I often experience a weird frustration with groups I’m not a part of. The weirdness is that the only way I could be more frustrated is if I were a member of the group.
Such a frustration recently arose in listening to some pundits lament that, since Elizabeth Warren has exited the presidential race after Super Tuesday, it’s inevitable that the Democratic candidate for President will be a white male in his late 70’s. (On this point, listen to the discussion on NPR’s 1A show aired on Friday 3/6).
At that superficial level where emotional reactions are completely independent of thought, I suppose the sorrowful tone is rooted in some vague sense that the election of a woman President would go a long way in bringing down “The Patriarchy” or some other fictional oppressor.
What frustrates me, however, and would frustrate me more if I were a Democrat, is that this shows no concern for the core objectives of the Democratic Party. Democrats pride themselves on being, among other things, the party for gender equality, but what if Bernie’s or Biden’s policies and competencies are more effective than Warren’s in establishing gender equality? Would women be less equal if their equality came about though the policies implemented by a white male in his 70’s?
If I were a Democrat, I would want to say to those miffed about white males, “Being a Democrat means we want more government involvement in regulating business and wealth distribution in order to close the economic chasm between the poor and the one-percenters. We should vote for the person who's best able to make that happen whether it’s a he, she, or a trans-species, gender-nonconforming life force!”
I would also want to say—beg, plead, cry out—"Please, please stop reducing people to labels!"
Being white, male, and older than 70 says absolutely nothing about a person’s political philosophy or competence as a leader or integrity as a person. Believing that these categories tell us anything meaningful about a person is like believing the current color of a two-dollar mood ring can tell you whether you should change jobs or drop out of college.
If this isn't making sense, just try the same approach with any other set of labels:
“Who are the new city council members?”
“Well [dismissive frown], John made it, but the other two are black women in their 50’s.”
“Have you heard who’s the new school superintendent?”
“Yea [sigh], it’s a bald, Hispanic guy in his 40’s.”
“Did you meet the new 5th grade teacher?”
“Yea…some red-headed woman from Iowa. I wonder if we should switch Billy to another class.”
The fact that labels like these indicate nothing about the character of a person suggests to me that those who prioritize such labels don’t care much about the character of a person. Labels are what matter most.
This tendency to reduce people to labels brings to mind an empty-headed teenage girl who says she wants to find “the perfect guy,” when what she really means is a guy with perfect hair, perfect clothes, and movie-worthy one-liners. Thousands of guys can fill the slot. It doesn’t matter who.
Better yet, those lamenting Warren’s exit from the election and the victory of the two suspicious white males are like Russell Crowe’s character, Ben Wade, in 3:10 to Yuma.
Wade’s an outlaw in the wild west who comes to town after runnin’ with his gang. He’s been out on the trail for a while and, well, you know...he needs him a woman.
He eyes a woman behind the bar at the saloon while downing a couple shots of whiskey and then moves in closer as the two engage in a whispery exchange with unambiguous intent:
“You look kinda skinny”
“I feel skinny”
“I don’t mind skinny girls, long as they’ve got green eyes to make up for it. Have you got green eyes? That’s alright. They don’t have to be green.”
In other words, “I don’t care what qualities you may or may not have. I just need me a woman.”
Likewise, it seems that some Democrats don’t care about the real qualities of their candidates. They just need them a woman.