Ageism, Racism and Sexism

It seems as though in this election season we have hit the trifecta of “ism’s”. There have been accusations of racism where Obama is concerned, sexism where Clinton is concerned and most recently ageism where McCain is concerned. The mistake we make is lumping these three together. I see them as distinctly different.

In a class by itself is racism. The racist often has no acquaintances of the “opposite” race. His or her racist beliefs are grounded in stereotypes, what they’ve seen on TV or some extrapolation from the behavior of a select few to the larger group. Barack Obama’s candidacy shows how little racism relates to reality. He does not match negative stereotypes of African Americans. He is more like the so-called average white person than many of the white folks who discount him based on race. Racism, especially in the context of this presidential election comes up utterly absurd.

Sexism is a different animal entirely. This is not to say that sexism is defensible. It is not. However most males have had a woman in their lives. Men form their attitudes about women not only based on stereotype but very much based on behavior of role models. How did their mother behave towards them? How did their father treat their mother? How do they get along with their wife, daughter or sister? Mike Barnicle, columnist for the Boston Herald, has himself in hot water because he said several months ago that Hillary reminds every man of his first wife at probate court. Was this a nice thing to say? Certainly not. But it stems from Hillary’s then shrill manner reminding Barnicle of women he knows. The ways in which men and women relate cut deep into the male psyche. Hillary Clinton’s candidacy was an emotional trigger for many men. The women in our lives have behaved in ways that serve as context for Clinton’s behavior. This form of sexism is based on behavioral experience and cannot be accurately compared to racism based on total ignorance. (It should be added that there are other forms of sexism that do compare with racism. Assumptions about women’s mental and physical capacity, or what role they should play in life are equally offensive and irrational as racist assumptions. But much of the so called sexism suffered by Hillary related to behavior and how that behavior fit into the context of how men relate to the women in their lives.)

Now we come to ageism, a whole other bag of fish. To say, based on a number, that any random individual is incapable of being a good presidential candidate is absurd. The trick with applying the age issue to McCain is that it fits. It is not ageism, it is the accurate recognition of the role age plays in McCain’s candidacy. We can put aside the fact that he shuffles when he walks and that he doesn’t cut the most convincing presidential figure. Heck, FDR was in a wheelchair. Where McCain’s age seems to play a more relevant role is in his beliefs. The man is stuck back in the 60’s. How he can make occupation of Iraq equivalent to occupation of Japan or Germany shows that he does not understand the current situation. He is applying old models to new circumstances and he does not see the mismatch. He is rightfully “confused” between Sunni and Shia because he does not recognize that the Iraq instability is not the old Korea/Germany model of communism/socialism. It is not a social problem, it is a religious problem. McCain does not get it.

Does this mean that any candidate of McCain’s age would be similarly unable to move into the 21st century? Of course not. Being old does not mean you can’t stay current. However, in McCain’s case I think it does. For McCain, his age, where he has been and what he has seen have limited his ability to be effective.

So, while we acknowledge and examine ageism, racism and sexism in this presidential race, let us not oversimplify the matter. They are not the same phenomenon, neither in their root causes nor in their application to the various candidates.

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance

12 thoughts on “Ageism, Racism and Sexism

  1. Isn’t racism ALWAYS absurd ? As for Hillary wasn’t the sexism more her and her followers perception of slights etc? Anyway as I was reading this post I was thinking “hey this is pretty good stuff.” Then you went all partisan on me and closed out with the McCain bits. Occupation is occupation and it doesn’t ever really get embraced by the occupied. In the context of Islamic nations social and religious are near synonymous . The mantra of McCain being stuck in time is laughable. I’ll still give you props for the post though-just saying.

  2. I preemptively conceded vivacious to Obama on the last thread.

    No doubt, Obama is a winner on every issue that matters to Democrats. Is he going to win the ‘good to his mother’ or ‘top student’ title next? Stay tuned to your favorite TV network and find out.

  3. Obama had a bad night Friday. At a Philadelphia fund raiser he said “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

    Little can bring a smile to a conservative’s face quicker than the thought of a liberal attempting to handle a firearm without hurting themselves. Sure, Obama. I believe you, man. Heheheh.

    Even John Effin’ Kerry, who at one time could actually use a firearm effectively, knew better than to say something as silly as this.

    Perhaps, this bit of rhetoric is actually proof that he doesn’t know how to use a gun, because people that do understand the seriousness of the phrase.

    Nobody wants to ‘vote from the roof tops’ if they don’t have to.

  4. It’s interesting because it looks like this election, which was supposed to be about shattering race and gender barriers, seems to be accentuating them instead through the use of identity politics. I hope that the country can recover after having poured so much salt on these wounds.

  5. It’s hard to shatter barriers without actually examining them. It will be a shame indeed if the current political season does not eventually lead to more progressive thinking. I agree with Redstate that the jury is out on this. Let’s hope the wounds get cleansed and healed, keeping in mind that disinfectant usually does sting a bit before the healing is done.


  6. Some things Obama says are laughable, but occasionally he says something outrageous and dangerous.

    On Sunday (6/15/08 ) in Chicago, he uttered one of the latter.

    In an article titled “Obama talks tough on ‘AWOL’ fathers”[1], Mike Allen quotes Obama thus:

    “Too many fathers are MIA. Too many fathers are AWOL. There’s a hole in your heart if you don’t have a male figure in the home that can guide you and lead you and set a good example for you.”

