Months ago—it seems like years since the campaign began—I didn’t think Barack had a chance. I was not unhappy that Hillary was out in front of the pack. I was especially happy to see a woman with a serious chance of winning the nomination and the presidency. I didn’t have anything against Obama; I was also excited to see him as a significant figure in the race. The fact that the Democrats might be choosing between the two strongest candidates, one of whom was a woman and the other an African American, was intoxicatingly exciting. I didn’t have anything against John Edwards, Bill Richardson, or any of the other Democratic candidates. In my view, the Democrats have an embarrassment of riches in leadership.
With no Dwight Eisenhower or Colin Powell running, the Republicans have another kind of embarrassment of leadership, the kind which this country can ill afford at this moment in history. Sorry, McCain, your sense of integrity made you curiously attractive for several years, but you kissed and made up with Bush after he smeared your military record; you got it wrong on the Iraq war; and you sold out in a conference committee on torture, something you said you would never do. So much for integrity!
I heard a woman on radio today say that she was “damn mad” at the prospect of Hillary losing. For the first time, she said, a qualified woman had a chance to break the political glass ceiling and it was high time for this country to elect a woman. She was clear; her feelings were not just because Hillary is a woman, but because she is a qualified woman, perhaps the most qualified of all the candidates. How long do the women of this nation have to wait? There is a valid sexual issue here, just as there is a valid racial issue. That we have this dilemma is “change” of the most fundamental and healthy sort.
Looking Back: I wonder what Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Gage, and the other pioneers of the American Woman’s Rights Movement would think of this contest between Barack and Hillary. I think they would be disappointed about Hillary’s chances now, but excited about Barack’s standing. Their movement grew out of abolitionism. The movement's early leaders began their fight for social justice with the cause of the slaves, and learned from Anti-Slavery Societies how to organize, publicize and articulate the women’s cause. As few others in their day, those women understood the essential connection of equal rights for slaves and women. One of the things that made them angry was their discovery that many of the men who were opposed to slavery were opposed to women’s rights.
I think these plain-spoken ladies would be looking carefully at how we males are making up our minds about these two candidates. I hope what they see is that the issue today is not gender vs. race, but generation vs. generation. If that is the case, and if Barack has jarred awake a sleeping generation of young men and women, this primary marathon still has possibilities.