American in Spain

Fiery Ferraro Fiasco

March 14, 2008

I'm way late to the game on bringing this topic to the blogosphere, but I wanted to post a few comments on this, now infamous, comment made by Geraldine Ferraro, the gist of which was, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position [as a Democratic nominee front runner]." The first I heard of this was through Keith Olbermann's Special Comment, in which he was convincingly harsh on both Ferraro and Clinton. The definition of racism that I will use for what follows is this one:

racism (n): The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.

It needs to be said that sentence I quoted above is not racist. It's only barely calling others, the voting public, racist. All it says is that "a significant percentage of Obama supporters would be supporting Clinton if Obama were not black." That is the assertion Ferraro was making.

As someone who is planning to vote for Obama for reasons entirely independent of race, her assertion offends me. Calls for her to apologize are not unwarranted. But that does not make her statement false.

I have searched the internet for any information one way or the other on the veracity of her claim, and I can find none. I suspect that the pollsters are avoiding the race questions because it's a taboo. It would be interesting to see a histogram of the responses to the following questions:

  1. If you are planning to vote for Obama, please rate, from 1 to 10 how important his race is to you.
  2. If you are planning to vote for Clinton, please rate, from 1 to 10 how important her gender is to you.
  3. If you are planning to vote for McCain, please rate, from 1 to 10 how important his race is to you.
  4. If you are planning to vote for McCain, please rate, from 1 to 10 how important his gender is to you.

These questions can no doubt be worded better. I'm not a pollster, despite my surname. Although I have no data to back it up, I suspect that the distributions of the responses to questions #1 and #2 would look very similar.

Two more points...

Firstly, voting based on gender and race is silly. I have a friend who goes to feminist rallies every chance she gets, and has worked tirelessly fighting to get equal rights for women in the United States. I asked her who she would vote for between Clinton and Obama, and she said that she was truly torn. It would really help her cause if Hillary became president, but, in her gut, she thought Barack was the better candidate and probably won't be able to vote for the lesser candidate based solely on her gender.

Secondly, who cares? The whole point of the democratic process is that we are choosing someone who best represents our interests. Although it would be nice if everyone voted based solely on political issues, people very often vote for the candidate that they feel is most like them, both politically and non-politically. While I could be wrong on this, I also suspect that the percentage of females voting for Hillary for gender reasons and the percentages of blacks voting for Barack for race reasons are pretty similar. Wikipedia says that 51.5% of the US is female, and 15% black.

I don't have a solid opinion one way or another on this Fiery Ferraro Fiasco, but I'm annoyed by the media always making everything so black-and-white. (pun intended)