    That’s true enough. In fact in a survey in Acta Pædiatrica[2], consolidating all the prior studies fathers’ effects on their families – 24 papers from 1987 to 2007 on a total of 22,300 people in the various data sets, showed without exception that families and children fared far worse without a father. Despite the unambiguous results, the conclusions are hotly controversial, for the other side of that argument are single mothers who are nothing if not insulted and indignant. My experiences as a single father adds fire to the steel, for – as a man – there was no hiding my inadequacies from myself, yet to express the simple truth that there is no such thing as a good single parent to a single mother brought no sympathy but rather a mob of all her friends and all her friends’ friends.

    Obama, riding the tiger, went on to use the spurs, referring to the disproportionate commonness of fatherless families amongst black Americans. “You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households …” he said, putting as good a spin as possible on the actual figure North of 70%. It was reported as 68% by the House Ways and Means commitee in 2003[4].

    If one were being kind, one would suggest at this point Obama was toddling behind Bill Cosby, but Dr. Cosby is only making comment, and I am not going to be kind. What Obama is actually doing is playing catch up with Vice President Dan Quayle’s wisdom of sixteen ( 16 ) years ago. Democrats and liberals in general then were slapping each other on the back for humbling VP Quayle after his June 1992 criticism of Murphy Brown, a sitcom character then characterizing single motherhood as a good choice.

    Neither was it the case that the knowledge was lost. Bill Wood reminded at least the Democrats on the Ways and Means commitee in November 2001[5]. Oh, no. Everybody knew about the problem and everybody had been told how congress was making it worse.

    Returning to Obama on the tiger, We listen as he decides to dismount and dare it to eat him. “We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled — doubled — since we were children.” says he.

    Of course, he’s right again. Why in 1960 the illegitimacy rate for black Americans was but 19%, actually less than that of white Americans. Roughly a century of unrestricted racism and terrorism from the Civil War to then, preceded by the best efforts of slave owners to break their property’s families, had failed against the will and the honor of black men and women to protect the single best hope and help for their children.

    Obama stands proud as the exemplar of the Democrat party, and proclaims that yes, he and his have deliberately destroyed the black nuclear family. Fory years is too long for it to have been an accident or an oversight. I believe the Democrats of the day, Kennedy and Jesse Jackson amongst them, laughed at that ignoramus Dan Quayle, because the nit wit hadn’t grasped that it was, if not intentional, a matter of willful neglect.

    Democrats and liberals have been enthusiastically supporting social programs that they knew — I repeat, they knew — were raining death, defeat, and destruction on black Americans and would continue to do so for generations even after their victims became wise to their plans.

    So, what does Obama propose to the tiger? First, this is no ordinary tiger. This one is whipped, declawed, defanged, and disoriented. Obama offers even more of the same thing he and his have been delivering for 40 years.

    What is one to make of his ‘Age Zero to Five'[6] proposal? Well, he must mean nursing infants because he deliberately said ‘Age Zero’ and not ‘Age One.’ How about that nifty refundable Child Care tax credit?

    Did I say ‘outrageous and dangerous?’

    To any black American that can pull his wits about himself for even a moment. Even if you can’t quite understand how your families have come to this state, you can know that you’re in a world of hurt. Listen, the Democrats have been trying to take care of mommy and the children — by usurping the role and duties of the father. At the end of my marriage, with 3 children aged 1 to 6, the government out bid me for role of father. In 1993, I could not match WIC and Food Stamps and Medicaid with my paltry $12 an hour job. The story of how I regained my children is one best forgotten, for I had to do nothing but be reliable and the weakness cultured in my children’s mother did all the work. By study, and by experience I testify to the true effect of Democrat and liberal policies.

    Now Obama offers to help take care of the infants and toddlers. He proposes, with a smile full of gleaming teeth, to usurp the role and duties of the mother, and pay her off if she co-operates. It’s diabolical.



    [2] Fathers’ involvement and children’s developmental outcomes: a systematic review of longitudinal studies by Anna Sarkadi,Robert Kristiansson,Frank Oberklaid,Sven Bremberg
    Material available at




    [6] The Blueprint for Change – Obama’s Plan for America

  7. Ecclesiastes, there is much to absorb in your lengthy comment. I will likely address it in another entry in the near future. In the meantime, I suggest with no sarcasm, that you consider starting your own blog if you don’t already have one. While I don’t agree with your views, your attention to detail is commendable and I think it’s a shame to see all this work get lost in the comments section of someone else’s blog when it could get “top billing” in your own.

    In any case, I will address your comment in a new thread within the next few days.

  8. It was pointed out to be that my comment “vote from the rooftops” might not fully communicate my meaning.

    Here is the image of a t-shirt, the one that I think of when I use the phrase.

    Regarding your suggestion, I look at my work after I post it here and I’m not satisfied. It’s too hot. I’ve tried writing cooler, but then it’s just flat.

  9. Ecclesiastes, I had a notion of what “vote from the rooftops” meant but thanks for the photo to lend clarity for other readers.

    You do know that Obama was quoting the film “The Untouchables” when he talked about answering knives with guns? As Sean Connery said, “it’s the Chicago way.”

  10. I hope I’m not out of line rutherfordl, but I would just add that I too would encourage Ecclesiastes to start a blog. The attention to detail you display here is what makes for good blog pieces, in my opinion. You’ll get control of the writing thermostat with practice. Plus writing is different than commenting because you are not reacting to what someone else has written. You are in contol of the conversation.

    And of course that wouldn’t mean that you would stop coming here and putting rutherfordl through his paces.

    Regarding the Obama comment about bringing knives to gunfights, I can’t help but imagine the reaction had McCain said such a thing. We’d be hearing how it is an extension of the Bush cowboy diplomacy.

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