'COUNTERING OBAMA'  




                                                   [L'Hebdo, Switzerland]



Le Monde, France

Hillary and Obama a Sign That U.S. is 'Far from Equality'


"Confronted with the asset posed by Obama's negritude, which is at once assumed and transcended, Mrs. Clinton and her husband have tried, each in his or her own way, to send the young politician back to his ghetto … by dividing the electorate of their party, the two candidates could cause fractures that the one who is nominated cannot repair."


By Patrick Jarreau



Translated By Kate Davis


February 3, 2008


France - Le Monde - Original Article (French)

In nine months, the Americans could elevate to the leadership of their country a White woman or a Black man, two “minorities” in the political lexicon on the other side of the Atlantic. The Democratic candidate for the White House at the end of a competition that may well continue beyond the primaries on February 5 - “Super Tuesday” - when there will be votes in over 20 states, will be either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. With the Democrats in good position to win the presidency in November, the possibility of the dominant Western power being led by a man of African descent or by a woman is arouses curiosity on every continent.


If Mrs. Clinton enters the White House on January 20, 2009, nearly 89 years after women's suffrage was established in the United States, the march of women toward equality will have reached a significant milestone. However, her election would be more of an upheaval for America than for the rest of the world, where women have long since come to power; earlier in Israel, India, the United Kingdom and Pakistan, and today in Germany, Chili and Argentina. But if one of them reaches the summit of the American “superpower,” it would be a lesson to those who still doubt the capacity of women to lead or the willingness of the people to trust them to do so.


Simone de Beauvoir: One of France's feminist pioneers drew inspiration from her American counterparts.

Viewed from inside the United States, the election of a woman to the presidency would mark a change. Because the women’s liberation movement has some of its roots there - in The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir  often referred to the achievements of the American women - we sometimes imagine society across the Atlantic to be more sexually egalitarian than it is in reality. Any discrimination on the basis of gender is prohibited by law and punishable by the courts, but the resistance of men to sharing power is no less strong.


In politics as in the economy, women who have exercised power or who have held high level positions are rare. Only one entered the presidential competition this year, where there were initially 15 men. Nancy Pelosi is the first woman in history to have risen to the post of Speaker of the House of Representatives - of 535 Representatives, 86 are women - after the victory of the Democrats in the 2006 legislative elections. Of 100 senators, only sixteen are women, including Mrs. Clinton. Of 50 states, eight have female governors.


All of this means that the United States is far achieving equality. The election of Mrs. Clinton on November 4 would be a qualitative leap forward rather than the culmination of a gradual process. The extent the Americans are ready for this, or conversely, adverse, is difficult to guess. But what's certain is that the senator from New York is divisive.


According to the Gallup polling agency, there are almost as likely to have a low opinion of her as those who don't, while her Democratic challenger, Barack Obama, and his possible Republican opponent, John McCain, both evoke largely positive reactions with a small minority expressing dislike. It’s true that they are both centrists and seek to appeal to independent voters, even those from the oppossing party, while Ms. Clinton is conducting a more partisan campaign. But inspiring hostility among half of Americans is not new. One must wonder if this isn't due, at least in part, to the fact that she seems like a woman who is looking for power … and who is capable of achieving it.


If Mr. Obama becomes the candidate of the Democratic Party and if he beats the Republican candidate, it will be a little over 40 years after the enactment of the law mandating respect for the right of Blacks to vote, which was the culmination of a struggle to recognize the dignity of Americans whose ancestors were forced into slavery, and which began with the Civil War in 1861.


A picture of Barack Obama (right) with his little-discussed Indonesian step-father, Lolo Soetoro, his sister Maya Soetoro, and his mother Ann Dunham.

To be certain, the senator from Illinois is not himself a product of this history. He was born in Hawaii of a Kenyan father and a White mother from Kansas, who then took him to Indonesia. But he chose to become an American Black and devote his life to the destiny of this group when at age 24 he went to do social work on the South Side of Chicago, one of the poorest and most violent urban areas in the United States.


Mrs. Clinton advertises the fact that she's a woman, while Mr. Obama takes care not to appear like a minority candidate. The numbers among female and Black voters explain this difference in strategy, but they aren't the only factor. The senator from Illinois is trying to walk the line between a candidacy of racial identification, which would mean renouncing victory in advance, and the assertion of “post-racial politics,” which would also be a losing strategy, because it ignores those who still suffer from racism and its consequences. He wrote in his book The Audacity of Hope, “To think clearly about race … requires us to see the world on a split screen - to maintain in our sights the kind of America that we want while looking squarely at America as it is.”


Mr. Obama is striving to be the candidate of the American dream, that of a multicolored society of free and equal men and women - a project that is aimed at everyone - and to be the candidate not of a minority, but of all minorities - Black, Latin American and Asian - who suffer the effects of not belonging to the founding and dominant group that has its origins in Europe.

Confronted with the asset posed by Obama's negritude, which is at once assumed and transcended, Ms. Clinton and her husband have tried, each in his or her own way, to send the young politician back to his ghetto. She reproached him for invoking the memory of Martin Luther King while forgetting President Lyndon Johnson, who signed the laws on civil rights and the vote in 1964 and 1965. For his part, Bill Clinton slyly recalled the success of candidate Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988 in South Carolina, in order to put Mr. Obama's January 26 victory in that state, which has a large Black population, in perspective.


The Democratic race is thus flirting with a dangerous competition between inequalities to correct or injustices to repair. The risk is that by dividing the electorate of their party, the two candidates could cause fractures that the one who is nominated cannot repair.



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