Style vs. Substance

Come February 5, Hubby and I will be spending our second stint as poll workers. The whole process has been a great learning experience, and I’m still learning. What a closed primary is, and how each party sets the rule for allowing “unaffiliateds” to vote their party.

And I’m thinking that choosing delegates to send to the convention, which is actually what Tuesday’s results seem to be about, is much too important to leave to chance. Hubby and I attended a Democratic caucus in Las Vegas the year Kerry was running, and if we had been more aggressive like some of the attendees, we might have been chosen delegates. A sobering thought.

I must say, this election year has possibly been the most exciting one (albeit a bit too long in my opinion) I’ve experienced since 1960 when I gathered with a group of my friends from church to watch John F. Kennedy debate Richard Nixon on national television. We watched the debate that Sunday night after youth meeting at the home of our church youth leaders, the Garvers. Elsie brought out refreshments for us all to enjoy while Herb jiggled the rabbit ears and brought the black and white TV into better focus. And we all sat down to watch as our hero, JFK, made Nixon break into a bullet-sweat. That year marked several major milestones for me: graduating high school, first driver’s license, plus it marked my first presidential election. Since then I haven’t missed a presidential election! 

Just think! I was 18 years old, and didn’t really understand at the time just how hard that privilege had been to earn, just as I fear today’s young woman may not quite grasp how lucky she is that she’s had more choices in her life than many of my generation. Nor was there a question of her right to vote. Had the year been 1860, or even 1919, just because she’s female she would not have been allowed to cast a vote. 

Now, in 2008, we seem to be striving as a nation for a couple of new milestones. We Democrats have the chance to vote either for a black man or a woman as our party’s nominee as President of the United States. Karl Rove said last week that “Americans are looking for a way to break barriers.” . . . “They would love to elect a woman president; they would love to elect an African-American president.” This primary has been alluded to as being a “feel good” election for Americans, whichever way the vote goes.

New York Times writer Mark Leibovich, in Rights vs. Rights: An Improbable Collision Course, writes “. . . they can’t pick both. someone will lose. Such is football, Yahtzee and elections. And either Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton–and the movements they represent–will be consigned, for the time being, to a status of “almost.” At one point, I had viewed the best ticket for the Democrats as Mrs. Clinton for president, because of her experience and intelligence and Mr. Obama as the vice-president.

In my eyes Mrs. Clinton held the Substance card. When I recall the 1980 election, when democrat Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro as his vice-presidential running mate, it was a milestone.  Many believed that he lost the election because the country wasn’t ready for a woman in a position only one heart beat away from the presidency. Seeing how this race seems to be headed the last week or two, I fear this country still isn’t ready to grant a woman full equal rights to the highest office in the nation.

Mr. Obama was consigned to vice president in my mind only because of his relative youth and lack of experience. Why not spend four to eight years grooming as VP to be ready to win the big office in 2016? At age 46, he could certainly afford the time, and barring any scandals in office, would make a perfect candidate to succeed her. He not only has Style, he’s articulate, intelligent, handsome, everything JFK seemed to be.

Then the bickering started. Edwards has now quit. Kuchinich doesn’t have an ice cube’s chance in hell. So I’m undecided which way to go. I would love to see a woman in the oval office in my lifetime. Also, if Ralph Nader jumps into the mix and further dilutes the votes for the Democratic ticket, well, there’s just too much riding on my decision this time. If Mr. Obama is chosen over Mrs. Clinton, maybe it’ll take another 50 years until a woman finally represents us in the white house, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be around that long. 

Maybe style won’t help Mr. Obama either in the long run if he does happen to be the nominee. Maybe he’ll be the easier candidate for the Republicans to beat. I’m sure some of the Karl Rove clones are already working on finding something in his past to smear him with. Is the Rezko scandal enough to bring him down? As for lack of experience, I heard some suggestions that Mr. Obama can spend some time learning on the job. Bush did that for a full seven, soon to be eight, years. Look where that got us.  

We know that voters do seem to care about style over substance. That’s been reflected in the way we’ve tended to vote over the years. (Otherwise explain to me how the Jesse the Body Ventura was elected in Minnesota.) The image makers are so important these days in promoting a persona that the voters seem to have a harder time figuring out the substance over style.

What we need to learn now is how to know which candidate has substance and which has style. Wouldn’t it be great to find somebody with both? There’s a lot riding on the Primary coming up. It’s far too important not to try and figure this stuff out and vote accordingly.



7 thoughts on “Style vs. Substance

  1. I liked what Obama said last night about when he was asked if he’d consider Hillary as a vice president … He wants strong willed people surrounding him … even in his cabinet … who won’t automatically agree with him. Hillary’s comments were similiar. I almost think they may have gotten together and signed a truce … it wouldn’t surprise me to see a ticket with them both on it. I hope so.

    I am a life long Democrat, and survived the Great deprssion, having been born in 1924.
    My choice for President is Hillary. I am hoping that not too many people will vote agains’t her thinking that a woman couldn’t possibly win because she is a not a man.

  3. Oh Alice, you say it all so well. How do we tell young women what it was really like when they’ve never lived it? They don’t know how it feels to be told that ‘women just don’t become architects – they’re teachers.’ Young women never had to work knowing that the guy with the same job was paid $10 more a paycheck just because he was a male. They’ve probably not gone to employment agencies that offered us secretarial postings after four years in college. They never were denied the use of credits cards after a divorce. They cannot know how satisfying it will be to have a smart experienced woman as our Commander in Chief.
    Women – we are strong and all of us over 50 need to get out our vote and have serious talks with our daughters and granddaughters and all of their friends. We need to tell our stories and share the knowledge of the work we did ‘then’ so that young women ‘now ‘ can live as they do. We are going to be really busy.

  4. I remember being in Portland State College when JFK came to speak. Our professor declined to cancel class so we could here him speak. “He’ll never be the nominee.” I did get a glimpse of Kennedy waking down the sidewalk surround by people after his talk. Wish I’d been there.

    I’m joining Obama for the moment, but I’ll back Clinton if she gets the nomination. I, too, would like to see a Clinton/Obama ticket. Thank goodness the dirt throwing died down. I think they should each run as if they’re against McCain (looks like he’s nailed it) rather than each other.

  5. Hey Alice….thought you might be interested in this and find it as shocking as I did.
    Obama ACTUALLY WON on Cedar Key! WaaaHoooo! That was the good news!
    The bad news is……he lost in Levy County. Hilliary won for the Democrats but McCain beat ’em all.
    Gee… think thoughts of “Rosewood” still linger down here?

  6. It was great to hear from old friend JimRogers above. Thanks for commenting Jim. Glad to see you and Josephine again through your web pictures; you’re both looking good! Hope you’ll visit Wintersong again.

    Terri, I’m not surprised at all actually. North Florida has always been an ultra-conservative area, and though they were democrat saturated when I was growing up, the vote didn’t reflect it. You’ll have to ask the locals to explain that to you. Now that Miami is more or less hispanic, and conservative as well, means the republicans have Florida pretty much sewed up, unless you can convince all the northeastern transplants to vote democratic–for Obama or Clinton. I’m for the one, whichever it turns out to be–that can win. It’s so important!

    Thanks to all who commented. I so appreciate your taking the time.

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