The Contingency of Candidacy

Geraldine Ferraro, a Hillary Clinton supporter, wants the world to know that in her view:

If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.



Hillary Clinton's campaign is disavowing this sort of thing, with Howard Wolfson telling Ben Smith "We disagree with her" (via Dana Goldstein).

Wolfson seems to be tackling this from the wrong perspective. It really is hard to imagine Obama being where he is today if he weren't black. But the point is that everyone who has success in presidential politics does so, in part, because of contingent personal attributes that aren't a strict form of merit. Being white has, after all, been an important part of the political success of all our previous presidents. Certainly Bill Clinton's southern accent was an important part of his package, as it was for Jimmy Carter and of course Lyndon Johnson was made VP to do regional ticket balancing. John Kennedy had a rich dad. Franklin Roosevelt was named "Roosevelt." That's just political reality, not some vast black conspiracy to keep Hillary Clinton down.

UPDATE: And, of course, there's no way Hillary Clinton would be where she is if she weren't a certain ex-president's wife.