The Hurdle Hillary Supporters Can’t Get Over

Mon, August 25, 2008


Sometimes I’m surprised at the thoughts that spring into my head when I’m not expecting them, especially the political ones.

Last weekend brought some much needed R&R from parenting as one of my stepdaughters took over the reigns, bringing down my mental anxiety a notch on a variety of fronts.

As I was pondering why there is still so much coverage of the so-called reluctance of “older” Hillary Clinton supporters to become enthusiastic about Barack Obama, I had one of those light-bulb, Oprah AHA! moments.

When some women look at what Obama has achieved, they see the younger, sometimes not-quite-as-qualified, man in their office who was promoted before them.

The one who got a raise that they should have gotten. The one who got the corner office with the window while they still sat in the cubicle.

They remember how that felt and how, if they wanted to keep their jobs and benefits, they couldn’t really raise a stink about it, even though it was unfair.

They remember what happened to them when they did raise it and were shot down.

There are plenty of us who have been in that work situation. I have.

As a young news reporter just starting out in television in the 1980s, I was told up front that I would not be getting paid as much as some of the guys. There are always plenty of “reasons” — they’re married and have kids to support, you’re married and have a husband who’s contributing, you’re married and have another income and the single guys don’t.

And that was always just the start. I saw men who were younger and less qualified get promoted over me at a large government agency because they knew what I liked to call the “secret handshake” — that intangible ‘guy’ thing that often seems to help push them up the ladder a bit ahead of their female counterparts, even when we were working harder and longer hours (and weren’t working on separate business ventures on government time).

While this is clearly not the perfect analogy for comparing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and how their supporters feel, I suspect that there is a subliminal lingering sense of resentment of that all-too-common workplace phenomenon that has something to do with the reported numbers of Hillary supporters who claim they will not vote for Obama.

My experiences of not always being treated fairly or equally in the workplace are not going to prevent me from voting for Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. But I have to wonder whether the persistent sense of experienced women coming up short in the workplace and having to take the helper’s role to the younger man in the office is something that will unconsciously tip more than a few mid-life women into the John McCain or ‘other’ column.

For better or worse, the sum of our life experiences color and inform our election decisions and judgments. If Barack Obama wants to start wooing back some of the women who claim they are leaning toward McCain, he needs to find some empathy about their life experiences. It won’t be enough to send Michelle out to the speaker’s platform to do that.

Barack, you’ll have to find it in yourself to take that one up, as well.

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12 Responses to “The Hurdle Hillary Supporters Can’t Get Over”

  1. Mom101 Says:

    Very very smart, PunditMom. Very astute. There are definitely women of a certain generation (ahem) who are having trouble getting over it. And yet I’m shocked that they’d rather not support Obama and end up with disastrous results in terms of the war, the economy, and the supreme court.

    We don’t always win in the short term. But we can indeed win in the long term if we keep our heads about us.

  2. Marshamlow Says:

    I am a Hillary supporter who cannot get over it. I really resent your and so many other Obama supporters who feel that I don’t have a brain in my head. I have not entirely made up my mind yet. But, my reasons for liking McCain are that he is closer to Clinton in many of his policies and in his willingness to work with Democrats. He has an impeccable resume and has earned the presidency.

    I don’t see republicans as the enemy. I have always voted democrat. But, I feel that both sides want the same things for our country and just see the path towards those goals as being different. No matter who is elected they will still be the president of a country where at least half of the people belong to the other party.

    I want a president who is not focused on us and them, who is focused on solving the problems and has solid ideas. Obama’s campaign thus far has seemed to me to be saying that he really cares about my issues and I need to have faith in him. Is he the new Messiah? I want to hear some solid plans before I am ready to cast a vote his way. I want to know how he is going to be working with republicans to achieve better economy, less war, better schools, less crime, affordable health care, affordable college, etc.

    I am going to watch the convention, and the debates. I read both of their websites often. So far I am leaning toward McCain. Not because of sour grapes the Senator Clinton lost but because I feel that McCain is closer to my idea of a good president than I think Obama is.

    Having all the Obama supporters call me an ignorant fool is not helping either.

  3. anniegirl1138 Says:

    Though there is probably a bit of truth to that, I am not sure I like the idea of contributing my lack of enthusiasm to “subliminal influences”. Isn’t that just as bad as the “hormone” theories? The estrogen fest stuff?

    Why can a man choose Obama over Clinton for reasons that are sound and straight-forward, but a woman with Clinton leanings must be under the influence?

    In my opinion, that supports your argument of “own worst enemy”.

