Obama and McCain en Español

The Barack Obama campaign began running a new Spanish-language ad in the Latino-rich battleground states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. It is titled “Dos Caras” (“Two Faces”).

For those who do not speak Spanish, here’s the text:

“They want us to forget the insults we’ve put up with, the intolerance. They made us feel marginalized in a country we love so much. John McCain and his Republican friends have two faces. One that says lies just to get our vote and another, worse yet, that continues the failed policies of George Bush that put powerful interests ahead of working families.”

This commercial comes in the wake of John McCain’s recent Spanish-language ad which began running in the same states and which accuses Obama of derailing immigration reform. The ad is called “Which Side are They On?”

Translated, the ad says:

“Obama and his Congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants. But they are not. The press reports that their efforts were ‘poison pills’ that made immigration reform fail. The result: No guest worker program. No path to citizenship. No secure borders. Reform did not pass. Is that being on our side? Obama and his Congressional allies: Ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead.”

The ads reflect a very different tactic in terms of the point they seek to make and the way they construct it. Just on the surface of things, Obama’s has a Spanish title and McCain’s does not. Obama’s ad begins with the candidate declaring in Spanish “I’m Barack Obama and I approve this ad.” John McCain’s declares the same but in English. Obama’s uses the subject noun “we” while McCain’s is accusatory, using “they.”

While the Obama ad could be understood as a Latino voice talking to Latinos as a Latino, it could also suggest a matter-of-fact demonstration of nonwhite solidarity within an increasingly hostile political system. In the wake of the recent study by Pew Hispanic, this is a voice that will resonate with a growing number of Latinos. Furthermore, as any government action is distrusted and seen as disingenuous with respect to serving the Latino immigrant population, the “failed” legislation referred to in the McCain ad might not seem all that much of a loss to Spanish-speaking Latinos.

John McCain on Abortion

Every presidential election is one of importance to the daily lives of women and people of color. Recent political events notwithstanding, this fall’s race is no different. As a historian, trust me when I say, these connections are not always so easy to make.

Here, from today’s San Francisco Chronicle, are McCain’s evolving (or devolving) views on the issue of abortion.

“I’d love to see a point where (Roe vs. Wade) is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe vs. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to (undergo) illegal and dangerous operations.” McCain said he would support legislation banning abortions in the third trimester.
Interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 20, 1999.

“After a lot of study, a lot of consultation and a lot of prayer, I came up with a position that I believe there should be an exception for rape, incest or the life of a mother…(the issue) is one of the most difficult and agonizing issues that I think all of us face, because of our belief — yours and mine — that life begins at conception.”
Reported in the New York Times, Jan. 22, 2000.

“John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.”
McCain for President website, 2008.

How Do You Get Latino Votes? (the VERY unexpected part 3)

And, thanks to Hans, a reminder that some people know how to get it right!

Here’s an Obama ad produced for the Latino market/electorate.

p.s. Yes, I know Obama’s people didn’t directly produce this but, dammit, they are sure going to benefit from the talent his candidacy inspires!

p.p.s. I KNOW!!  They even got the “hesitant Latina” Jessica Alba to appear as a Latina!!

How Do You Get Latino Votes? (unexpected part 2)

And if you’re not in 1960…

Yesterday I posted a link to a video of a commercial Jackie Kennedy (wife of John F. Kennedy) did for her husband’s campaign–a commercial done completely in Spanish.  The 1960 election is the first national election where either of the two major parties made any organized effort to garner Latino votes.  While it would have been nice if the presidential candidate could have done such a commercial themselves, it was important, meaningful, and successful of JFK’s people to choose his wife.

And then today I saw/heard this.  It is one of John McCain’s Spanish-language radio ads, his most recent to date.  In it, an announcer now does the job of the former first-lady-to-be, promising McCain is the answer to these economic bad times.  “When we are filling up the gas tank, we are not Republicans, Democrats or Independents. We are Hispanics…”

Hillary Clinton, not Feminism, is Defeated

As should be increasingly clear to most people by now, Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid is slowly coming to an end.

As a teacher of race and gender issues, I have been more than a little bit concerned at the widespread idea that the current Democratic nominating process pitted “race” against “gender.” This kind of analysis pinpoints our collective inability to understand the historic and present-day power of either social concept. More troubling, it also highlights the ways faulty understandings have actually filled the gaps created by this collective ignorance.

A small reminder of this has been the political line unquestioningly associating a vote for Hillary Clinton with feminism. In her widely-circulated editorial in last January’s New York Times, Gloria Steinem opined “gender is probably the most restricting force in American life.” She cautioned against “advocating a competition for who has it toughest”–often called the “oppression Olympics”–writing “the caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together.” Still, her primary argument did just that, asking “why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one?”

In a similar vein, feminist activist Robin Morgan wrote an updated version of her classic 1970 piece “Goodbye To All That.” She does some of the work of “unpacking” the complex ways racialized and gendered notions have characterized the political process, often pitting one against the other, before suggesting support for Clinton is about women supporting themselves. She declares:

So goodbye to Hillary’s second-guessing herself. The real question is deeper than her re-finding her voice. Can we women find ours? Can we do this for ourselves?

