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Clinton or a Man?

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Evaluating some arguments for and against Sebellius as a VP choice, Ezra discusses a strange argument I’ve always wondered about:

Then, on the con side, we get an argument that’s been peeking out on the corners of the debate: Sebelius is a women who is not Hillary Clinton. “With Clinton now formally gone from the race,” writes Cilizza, “her most fervent female supporters have taken up the cause of putting her on the ticket as the vice president. To snub Clinton in favor of another woman — Sebelius — would be a slight that many women might not be able to reconcile themselves to.”

A slight? This argument is popping up a lot, being reported as a pro-Clinton talking point by everyone from Chric Cilizza to Howard Fineman. These are good reporters, so I trust there’s some truth to it. But it’s loathsome. When Clinton endorsed Obama, she said that, “from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the president of the United States.” It was a powerful line, and a tremendous sentiment. And it’s being undercut by some of her supporters.

Insofar as Clinton’s campaign was a trailblazing, historic candidacy, it’s because it consciously sought to ease the way for those who would come after Clinton. By proving a woman could be commander-in-chief, by proving a woman could win primary states, by proving a women could out-campaign the guys, the idea was that the barrier would not be so high for future women who wished to run. Clinton’s example would normalize women in national politics. That is the precise opposite of preserving the idea that it’s a rare and unique thing for women to compete in national politics, and only one woman has the capability or credibility to do so.

On the merits, the idea that is would be some kind of slap in the face to women for Obama to pick any woman but Clinton is certainly ridiculous. So perhaps this is a pundit’s fallacy, but I also doubt that this would actually be a problem for a significant number of voters, especially as acceptance about Clinton’s narrow defeat sets in. And of that small subgroup, some are presumably part of the “it will really show the sexists in the media if Antonin Scalia is the median vote on the Supreme Court, the global gag rule isn’t repealed, etc. etc.” crowd, which will find some reason to be offended by any Obama pick and aren’t really worth considering.

Certainly, it seems pretty clear to me that picking Webb (or, worse, an anti-choicer, although Strickland is apparently out of the running…) has a much higher chance of alienating women…

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