Saturday, February 6, 2016

Her Turn 2: Revenge of the PUMAs

But it is hard not to observe how progressive parties all fail to select a woman leader... Rather, "bourgeois feminists" must bide their time. Except it's never the right time. And it's never the right woman. - Janice Turner
Turner's article is getting a lot of attention this morning, but nothing she says here is new. In fact, she's really just rehearsing a line that's been central to the argument for Clinton from the beginning: that it is, in some sense, her turn. Clinton groupie Sady Doyle has put it most explicitly:
You know, she can be told to "wait your turn" for 8, 16, 24, 48 years but the second some rando says the word "socialist" he's qualified. [1] ...she was told "wait your turn" specifically so that it would never be her turn. [2]
Like many of Clinton's supporters, Doyle clearly has in mind 2008, when Obama won the nomination. What's worth some reflection here is this notion that Democrats simply asked Clinton to "wait your turn" - rather than decisively rejecting her candidacy. This seems to be a common belief among many of her supporters. Turner writes that "the idea that America was ripe for its first female president was parked in 2008", and then takes failure to support Clinton as "a backlash against the very idea". As My Turn author Doug Henwood writes, "The case for Hillary boils down to this: she has experience, she's a woman, and it's her turn."

As I've noted previously, there's an ugly subtext here: Hillary Clinton deserved to win last time, too. Thus the "never the right time" rhetoric: Obama's victory was unfair, too, and he only won the nomination "specifically so that it would never be [Hillary's] turn." Voting for Sanders is just a way of protracting an injustice against Hillary - and by extension, women - that began with the nomination of the inferior Barack Obama.

Readers with any kind of memory will recall that it was the PUMAs who popularized this argument in 2008, declaring Obama an "affirmative action president" and insisting that he had won, not because of his obviously superior platform, but because of white guilt. But this logic even emerged among Clinton's more respectable media surrogates. Kaili Joy Gray, for example, explicitly framed the primaries as a decision on "if racism or sexism is worse" and an exercise in affirmative action between two equally qualified candidates:
The main idea of affirmative action...is that when you have two candidates...all other things being equal, you want to give the opportunity to the one who has been disadvantaged by the system of privilege in our society...but this depends upon, first and foremost, the idea that they are relatively equal in qualifications. That is why, for me, supporting Hillary was very much a personal choice. Because their policy differences are few. So, all other things being equal, yes, I, a woman, wanted to see a woman in the White House.
It's easy to see how her-turnism builds on the racist premise of PUMA politics. You insist that Clinton deserves at least one win in seperate elections against equally qualified candidates - but this means that you have to actively downplay the earned victory of our first black president. The easiest way to do this is to trivialize his success by making it entirely stylistic: so you credit him with "running a better campaign", like Marcotte does, or you credit "Obama's cool...Obama's freshness...Obama's rhetorical deftness...Obama's humor...[and] Obama's jump shot". But when you are less careful, then - like Gray - you start talking about affirmative action.

Like I wrote last time: once you start noticing this, you can't stop. It's one thing to argue against Sanders on his own merits, but when Clintonites start invoking her loss to Obama and suggesting that it's her turn, they are making a white entitlement argument at the expense of a black man.