Exploiting Retired Elders
Elder Technology Use

The Ism Campaign

category_bug_ageism.gif Many people deny that ageism is as serious as sexism and racism, even some elders. And so, in a primary campaign that has given us one candidate for each ism, there is an opportunity to see how sensitivities play out.

Racism has been the most volatile. This week, Clinton supporter and 1984 vice presidential candidate, Geraldine Farraro, told a reporter that Senator Barack Obama would not be where he is today if he were not black. Then she repeated it several times.

When Obama’s campaign objected to Ferraro’s statement, Senator Clinton’s campaign manager, Maggie Williams (who is black) turned the tables, insinuating that it is Senator Obama, in his campaign’s response to Ferraro, and not Senator Clinton who is playing the race card by reneging on his word not to play the race card in the campaign. (Are you following this?)

Now Ferraro, standing her ground on her statement, has resigned from the Clinton campaign and Senator Clinton said yesterday that she "regrets, rejects and repudiates" Ferraro's words (although she didn't mention Williams' statement).

Of course, this is not the first instance of the race issue in the campaign. We have seen open and sly racial references from the beginning, including the release of a photo of Senator Obama wearing native garb in Africa even though it is hard to understand why this photo should have a negative impact. The Clinton campaign is widely believed to have leaked the photo, but it is good to keep in mind that no one knows that for certain. And there is a flourishing email crusade meant to scare off voters claiming that Senator Obama is a secret Muslim - another, more acceptable kind of racism.

A stroll around the web via the search engines reveals a lot of conversation about the gender issue. Senator Clinton is too tough, not tough enough, too shrill, is polarizing, power hungry and - she wears pantsuits. Senator Obama has been accused of demeaning Senator Clinton by holding her chair at debates.

Many feminist leaders have been insisting that this is an historic moment and a woman’s vote for anyone but Clinton is heresy. The negative response has been equally vehement and erupts about every two weeks.

A couple of days ago Germaine Greer, who has a long-term record of disagreeing with other feminist leaders, lashed out at Senator Clinton, saying she wouldn’t be where she is if not for her husband.

Senator John McCain has taken just as many hits for his age as the other two candidates have on race and gender issues. He’ll fall asleep in meetings, they say, or in one particularly vicious attack, that he’s so old he can’t even raise his arms high enough to comb his own hair. Well, no, he can’t comb his hair. But that infirmity is due to injuries when he was tortured in Vietnam, something that could happen at any age.

So it is clear that in political circles, people and campaigns are willing to appeal to voters’ basest prejudices in all three isms to win an election.

However, there is one area of the culture that has succeeded in banning bigotry – humor - but only for two-thirds of the isms. Race and gender jokes are taboo, but McCain is regularly ridiculed for his age:

“Mr. Leno and his counterparts have been merciless with Mr. McCain, peppering their monologues with digs about dementia, pills, prostates and Miracle Ears. In a nightly schtick, David Letterman compares Mr. McCain to ‘the old guy in the barbershop,’ ‘a mall-walker,’ ‘a Wal-Mart greeter’ and more. Conan O’Brien said recently, ‘After John McCain swept yesterday’s primaries, he purposely stole a line Barack Obama’s been using: I’m fired up and ready to go. When Obama heard this, he stole a line McCain’s been using: I’m old and not sure where I am.’”
- The New York Times, 9 March 2008

Where comedians dare not go in regard to Senator Obama’s race or Senator Clinton’s gender, Senator McCain’s age is fair game.

The Times story seems to be of two minds. On one hand, the writer appears to be scolding comedians for using McCain's age as joke fodder and on the other, quotes several people who defend ageist jokes on the hoary grounds that everyone gets old and that McCain has asked for it by publicly stating he is “old as dirt.”

There was a time a few decades ago when racist and dumb blonde jokes were commonplace. The civil rights and women’s movements made demeaning people’s color and gender unacceptable. And the world is a better place for it (notwithstanding the Democrats' campaign misbehavior).

But here we are, 40 years later and David Letterman feels free to let go with something similar to this every night:

"John McCain seems reinvigorated. He has a new campaign slogan, 'He'll lead you into the 21st century.' I like it better than the old slogan, which was 'He'll lead you into assisted living.'"