Our President, Ourselves!

Both women were careful to frame their support for Clinton in terms of her qualifications (Morgan even going so far as to say of Obama: “I’d rather look forward to what a good president he might make in eight years, when his vision and spirit are seasoned by practical know-how—and he’ll be all of 54”), yet both substantiated those positions within the analytical terrain of a persistent gender bias in our political culture. In the end, support for Clinton becomes a feminist act because (in this way of thinking) it stands in opposition to the assault she has suffered for being a woman.

This is the context giving shape to seemingly profound divisions not only within the broad Democratic base but also, according to a recent AP article, among feminists themselves. Envisioning a female president as the fulfillment of a historic struggle stretching back to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, some Clinton supporters even chide and deride female supporters of Obama as “gender traitors.” As this recent story in the L.A. Times suggests, race plays a part in the Clinton-support stances of some Americans, but most continue to voice a belief that her campaign embodied a change that is now going to defeat.

I do not want to suggest that Hillary Clinton has not faced sexism in the course of her presidential bid. Negatively gendered ideas have met her candidacy from its first days. While these are difficult to tease out from other beliefs and positions fueling an anti-Clinton stance, that part of this fuel is constituted by a persistent and ubiquitous patriarchy in undeniable. However, the political demise of her presidential bid should not be construed as the victory of sexism over feminism, of patriarchy over progressive gender change.

To put it bluntly, feminism isn’t as simple as a vote for Hillary Clinton.

Just like a vote for Barack Obama won’t solve the nation’s “race problem,” a vote for Hillary Clinton does not mount a substantive challenge to U.S. patriarchy. While definitions of “feminism” may be as numerous as feminists themselves, there are collectives of understanding which might shed some light on this situation.

Noted feminist author bell hooks, in her classic text Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, put forth a definition of feminism rooted in the experiences and struggles of women of color to mobilize for change in the late 20th century. “Feminism,” she wrote, “is movement to end sexist oppression.”

hooks complicates the suggestion that feminist is about “equality with men” since men are not all equal in the modern (or historic) United States. She is careful to link the struggle of feminism to other forms of movement geared toward combating “domination” whether in the social, political, or economic realm. In her vision, shared by a multitude of “third world feminists,” feminism could never be reduced to the mere cause of representation. In fact, the political culture which equates feminism with women achieving positions of power regardless of what they do with those positions serves the forces of oppression more than it does those of liberation.

This doesn’t mean that Hillary Clinton is not a feminist or that her hypothetical election would not be a feminist act. But it does refocus our attention by challenging that assertion without some proof. It puts the burden of proof not on her gender but on her politics. How does the election of Hillary Clinton create any challenge to sexist oppression?

Her election may have been a symbolic victory on this front, but there is no basis to claim it would have meant much more. A political history which includes votes to support the war in Iraq and free trade policies which have led to economic dislocation and familial separation in Latin America; and which includes an unwavering support for welfare reform which mobilized around the image of the mother of color as a lazy addict of government aid and an education policy that has meant declining numbers of young, poor women of color to succeed; all suggests less of a challenge to systems of gender oppression than one would hope. While she undoubtedly also has a record any feminist could take pride in, that pride begins to wane as one looks at which women benefit from and figure into these efforts.

All this is to say, the defeat of Hillary Clinton is just that, the defeat of a political candidate. She was a historic candidate, who will continue to serve in a historic capacity in the Senate. But her defeat is not a blow to feminism. It does not say anything about the status of feminist movement in this country. It also says little about the prospects for true feminist change in the future.

So mourn, if you must, but take heart as well. All real change comes from masses of people united in movement, anyways.

Hillary Wins Big and Should Drop Out?

Here are just some of the editorials running in today’s various newspapers. From the perspective of a growing number of pundits, the Clinton campaign is not only forestalling the inevitable but also hurting her party’s chances in the fall.

The LA Times laments:

“Instead, despite a grueling and often bitter campaign, Clinton’s victory Tuesday left in play the same questions that remained seven weeks ago after her 10-point victory in Ohio, another large and politically important industrial state.

What does it portend for the fall campaign that Obama is not winning working-class whites, a crucial swing voting bloc, in the Democratic primaries? Or that he has lost most of the biggest states to Clinton?”

Read the full article here.

Clinton’s “hometown” newspaper, the New York Times, suggested she took “The Low Road to Victory,” writing of her negative tactics:

“Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.”

Read their full assessment here.

Finally, the harshest critiques of her continued campaign call on her to quit altogether. In “It’s Over…But It’s Not Finished” [accessible here] the Philadelphia Daily News writes:

“The race for the Democratic nomination goes on, even though Clinton still has no realistic chance to catch Barack Obama in the popular vote or in elected delegates. It’s a reality her campaign can’t spin away, but she’ll keep trying. And that’s not good.

So it’s not over, but it ought to be. “