Saturday, April 05, 2008

Sexism, Racism, Ageism: America's Dirty Secrets Are Projected Into the Presidential Contest

The competition between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, and the candidacy of John McCain under the Republican Party banner, is a screen onto which the nation’s deepest and most secret biases are cast. Here are a few of these psychological telltales that are circulating this week.

SEXISM. Hillary Clinton plays the “woman card” too often when she says, “The boys are coming after me again” because she has refused to concede the close race. Even a token African-American feminist said last night on Chris Matthews’ Crossfire (MSNBC) that her organization encourages women not to make gender an issue.

But why not, dear girl? Women of Clinton’s generation – and mine – fought and have born the weight of many discriminatory indignities so that you can sit on Chris Matthews’ show and intone against the gender card. How would you like it, dear lady, if Senator Obama was asked to leave the race because he can’t win anyway? It would be called racial discrimination, as indeed almost every observation about his lack of experience or other defects is contextualized. And that brings us to the next projection.

RACISM. It’s always about race when Barack Obama is criticized. Like a teenager at his first strip club and fascinated by the display of pulchritude, TV’s political pundits can’t get their eyes off Obama’s brownness. He is as white as he is black. But the nation’s guilt from the history of slavery is projected onto his candidacy, a country’s dirty secret. The lingering white separatist and supremacist tensions that are predicted to sway male voters, especially in some sections of the country.

AGEISM. McCain is old, doddering, could die in office, and is generally unfit for office due his age, according to political commentors who shamelessly spout ageist comments. Extreme ageism is a comedy joke for David Letterman, John Stewart on The Daily Show, and Bill Mahar on Real Time. Mhar was called on his ageism last night by Robert Reich, former secretary of labor for President Bill Clinton. Ageism is the last ism that many people wholeheartedly believe is all right “because I’m just making fun of my older self,” as one of my students expressed it.

So there we have it: three great isms – sexism, racism, and ageism – playing out across our TV screens as we engage in the quadrennial blood sport of electing a president. Our deepest dirty secrets are now played out on our television sets, the ruminations of a nation’s hearts and minds moderated by stand-up comics and corporate point men posing as political commentators.

In future posts, I will use archetype analysis to discuss other psychological patterns evident in this contest.

1 comment:

cliff mills said...

AGEISM. McCain is old, doddering, could die in office, and is generally unfit for office due his age.

Would have been nice to this in quotation marks (smile).

(Cliff - pleased to report that Jen got into Cambridge).