Obama Owes Hillary Some “R-E-S-P-E-C-T!”

The second night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), Obama’s toughest rival for the presidential nominee, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a knockout keynote address, bridging the chasm between her supporters and his.

Hillary waxed eloquently about what America can envision with an Obama presidency. Her no holds barred attacks were double jabs with humor at both McCain and Bush highlighting how McCain’s vision for Americans for the next four years will be indistinguishable from Bush’s unimpressive eight we have had.

“It makes sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together next week in the Twin Cities. Because these days they’re awfully hard to tell apart.”

She tied her message to Obama’s and the Democratic platform’s of “Renewing America’s Promise.”

“I ran for President to renew the promise of America. To rebuild the middle class and sustain the American Dream, to provide the opportunity to work hard and have that work rewarded, to save for college, a home and retirement, to afford the gas and groceries and still have a little left over each month…Those are the reasons I ran for President. Those are the reasons I support Barack Obama. And those are the reasons you should too.”

And Hillary thanked her supporters for their indefatigable support of her run for the White House.

“To my supporters, my champions — my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits – from the bottom of my heart: Thank you. You never gave in. You never gave up. And together we made history.”

But not everybody’s on board after Hillary’s speech to now united with Obama. And her
sisterhood of traveling pantsuits, in particular, still might not cast their ballots entirely for Obama come November.

Many of these women saw Hillary’s speech as conciliatory, at best, for the unification of party at the expense of her historic achievement, or obligatory, at worst, in order for her to have a future life in the party. And although this schism between Hillary’s Democrats and Obama’s is not ideological in terms of the party’s direction this schism, nonetheless, can be catastrophic and, unfortunately, the deal breaker that sidelines Obama’s bid. Hillary supporters’ rallying cry is to the tune of the August 1965 hit and signature song “Respect” by R&B singer Aretha Franklin that came to exemplify the feminist movement.

And the two groups of pro-Hillary supporters we hear from the loudest- the “Party Unity My Ass” (PUMA) and “18 Million Voices”- feel “dissed” not only by the Obama campaign for not vetting Hillary for the VP slot but also by the Democratic Party for not addressing the glaring gender obstacles Hillary confronted. These groups are now out on the streets of Denver and online protesting.

PUMA, seen as a radical group, advises Hillary supporters to dissociate from the party, stating “Hillary Clinton is the strongest candidate for the party and the nation. Dissociate yourself from the party. The deep problem of Obama’s campaign is that they will not acknowledge that Hillary is a legitimate political actor and reduce her to an inhuman monster and enemy. They will not acknowledge that her supporters have sound, rational reasons for our support, and reduce us to mindless fools and spoils of war. ”

“18 Million Voices” is a grassroots organization that advocates for Women’s Rights worldwide and doesn’t want Hillary’s historic achievement of being the first viable woman presidential candidate forgotten.

The race between Obama and Hillary for the White House highlighted the fault lines of both race and gender, and a nation still at the cross roads of how to overcome these social ills. And with a media that pandered to Obama’s charm and parsed Hillary’s words we saw not only unfair treatment of the candidates but also a race/gender divide among Democrats as a consequence of it.

The differences between the two candidates, pundits argue, are slight. Hillary supporters, however, are not buying it. And after Hillary’s address last night at the DNC these same pundits are now scratching their heads and questioning Obama’s choice of Joe Biden over Hillary Clinton for VP. But Democrats won’t know what kind of president or V.P. Hillary would be because race in this instance did indeed trump gender and the alchemy of the two in a male- dominated society I confront all the time as a black woman.

The Democratic Party has to now figure out a way to woo the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, referring to 18 million who voted for Hillary, and the DNC alone won’t do it. And I believe Obama will get most of those voters, mine included.

But as Obama’s campaigners court Hillary voters, play Aretha before you knock on my door, especially this part:

What you want (Obama) baby I got it.
What you need (Obama) you know I got it.
(Hooo) all I’m asking (Obama) is for a little respect.
Just a little bit.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T finds out what it means to me.”

Published August 27, 2008 in The Bilerico Project, New England Blade, and Black Commentator.

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