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Race and Gender Politics at Play in New Clinton Ad

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Ted Kennedy believes Hillary Clinton's recent mailer distorts and misrepresents Barack Obama's vision for a new health care plan. In addition, Kennedy believes that Clinton is trying to engage the voting public with fear-mongering tactics. Whether Ted Kennedy's assertions are true or not, one thing is for certain: race and gender politics are definitely at play in Hillary Clinton's new ad.

In the mailer, seven Americans are lined up in a row, facing the reader with solemn faces. No smiles are present, despite the fact that they all look like they should have something to smile about, for the individuals pictured — four women and three men — appear, judging solely by their looks, to be middle-class: well-dressed, well-fed, and put together.

Without looking at the text, I began to wonder: why on earth are they looking so serious? Certainly, someone, if only one in the group, had something to smile about!

As my eyes scanned to the top of the mailer, I found the source of their stoic faces: the threat (or, at least, the perceived looming threat) of Barack Obama's health care plan. At the top, bold, white text read: "Barack Obama, Which of These People Don't Deserve Health Care?"

A loaded question, indeed! Without thinking, however, I found myself looking across the diverse group of faces. Who would he choose?

Of the seven people pictured, there was a 57% chance "Barack's pick" would be a woman and a 71% chance that it would be someone who was of European descent. The odds for men stood at 43% and minorities only 29%.

Social mind tricks went into action, as the quick read calculated some "fuzzy math" on my particular position in Barack Obama's game of chance. I felt reassured, though, without self-serving intention, that I was going to be okay. According to Clinton's ad, my chances were good: I am a man and a black man, to boot! There was no need, then, for me to worry about "Barack's pick," let alone potential gaps in his health care plan.

But who was going to be left out in the cold? (No one deserves such a fate.) A quick glance at the flier answered my question: white people and white women, in particular.

Really? How come?

Then, common sense hit me: "Why would Obama choose?" Neither race or gender are factored into his health care plan. And the health care plan, as presented by Obama, did not discriminate. It would be for all people, no matter their race or gender.

Then, I began to look at the "diversity" of the group shown in the ad. No black men. No Asian women. No visibly Latino Americans of any gender. I began to wonder why other groups were left out of the discussion and why Obama must be forced to choose.

Without knowing full well the specifics of Barack Obama's health care plan, the context in which the flier discusses its real prospects are quite alarming — putting both racial and gender politics into play, instead of the issue at hand.

The real question should have been: "Barack Obama, Which of These People Are Currently Receiving Health Care?" That answer would have startled me more than the Clinton's misrepresentation of the facts, because the sad reality is probably this: less than half.

Shame, Hillary Clinton, for allowing such a Willie Horton-like ad! If Barack Obama's health care plan is to be attacked, let it be on its merits, without insinuating that he values (or undervalues) one or more subgroups of the American populace.

If my memory serves me correctly, though, the only people who will be left uninsured, under Obama's plan will be those who make a personal decision to opt out. Clinton's charge, then, blatantly distorts the facts, since those who will be left without insurance will have brought that fate upon themselves. Obama's plan does not require individuals to sign up for health insurance, if they so desire. Thus, the choice belongs to the individual, not Barack Obama.

In the forthcoming months, I will be examining Obama's health care plan with a fine-toothed comb. That being said, you should too!

About Clayton Perry

  • Quantel

    Good Article

  • Seke Ballard


    I respect you, but I couldn’t disagree more with your take on the ad.

    I think your article exhibits the sort of rhetoric that has doomed past black candidates. Maybe, just maybe, race and gender have absolutely nothing to do with the ad. I can think of a million (maybe not that many) reasons why those sorts of subliminal messages would seriously harm Clinton’s campaign at this point, the most vulnerable throughout the entire process. So, my question is why would she knowingly publish something that had the appearance of falsely accusing Obama of racial/gender biases? She wouldn’t! Give the woman more credit than that; she has a law degree from Yale for goodness sakes…only an idiot would do something like that.

    All of that considered, this article strikes me as a divisive conspiracy theory that doesn’t do a whole lot to contribute to a meaningful dialogue.

    I should note that I do, however, agree with the second to last paragraph that states that should anyone be left out it would’ve been a result of their own choosing. Clinton, in this case, is misrepresenting the facts. Of course, that’s par for the course in politics.

  • Clayton Perry


    You and I both know that the Clintons, for better or worse, have lapses in judgment, from time to time. And to be perfectly honest, Hillary is desperate to win.

    Whether the ad’s intentions are honest and pure, that is up for each individual to decide. I do, however, think that Hillary (and her campaign team) would have be wise to include a more “diverse” group of Americans in the ad. That act alone would have avoided controversy. (There are TOO many EXPERIENCED people around her that would have noticed–and probably did notice–this “RED FLAG.”) Call it a politician’s game of chance.

    By the way, sir, when has political rhetoric ever been void of subliminal messages? ;o)

  • Dan Miller

    Mr. Perry states that the sad looking folks depicted in Sen. Clinton’s advertisement

    “all look like they should have something to smile about, for the individuals pictured — four women and three men — appear, judging solely by their looks, to be middle-class: well-dressed, well-fed, and put together.”

    Then, he opines that “probably” less than half now have medical insurance. I have no statistics to back up my skepticism on this, but I am skeptical none the less. Be that as it may, if a bunch of middle class, well dressed, well fed, and well put together people elect not to have medical insurance, that would seem to me to be their business. They know, or should know, that catastrophic medical bills can produce bankruptcy.

    My best guess is that the people who want medical insurance but don’t have it are not middle class, well dressed . . . and so on and elect not to have medical insurance because they would prefer to eat OR because they believe that the “system” will somehow take care of them — a decreasingly astute belief.

    Sen. Obama promises a medical insurance program which would not be compulsory, but which would provide care to those who cannot afford it. That seems better to me.

    I would like to see (but have not seen from either camp) some cogent analysis of why medical insurance costs so much. I may have missed it, but tort reform does not appear to play a role in either candidates’ platform. While not a complete solution, tort reform would go quite a way toward reducing medical costs and therefore the cost of medical insurance. The cost of malpractice insurance for doctors is outrageously high, and is passed along to consumers via their own medical insurance premiums and via the costs not covered by their medical insurance.

    One other point, which some may find elitist: Most goods and services are allocated based on how much people are willing/able to pay. Everybody needs to eat, but some people can afford fillet mignon and some people can’t. Everybody needs a place to live and transportation, but some people can afford enormous mansions and travel between them by private jet and some people can’t. Everybody needs medical care, but some people can afford dubiously effective but very expensive medical procedures and some people can’t. Perhaps if we developed an “affordable” but rather basic medical insurance program for those who need it, with recourse to malpractice suits only in cases of gross negligence, we would all be better off.

    Dan Miller

  • Laura

    I would love to see a woman as president in my lifetime. And nothing could be more timely than an expose of a powerful front-runner for party nomination in an election year. I have come to have a very real respect for her intellect. And I think every person who wonders whether they should vote for Hillary should check out this book.

  • Brian G

    I think that the Add is a direct hit and that Clinton is asking the question because she wants to raise a question in the mind of all voters of who side is Obama on. Yes I agree when Mr. Clayton says that the add has a subliminal message because like he stated there are so many people that are not represented in the add and would suggest that Obama does not want to help the people not represented in the add. At the same time I don’t understand why Clinton is bringing up Obamas healt care when clearly everytime she tries to bring up something against Obama she has done what she claims he did. So the question is…Who is Clinton choosing to not give health care to; the people she does not have in the add…which by the way as Mr. Clayton has pointed out…does not have a black man represented.

  • Heloise

    Race is the place.