  4. PunditMom Says:

    Clearly not all people who are lukewarm on Obama have that feeling because of this. But as I’ve been thinking about why Obama is losing support among Hillary supporters, rather than, gaining, I have to wonder if that is one of the reasons. Clearly, there are plenty of other reasons out there.

  5. Cynthia Samuels Says:

    As someone “of a certain generation” I find this an interesting theory. It’s probably true for some. But maybe because I went through the 1968 election and saw peace activists sit on their hands and therefore elect Richard Nixon, I just can’t be sympathetic.
    We have a responsibility to our country — and to American women who struggle disproportionately with single parenthood and health care issues and the prospect of a scary old age (to say nothing of our responsibility to the future of our children and grandchildren.) We have to think outside ourselves.
    I think, PunditMom, that your tweet this morning – “say this to yourself three times: ‘Supreme Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court.” is the bottom line. If nothing else gets our sisters into the tent, that should.
    I wrote about the Humphrey-Nixon election and how it came about here (feel free not to include this link if you prefer that I not add it)
    Great topic and very very interesting analysis.

  6. WMW Says:

    I almost hate to say it and feel I must add a disclaimer that I’m not accusing anyone of racism, BUT…

    I don’t think it helps that he’s black as well as young. There is a perception among many whites that maybe a successful black person got handed something via affirmative action. Maybe all the more so for women who have also been slighted by men so many times? I think Geraldine Ferraro tapped into this–maybe fully unintentionally, but still, she may have reinforced what some were feeling just enough to make it that much harder for them to get beyond it.

    Of course, there as many reasons for choosing who to vote for as there are voters.

  7. Sharon Says:

    There are so many things that matter at this point, if we want our country to again prosper and regain its place as a world leader. Whoever is at the top of the democratic ticket will do that because they are accountable to their party and democratic principles. Yes, I wanted Hillary to be nominated. But to choose a republican over the democrat who gets the nomination would be an insult to the work that Hillary has done, and will continue to do, for the democratic party.

  8. Karen Says:

    I’m with Cynthia S. on this one (and not just because we share the same last name–no relation that I know of, however). I was going to bring up the whole Supreme Court issue, as well–but Cynthia–and apparently PunditMom (I don’t twitter; I can barely keep up with my e-mails-sorry)–eloquently beat me to the punch. The ultimate composition of the Supreme Court is of the utmost importance in this election, and may have more to do with the direction in which our country moves than just about anything else.

    I imagine Justice Stevens has been committed to remaining on (saving?) the Court, if they have to wheel him in and prop him up–until a Democrat takes the White House. Poor man–a great deal rides on his aging shoulders–and his health. Let’s do the right thing folks . . .

  9. Anonymous Says:

    RE “When some women look at what Obama has achieved, they see the younger, sometimes not-quite-as-qualified, man in their office who was promoted before them.”
    The HC supporters should stop and realize that this younger man is a Harvard educated attorney, law school professor at U of Chicago Law, state legislator and U.S. Senator. He did not buy a house in an area that allows anyone who owns a home to run for office. This younger man worked among the people he represents in community based organizations and then in their state legislature. Sen. Obama didn’t jump ahead of the line because of race, popularity, connections or financial ability; he worked his way up to the front of line. Sen. McCain got into the Naval Academy because his father and grandfather had gone there and were quite successful Navy men. Sen. McCain finished fifth from the bottom of his class at the Academy and went on to serve in Vietnam where he was shot down and held prisoner. When Sen. McCain was freed along with many other long suffering service men, he was given a job on Capitol Hill as a Navy Liaison. REgarding the career achievements, what part of Sen. McCain’s story doesn’t scream old boy network. Yes he was held prisoner and tortured, but so were many American soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors; we as a nation, thank them for their service and sacrifice, but we aren’t putting them in the White House for it.

  10. Gloria Says:

    I hesitate to throw my gut-reaction comment in amongst so many intelligent comments, but here it is: I cannot stomach any man who uses the “C” word against women, most especially his wife, which McCain did to Cindy McCain, in front of journalists no less. This is not a man who respects women, much less represent the interests of women.

  11. gunfighter1 Says:


    If women of a certain generation see a younger man promoted over the more ualified woman… what do they see in John McCain? The older man who is at the institutional heart of the problem?

  12. karrie Says:

    Gunfighter, that makes a lot of sense.

    My situation is different than many, as Massachusetts will never go to McCain, so I feel free to vote for anyone else who appeals to me. I’ve never been able to even feel lukewarm towards Obama, but obviously prefer him to McCain.

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