Of Claire McCaskill and PUMAs
by thereisnospoon, Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 07:04:22 PM EDT
If there were any justice in the world, Claire McCaskill would be Presidential material. So would Barbara Boxer. As the PUMAs (all 30 or so of them) march around Denver making a far greater ruckus than their pathetic numbers would dictate supposedly on behalf of Hillary Clinton, lost in the drama is the fact that the glass ceiling silently preventing women from achieving the Presidential consideration so far denied to 50% of the population has been far more brutal to the likes of Barbara Boxer and Claire McCaskill. These remarkable women, absent the latent sexism of our nation, would and should be under serious consideration for the Presidency by the Democratic Party and the United States of America.
Senator McCaskill has been a fantastic and tireless advocate for Barack Obama on the campaign trail, and her speech tonight is yet another example of her charisma, speaking skills, and ability to connect with the average voter.
America's almost unique relationship with sexism means that unless a female politician can simultaneously project steely toughness and worldliness and a matronly presence that would seem just as at home caring for children and grandchildren while baking cookies and sewing a dress, she is rarely well-liked outside of a few blue-state bastions. A sense of humor and a good fashion sense is also a near necessity. Insofar as sexism did play a role in derailing Hillary Clinton's campaign, it was Hillary's inability (an at times quite intentionally fostered inability) to demonstrate this "down-to-earth", inherently conservative quality to many voters. It's an unfair fact of American electoral life for women.
Claire McCaskill does have that quality, however. Introduced prior to her just completed speech at the convention by her three children looking straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, she was the perfect (for the voting public) combination of charisma, resolve, and down-home matronly charm and humility.
She brought up her and her parents' roots, and tied those humble origins to similar origins shared by Barack Obama; and in so doing, she reinforced tonight's "One America" meme by showing how, even on very different sides of American life, a black boy from Hawai'i and a white girl from Middle America share the same truly American story: the ability to succeed by reaching out for the American Dream given the equal opportunity to do so. It was a truly heartwarming and extraordinary speech.
But watching Senator McCaskill, I couldn't help feeling a sense of irony in seeing this theme of "sameness" and "American unity" and "equal opportunity". While both Barack and Claire had the ability to become Senators, there is some question as to whether today's America would be willing to give Senator McCaskill the same opportunity being afforded to Senator Obama. There is no question that Hillary Clinton got as far as she did in large part due to the "Clinton" name; would America give Senators Boxer or McCaskill the same credit based solely on their abilities and the content of their character, without the advantage of the name recognition provided by a former President?
Time will tell. If the PUMAs are serious about their mission, they will do well to focus not on a misguided campaign for misogynist John McCain, but on promoting the chances of such extraordinary individuals as Barbara Boxer and Claire McCaskill.