly toward fascism, surrendering our civil rights one after another.

If during the G.W.Bush’s reign (I can’t call it anything else) Hillary Clinton had pushed back, fought for what was right, not just expedient and politic, she would now be a more viable candidate. She is wounded by casting votes to make herself more acceptable to a right-of- center electorate, and in so doing made herself less acceptable to voters in the center and on the left. And I am one of those voters.

Then, the night of her stunning defeat in South Carolina, she moved on to Tennessee to give a stump speech. She did not stick around to thank supporters and to congratulate her victorious rival. It looked petty and small. It looked like Hillary was a poor loser, a bad sport. And we are nothing if not sports fans who like to see losers act like “good sports.”

So, that night I went online and found Barack Obama’s web site. I contributed money (a paltry $10.00), I wrote a letter to the editor of my favorite local newspaper and I started writing a political blog. I volunteered to make phone calls for Senator Obama during the Super Tuesday races (Utah was one of the states voting during that primary season). I have always participated in the political process. I am a passionate political animal. Now I proudly display my Barack Obama yard sign, my twenty two year old car sits in my driveway wearing it’s Barack Obama bumper sticker, and anyone in my neighborhood who wanted to join me in proudly announcing to the street my support for Senator Obama got my help in getting signs and hammering them in the frozen ground. And I, Hillary’s perfect demographic, am not alone. I’m waiting for the news media to catch-up to the shift in demographics. I’m not alone. There are millions of us changing our minds, as I write.

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