Friday, February 22, 2008

A Concession?

Despite the upbeat “we’re moving ahead” text messages that Terry McAuliffe sent to every person who ever even thought about having a Blackberry, I think (and most media don’t agree so I must be on the right track), last night was the first step in the Hillary Clinton concession speech. And I also think the media has missed the point. The part of the sentence that was important was not “I am honored to be sitting here with Barack Obama”. The telling part of that moment, at least for women, was when she said “we’re going to be alright.”

Last night at a debate watch party with Obama survivors, (remember, it didn’t look good for a while) women who were much smarter than I (and yes, there are a good many of them), there was a discussion about what really happened to the campaign There was general agreement that the ‘boys’ who were making the money and calling the shots, were incredibly short sighted and to be blunt, wrong. But it was more complicated than that for Senator Clinton. Women always feel like they have to prove themselves. Hillary chose to do it by constantly giving us a list of all her accomplishment --over thirty five years. The rhetoric goes something like, “for the last thirty five years I have been...” and finishes with, ‘here’s what I am going to do for you.’ Oh yes, that’s the other part of being a woman that we forget when it comes to expectations about our leaders. We feel like we constantly need to be doing something for someone. This deadly female combination (help everyone and prove ourselves), interferes with the ability to function, without being concerned about what people think about you. It is much too distracting to have to be concerned about what people think about you—personally combined with professionally.

It gets more complicated. Obama’s style is rich, all encompassing, and much more feminine than Clintons. And I certainly don’t mean that he’s ‘fey’. When women manage it is more likely that they will build support by consensus. They try to be inclusive. If you look at Obama’s approach to the nation, by developing organizations in every state, and if you listen to how he develops a speech, ”Yes, we can”, his approach seems to indicate that we can’t make a difference without getting everyone (all the Democrats in the whole world-- he was victorious with Democrats Abroad), on board.

So the question remains. Was Hillary’s last sentence in a gracious ending to the debate, also her first sentence in what many consider the inevitable concession? I was moved by what she did and wish she had done more of it to save the campaign. But women have a difficult time in moving on. Men are much better at dealing with professional loss. Often, when a guy loses his business, he closes the office, walks out the door and finds some way to start another business. Women who fail at a business can’t just move on. They spend years blaming themselves for the failure. They think they will never survive. They feel like they failed to prove themselves in the professional world. We just need to get over ourselves, but it’s not easy. And I think that both campaigns reflect this dichotomy in approach to the way they do business. Barack suffered some losses, made the necessary changes and moved on. Hillary suffered some losses, but made no real changes in personnel or approach (getting rid of tactics and staff that didn’t work) -- it would have been an admission of failure.

Where is it written that women have to be judged differently than their counterparts, whether in business or politics or life. It must be written somewhere. Surely when Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden they didn’t go with different job descriptions. “ OK Eve, you’ll have to work twice as hard to be recognized as almost as good. And you will have to prove yourself time and time again”. OK Eve, you are the person who can have the babies and so forever women will have to take care of men, children, the house, the car – well, forget the car.

It’s time for me to move on. But wait, I don’t get why the next debate will be “exciting” or as the NBC family says “exciting.” Hillary showed her vulnerability last night? I don’t agree. While I do think the so-called campaign geniuses wrote the Xerox line for which she got booed, I don’t think they wrote the “I am honored...” or “we’re all going to be alright” line. Nope, I think that was the “Hillary I Know” (See Blob Dec. 2). She was calm, gracious, upbeat and absolutely realistic about what is going to happen. We’re just sayin...Iris

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