Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Wrong Reasons to Vote for a Candidate

So today's a pretty important day in the US election campaign. The fate of Hillary Clinton may well be decided today if she loses both Texas and Ohio.

I read this news item a few days ago, which talks about the frustration many feminists feel when they see Hillary's chances slipping away. One of them says, "I am worried that if Hillary doesn't get elected, I am never going to see a woman president in my lifetime."

Excuse me, but I don't think that's what feminism should be about - getting a woman elected president. In today's world, feminism should be less strident. All right-thinking people should be fighting for a common principle - the elimination of discrimination based on gender, age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. Feminists should apply that common principle specifically to fight discrimination based on gender.

Under that principle therefore, it would be wrong to vote against Clinton because she is a woman. But to my mind, it would be equally unjustified to vote for Clinton because she is a woman, which is how I interpret the statement made by the woman quoted in the article.

There's too much at stake in a US presidential election (indeed, any country's election) to vote based on narrow identity-based issues. It would be wrong to vote against Clinton, Obama or McCain based on their gender, race or age (unless it can be shown that it is relevant to their effectiveness in doing their jobs). I have already argued that Obama's race itself could be a positive factor for the US in international relations. Some may argue that McCain's age may similarly be a factor that potentially affects his ability to do an undoubtedly high-pressure job, but that apprehension needs a factual basis before it can become a legitimate reason to vote against him. I personally dislike Hillary Clinton because she appears too controlling. Barack Obama projects a cooler image of "relaxed control".

Some would point out that African-Americans are overwhelmingly for Obama because they identify with him. I would say that's just as wrong. They must vote for the person who is most likely to do a good job, not for the person who is most like them.

Long ago, in a college election, a candidate who normally spoke to me in English, accosted me and spoke to me in Tamil, because that's my nominal mother tongue. I voted against him. I don't approve of candidates who play identity politics.

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