By Kory S.
For future presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton, to the current President Barrack Obama, there has been much focus on their paths to power quite like presidents before them. But unlike their predecessors, consisting entirely of white men, their coverage in the media is not held in the same light. While their nominations mark a turning point in the thinking of Americans, it also unearths some of the bitterness between different races as well as men and women. People running against these candidates must walk on eggshells or face being called sexist or racist. At the same time the American people find fuel for their own issues because of the intensified racial atmosphere since Obama’s election. While these nominees may find more votes by pushing their non-white male status, in the aftermath we are left with nothing but empty social inequalities which bleed out into public life.
Rush Limbaugh commented recently, in regards to Obamacare, that "we got one factor here that nobody knows how to deal with, and that's race, the race of the president. That's what's got everybody stymied and shut down on our side. That's what's got 'em palpably afraid to say or do anything" (Limbaugh). This is a strong statement, likely much more impactful than Limbaugh realized at the time, and it speaks multitudes of our current political climate. What is it about Obama's race that has Republicans "palpably afraid"? It seems an unfortunate reaction, and something you would hear about in the early 20th century, but it is apparently alive and well today. Is it that Limbaugh, a direct and unabashed leader of conservative politics, is actually afraid of a man based on his race, or is this merely more fuel to use against the president? The answer seems to be both.
Sometimes the gender and race gap can prove to be beneficial to a candidate. Hillary Clinton is a great example of exactly this. Media coverage of Clinton often follows her tale of breaking women's barriers. The media casts her in an entirely different light than President Obama. For example, Clinton once said “hypothetically speaking, I really do hope that we have a woman president in my lifetime,” (Clinton) in a poorly hidden allusion to herself. What is the importance of the woman president? Is it truly to destroy the age old barrier between men and women, and prove forever that woman are capable of such leadership? Or is it a ploy to gain media coverage and popularity by intentionally feeding into this intersectionality between women and men? It may become difficult for voters to understand what Hillary Clinton’s personal objectives are as president if media coverage continues to focus on the fact that she is a woman, but especially so when Clinton cashes in on it herself. It is difficult to confirm how successful having a female president will be at breaking down gender barriers, and quite possible that it will not influence the larger female population at all. It is not the first time a female has received attention for potentially becoming the president. Jill Stein, a lesser known but still influential leader, was the presidential nominee for the Green Party in 2012. Jill performed multiple protests and sit-ins during her run as nominee, and influenced the voting of 2012 so that Barack Obama would win the presidential election over Mitt Romney (Time). But even then Jill has never received the attention required to obtain presidency, and so it is hard to believe that her influence has reached a large number of women.
The inequalities discussed here do not simply stop with politicians. Political whiplash has been known to occur in the years following a campaign. For President Obama the issue of black and white people in the media has gained inevitable attention. The most prominent case in recent history is the Zimmerman case. The case involved the shooting of a young black man, named Trayvon Martin, in self-defense, to which some claimed George Zimmerman enjoyed doing. Not because Zimmerman enjoys killing people, but because he enjoys killing or hurting black people in particular. At least, this is the claim that many outraged families took to twitter to say following the case's decision. Martin's family attorney, Benjamin Crump, said "the whole world was looking at this case for a reason ... We'd be intellectually dishonest if we didn't acknowledge the racial undertones in this case" (Crump). It is hard to imagine another case such as this where race was such a leading factor because of the American people who, having just received a black president for the first time, have had their eyes and minds dialed to the race issue, whether intentionally or sub-consciously. Political whiplash can occur between genders as well. Hypothetically, if Hillary Clinton became president in 2016, we could see resentment between men and women just as we have seen with black and white people in recent years. Men have a long history of overreacting to women in charge, whether they feel threatened by it or for any other reason.
What we are left with is an obviously powerful system within the media which, while used to gain coverage and attention, leaves the public stirred in a race and gender frenzy. And while it is easy to claim that because of this we are losing our ability to think critically about truly important issues like hunger, peace, space exploration, scientific discovery, and so on, it is also easy to realize that until we can agree on such common and basic things as race and gender, we can't possibly turn our eyes towards the stars. So while the political climate may become devastating at times, from the chaos we can always hope that a new kind of understanding will spawn between people of all races and genders.
Botelho, Greg, et al. "George Zimmerman Found Not Guilty of Murder in Trayvon Martin's Death." CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
Friedersdorf, Conor. "Rush Limbaugh: Defeat Is Victory (and Obama Being Black Complicates It)." The Atlantic. The Atlantic, 11 Oct. 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
Rucker, Philip. "Hillary Clinton's Theme, Pre-2016: Women Who Break Barriers." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 11 Aug. 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
Steinmetz, Katy. "The Green Team: Jill Stein’s Third-Party Bid to Shake Up 2012."Swampland The Green Team Jill Steins ThirdParty Bid to Shake Up 2012 Comments. TIME, 11 July 2012. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.