Posted by Brian at 8:27 PM
Well, now that that's settled...
We can stop the debates--Stanley Fish has told us how this story is going to end.
John Edwards isn’t going to catch fire, and Barack Obama has already caught all the fire he is able to ignite. With every day, the small possibility that Al Gore will join the race gets smaller. As for the other candidates, they are either running for vice president or just having a good time. To be sure, polls in Iowa and New Hampshire show a close contest, but I predict that as the time for actually voting gets closer, Clinton will pull away in those states, too, and the landslide will begin.
He well may be right; Clinton is a solid frontrunner nationally, and is close in the early states. But Rolling Stone makes a strong case for Edwards, and Fish's claims that Obama has caught all the fire he's going to seem to be more than a little premature, given the size of crowds he's attracting and the total number of donors he's tapped so far (and can go back to).
But it's this quote that bugs me.
The pundits keep wondering whether the country is ready for a woman president or a black president; it sure isn’t ready for a woman and a black on the same ticket. Nor is it ready for a woman and a Jew, which rules out Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania.
It bugs me because it seems to fall into that stereotype of the American left that Fish described in his last column when he discussed Walter Benn Michaels's "The Trouble with Diversity."
Michaels’s big point is that Americans, especially Americans on the left, love discrimination. Not that they love to practice discrimination; they love to deplore the fact of discrimination. And they love to propose strategies for lessening it: affirmative action, the celebration of diversity, the promotion of a culture of respect.
The reason we love those strategies, Michaels says, is that they involve cosmetic changes that allow us to feel good about ourselves while also allowing us to turn our eyes away from the economic inequalities that remain untouched as we busily respect everyone in sight.
Now, to say I find Michaels's point aggravating is an understatement, but it explains a bit, I think, about Fish's statement about what the country is or isn't ready for. Assuming Fish agrees with Michaels (and assuming that he doesn't feel that way about discrimination personally, but assumes the majority does), it would make perfect sense to think that while he may be personally ready to vote for a woman as President and a black man as Vice-President, the rest of the country would not.
I'd like to think that we as a nation are better than that--after all, a Catholic couldn't win until JFK did it, but we got past that. Our nation is changing as far as sexism and racism is concerned. Polls on race relations and the acceptance of women in positions of power show that the younger the generation, the more open they are to the possibilities. So I think that it's not as simple as Fish makes it out to be. If indeed Clinton wins the nomination (and I certainly wouldn't bet against her, even though she's third on my list right now), she shouldn't dismiss Obama as a possible running mate simply because she's afraid the nation isn't ready for both a woman and an African-American on the same ticket.