Loyalties in Play

LOYALTIES IN PLAY….Compare and contrast. In the LA Times, Jerome Karabel reminds us that lifelong political loyalties tend to be cemented during your 20s, which means that Democrats are playing with fire if they don’t nominate Barack Obama:

The future political loyalties of today’s 18- to 29-year-olds — a huge group of 42 million — are still very much up for grabs. Nonetheless, their preferences in the primaries so far are clear….In fact, were 18- to 29-year-olds alone to decide the Democratic nominee, Obama would win nationwide by a landslide of at least 20 points.

….It is now clear that neither Obama nor Clinton will be able to win enough pledged delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination. In all likelihood, it will fall to the superdelegates to resolve the increasingly bitter contest between them. As they search for the wisest course of action, they would do well to remember that today’s young people — those born between 1979 and 1990 — will still be a major electoral force in the 2050s and beyond. If the party alienates them, it will be a mistake whose reverberations will be felt for decades to come.

Next up is Amanda Fortini, who writes in New York magazine that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has — perhaps — put women’s loyalties into play too:

Not so long ago, it was possible for women, particularly young women, to share in the popular illusion that we were living in a postfeminist moment….Then Hillary Clinton declared her candidacy, and the sexism in America, long lying dormant, like some feral, tranquilized animal, yawned and revealed itself. Even those of us who didn’t usually concern ourselves with gender-centric matters began to realize that when it comes to women, we are not post-anything.

….The women I interviewed who described a kind of conversion experience brought about by Clinton’s candidacy were professionals in their thirties, forties, and fifties, and a few in their twenties….A not insignificant number of women mentioned arguments they’d had with male friends and colleagues, who disagreed that Clinton was being treated with any bias. A high-powered film executive for a company based in New York and Los Angeles recounted a heated debate she engaged in with two of her closest male friends; she finally capitulated when they teamed up and began to shout her down. Nearly all of the women I interviewed, with the exception of those who write on gender issues professionally, refused to be named for fear of offending the male bosses and colleagues and friends they’d tangled with.

….The past few months have been like an extended consciousness-raising session, to use a retro phrase that would have once made most of us cringe. We’ve parsed the gender politics of the campaign with other women in the office, at parties, over e-mail, and now we’re starting to parse the gender politics of our lives. This is, admittedly, depressing: How can we be confronting the same issues, all these years later? But it’s also exciting. It feels as if a window has been opened in a stuffy, long-sealed room. There is a thrill at the collective realization. Now the question is, what next?

It’s a common meme that Obama’s idealistic supporters are disgusted with Hillary Clinton (and Clintonism in general) and could well just stay home in November if their guy doesn’t win the primary. It’s much less remarked that an awful lot of liberal women are appalled at how Hillary has been treated during this campaign and that some of them might stay home as well if she doesn’t win.

In the end, my guess is that neither group will stay home. The specter of John McCain in the White House will simply be too strong. But read Fortini’s piece, especially if you’ve been inclined to dismiss the idea that there’s a sense of genuine feminist outrage bubbling under the surface of the campaign. Fortini taps into something real here, and Obama and his supporters ignore it at their peril.