Race, Sex And Other Irrelevancies

Hillary and Barack have the media lobbing into our midst a question of great intensity. Is it time — oh, yes, brothers and sisters, has the time come at last for the United States to have a woman president, or, if not that, a black one?

Forgive me. I can’t stifle the yawn.

Of course it’s time, brothers and sisters. If it’s the right woman, that is, or the right black person.

Is Hillary the right woman? Is Barack the right black person? Ah — that’s another question entirely.

I don’t think the evidence, frankly, is very encouraging on either score. If what you want in an Oval Office occupant is a reflexive devotee of the liberal agenda in American life, fine. Either Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama would serve the turn, affording us — assuming the ability of either to inspire and lead Congress — a bigger, costlier, snoopier government, not to mention retreat for America in military and foreign policy terms. If, on the other hand, that’s not what you want — which seems the case for large, possibly decisive, numbers of Americans — maybe a garden-variety white male is the ticket.

Good policy matters infinitely more than sex. It matters infinitely more than race. That is what it all comes down to. Liberals, in a sly way, acknowledge as much. It doesn’t matter to, possibly, the majority of George W. Bush’s opponents that Condoleezza Rice is black and female at the very same time. She defends and promulgates policies with which liberal Americans are not, shall we say, copacetic. You might call her an equal opportunity displeaser.

Similarly, Maryland’s lieutenant governor, Michael Steele, the first black ever elected in Maryland to statewide office, ran unsuccessfully last year for the U.S. Senate against a white man. Politics trumped race, in spite of Steele’s charisma and sound ideas.

That’s democracy. The people choose. If, in choosing, they override considerations of race and sex, then that would seem their moral and constitutional privilege.

We’ll see in 2008, in the context of the Obama and Clinton races, how much service the media pay to that seemingly unassailable principle. In other words, will the great seers of the media establishment dispense Americans from the charge of sexism if they reject Hillary, and from the imputation of racism if they turn down Barack? No doubt, to quote the old editorial cliche, it remains to be seen.

Going easy on those who reject the untested Obama shouldn’t involve much heavy lifting. In due course, the media might even explain to us how the son of a white mother and black father qualifies as "black." Doesn’t "mixed race" sound likelier?

As for Mrs. Clinton, it doesn’t seem to follow that sex is the operative factor in considering her candidacy. A lady, I’d think, is as entitled as a gentleman to render herself suspect by reason of cultural liberalism, perceived cunning, and affection for big and expensive government programs. (Did someone say government takeover of health care?)

Certainly any voter able to clear these and like mental hurdles has the right to vote for Mrs. Clinton. What Mrs. Clinton’s acolytes clearly have no right to do — nor have Sen. Obama’s drum-beaters in their own specific context — is send out signals about some nonexistent duty to give sex and race the slightest priority. Woman president? Why, shucks, boys, find us another Maggie Thatcher and I’ll beat the bushes for her personally. Sign petitions, raise money, distribute bumper stickers, work the phones? Yes, ma’am — all that. Find me another Michael Steele, or, better yet, Michael Steele himself — solid, sober, honorable, indisposed to tax the daylights out of me — offer him for higher service, and I’ll rustle up votes for him, right and left. But the First of His Race, the First of Her Sex — bah, humbug, horsefeathers, all that stuff! Surely Sens. Clinton and Obama can lose on their own without tottering on so despicable a crutch.