American voters in 24 states are heading to the polls today, eager to participate in a primary season that has been- shockingly- extremely interesting. And up here in frozen, bereft Canada, we've all come down with a bad case of voter envy. I wish I could choose from a slate of historic candidates. Instead, I've got to settle for Dion, Harper and Layton, the political equivalent of the Siberian Taiga. Unfortunately, voter envy is driving some folks a little mad. Like Andy Barrie and the entire producing staff of CBC Radio One's Metro Morning. Collectively, they were responsible for the single most idiotic segment I have ever encountered on morning radio.That's saying a lot, since MM's music reviewer makes me want to hurt puppies. I also suspect their business columnist is secretly addicted to some sort of extremely powerful elephant stimulant, since listening to him is the broadcasting equivalent of a grand mal seizure.
Here's the set-up: Barrie and Co. asked listeners to phone in and- wait for it- espouse on whether it was more important the USA elect an African-American President or a White Female President.
I'll let that sink in a bit.
Yes, a morning show serving Canada's largest metropolitan centre and carried on our public broadcaster took all the complexity and urgent policy issues of a presidential election and boiled it down into "Who's better: black dudes or white chicks?" I would think that the pertinent question for voters is "Who will do a better job?" or "Who has the experience and ideas necessary to tackle the fallout from a criminally mismanaged war, decimated economy and looming climate crisis?" Not which gender/race combo is more desirable for progressives.
Not only is this totally reductivist, but it's also reflects a sort of skewed worldview. The trouble with so much progressive politics today is the obsession with identity politics, or the idea that who you are is more politically significant that what actually happens in the world. Yes, identity matters. Yes, there are histories of repression and discrimination in Western societies that need to be addressed. But when these things begin to take primacy over concrete (and urgent) policy issues, everybody loses. Regardless of your race, gender, or political beliefs.
No doubt, a win by either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would be historic, and would speak volumes on the changing political climate in the United States. But in case you haven't noticed, the USA is pretty frakked up right now. For the good of us all, we'd better hope that whoever becomes president has the ability to sort things out. Male, female, black, white, Martian or Mollusc, that's the bottom line.