Repairing the Mosaic

Acting like super delegates, mainstream media pundits are pushing for Sen. Hillary Clinton to cede the Democratic presidential nomination to Sen. Barack Obama in the name of party unity.

This is the first time that a black man and a white woman are the only two viable candidates for the nomination and it is probable that one or the other will become the next president. That both are compassionate and brilliant is also history-making. Each inspired hundreds of thousands of people to become voters. Also significantly, both have made every single state and territory count in their push to the nomination.

Before this year, the states that held primaries and caucuses after the February 5 Super Tuesday were ornaments to the democratic process. This year, they are the foundation for democratic process even within the confines of the undemocratic caucuses in which not everyone can participate. Cutting off the potential participation of 10 million voters in the next 10 primaries and caucuses would be a salute to Politburo politics.

Clinton and Obama each have received about 14 million votes. He leads in the popular vote by about 500,000. He’s won more states and delegates, mostly where caucuses have been held. He lags in super delegates by about 100. If the Florida vote were counted, Clinton would lead in popular votes, super delegates and big state wins.

Yes, the spin of each side is now boring, amusing, pathetic. But it is also the reawakening of a dream deferred to millions of voters who see in their candidate a bit of justice restored.

Racism hasn’t ended. It is a palpable in every corner of society, from boardrooms to newsrooms to the disenfranchised kitchen staffs that pamper blissfully unaware diners even here in the Pioneer Valley. Just three years ago, the Bush Justice Department had to intervene in Springfield and three other Massachusetts cities to halt violations of the Civil Rights Voting Act. People of color had been denied equal access to voting materials in their own language.

Sexism secretes its venom every day as well, including in Northampton, where women are supposedly as strong as the ridiculously expensive latte. It was here that an abused woman was killed in front of the police station several years ago, around the corner from the mural on Masonic Street celebrating women. Hardly anyone cares that women are victimized by political policies set by men, that crimes against women are still considered minor infractions, that living in poverty is what you get for being a single mother, that a smart woman is seen as a cold bitch if she tries to achieve anything, including the top job in the White House. That women still earn far less what men make for the exact same job is pass?, man.

Obama reluctantly joined the conversation on race when his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, made white people cringe because in sermons he had said things like white people run the country and damn the injustices that have befallen people of color.

Obama had not wanted to be seen as a black candidate, apparently thinking that such a narrative wouldn’t draw the white voters he needed to win big. Clinton never tried to downplay the fact that she is a woman, possibly because she knew the tactic would hurt her credibility.

Silly politics aside, Obama delivered a strong speech when the personal became political. He talked of his own family, a snapshot of the United Nations. He acknowledged that his blackness led him to a church where whiteness is the target of rage.

The bumpy and exhausting road to the White House has dulled the shine on Obama. For Clinton, it’s been an insult fest for from day one. Pundits such as Maureen Dowd cling to their bitterness against the Clintons in every column. Yet the candidates’ complexities still come through as the most hyped, most expensive job interview in history continues. His financial advantage can’t sway people toward him; her experience can’t convince the yuppies. They don’t seem to like one another, but a shared ticket would keep the voters loyal in November and serve as a united front against leaders who don’t serve the best interests of the people.

The breakdown of their voters by race, gender and age would be terminally demoralizing if one didn’t remember that Clinton and Obama are writing a beautiful chapter in American history. They are repairing the frayed “gorgeous mosaic,” which is what former New York Mayor David Dinkins once called New York and which today is the entire country. They are the redeemers, and the upcoming voters want to be part of this breathtaking chapter.

This column originally appeared in The Valley Advocate on May 1, 2008