By Deborah Siegel and Rebecca Wallace-Segall
It started like this: "I was torn, but I finally decided. How 'bout you?
"Oh, I'm not torn."
"You're for Obama then, right?" said resignedly. We're young, progressive, possibly subversive...It seemed like the current predictable choice.
"You're kidding? Didn't you get my email?" said disbelievingly.
"The spiel on why I 'm voting for Hillary...I assumed you didn't respond out polite discomfort.
"No - no! I never got it! Didn't you read my blog?"
Squeals and joy erupted through the phone lines across the boroughs. And there it was: we had come out to each other as two of the only young Hillary supporters in our social circle. It was a relief to know that each of us was not alone. There's been an explosion of fervor for Barack Obama, a very strong candidate as well, in our progressive enclaves as of late. So much so that when we out ourselves as Hillary fans, we're often met by bafflement followed by suggestions that our position is galvanized purely by emotions, especially when we dare to admit that the fact that she is a woman inspires us.
It's not the charge that is completely off-base. Rather, it's the assumption that voting is ever an emotion-free act. Drew Westen, a psychologist and author, suggests that voters are more driven by emotions than informed interests. Interestingly, the subjects of his studies were all men.
Consider America's present collective emotional state: George W. Bush poisoned our trust in our government to such an extent that many of us progressives now feel suspicious of legacy of any kind. Some of our friends and family say they don't like Hillary because they distrust establishment altogether. Others are focused on her 2002 vote in favor of invading Iraq, a war that was instigated on the basis of government-fabricated evidence. And then there are other emotions: the belief that she is riding on her husband's coattails; the fear that she is unelectable because she is a woman; or, as one of our progressive (and beloved) fathers puts it, "I just don't like that woman."
Popular talk stigmatizes women who vote their gender, but men clearly vote their gender too. In fact, in Iowa, more men voted their gender than women did, noted quantitatively-oriented sociologist Virginia Rutter. While we believe that gender plays an inspirational role, sometimes invisible, for both men and women, we also believe that Hillary is the more qualified and electable of the two talented, exciting candidates. We believe in Hillary, and we believe that, based on her experience, she has the ability to get the job done more efficiently than her opponent.
But in overwhelming numbers, our progressive friends and some family members are inspired by Obama's clean slate, bold moralism, outsider status, audacity and hope. We also think these things sound great, but untested, they are mere phrases gracefully turned by a particularly winsome wonderboy whose actions will inevitably disappoint as he is forced to contend with political machinery designed to limit his powers.
Hillary herself once said she's a Rorschach test, as people tend to project on her their hopes and fears. We think Obama is a Rorscharch too.
We are voting for the most qualified candidate who is also, momentously, a woman. She is the most qualified whether her husband was president or not. She is the most qualified candidate whether she voted in favor of war or not. She has made the forward-looking pledge to end the war as president. And we believe she is the most qualified candidate to do so. To say she is unelectable seems a self-fulfilling prophecy. We envision Hillary at the helm. We both believe that her experience will hold up better against McCain.
While we fear that Hillary-hate may be more powerful, in the end, than our desire for her to win, we have the audacity to hope that public statements of support have the power to tip the balance. It did for one of us.
And we hope it might for you.
Rebecca Wallace-Segall is a freelance writer in New York City and the Director of WritopiaLab.