Jay Leno summed it up on one show I happened to see:

“You can’t criticize Hillary. Ooh, that’s sexism. You can’t criticize Barack. Ooh, that’s racism. And you can’t go after McCain because that’s elder abuse.”

As though that's a problem for him. And the audience laughed.

[Hat tip to Chancy of driftwood inspiration]

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sharon McKinney gives us a remarkable rendition of her day in Wednesday Concerto.]


Leno is close. You shouldn't go after John McCain on the basis of his age, but it's pretty safe to do. So, people can and do.

On the other hand, to run for President is to stick your chin out and invite everyone to take a swing. American politics at the national level has always been a bare knuckles game.

Anyway, in another eight months, it will all be over - at least until next January. By sticking together, we can get through this!

I've noticed the ageism (McCain is too old, Obama is too young), but I think you have to be blind to claim that there's been no sexism coming from comedians. Of course there has.

Also, I wouldn't spend a second carrying the meme that the Clinton campaign is in any way responsible for the photo of Obama, which we've only gotten from right-wing shill Matt Drudge. In fact, I'd be very clear that the e-mail about Obama being a Muslim bears the ear-marks of originating with a right-wing source - accusations of racism to the contrary, it's impossible for me to believe that the Clinton campaign would see any benefit to race-baiting Obama. While both campaigns have done destructive things, I don't think racism on the part of the Clintons is one of them.

"Of course, this is not the first instance of the race issue in the campaign. We have seen open and sly racial references from the beginning, including the release of a photo of Senator Obama wearing native garb in Africa even though it is hard to understand why this photo should have a negative impact."

Some people seem to want to have things "both ways". Personally, I see nothing wrong with the photo. When I was running for office, if someone had posted a photo of me at an earlier age--doing anything or in any dress, I would not have been offended. They were just posting a photo that they found interesting. So, how in the world is the posting of such a photo construed as being racist? Boggles my mind!

As to: "...Senator Barack Obama would not be where he is today if he were not black." and "Senator Clinton...wouldn’t be where she is if not for her husband." In my mind, both statements are very probably true. To which I say: So what? I'll stop there, having taken enough of comment space.

Oops! I deleted a sentence that followed my "So What?"

Every candidate is a candidate by virtue of some happenstances/issues that apply uniquely to him/her.

The disclosure of the Barack Obama picture in the African outfit has the fingerprints of Carl Rove all over it. He is not out of the picture even if he announced his retirement from politics. He is orchestrating all these little disputes to make both candidates look petty and unsure of themselves.

"Here, Hillary and Barack, I'll hold your coats while you two fight. Then, your constant badgering of each other will put the American people off of both of you and they will vote for John Mccain."

"We'll have your Harvard consultant call Hillary a "Monster" and quickly resign, then get Ferraro to say that Obama is only in a position to run for President because he is black and have her resign.

As long as we can keep you at each other's throats, you will both be so busy defending yourselves or trying to explain your position, you will not have any time to discuss the real issues that the American public is interested in.

I truly believe that is the Rove-Drudge plan. They have people on the inside of both campaigns agitating these arguments and it is not helping either candidate one bit...

You can't seriously think that it is the Clinton Campaign that is circulating the Emails re Obama being a Muslim, can you? Hillary may be a lot of things, folks, but she is not DUMB!!!!

I have been the recipient of many of those emails claiming that Obama is a Muslim and that terrorists will rejoice if he is elected. I told the people who sent it that it wasn't true and they should be ashamed of themselves for forwarding crap like that.

For Nancy: I didn't say I think the Clinton campaign is circulating the Obama/Muslim email. I have no knowledge and haven't found any reporting that accuses any particular person or group of doing it.

Sorry if you misunderstood my comment, Ronni. I certainly never intended to say that YOU thought the Clinton campaign was sending out those EMails. I meant, in general, I'm sure some people would think that the picture was distributed by the Clinton Campaign.

I think the Rove-Drudge group is responsible....

Thanks for covering this age issue in such a professional manner, Ronni.

I still cannot understand why you are not writing for a newspaper or magazine and for pay. You are good!

I second Chancy's motion.

Ditto! the above.

You make me think - you let me think.

Thank you for making the time to write for all of us.

I am so sick and tired of this campaign. It's all smoke and mirrors--like the hall outside the courtroom where the prosecutor and the defender meet and chat like the friends they sometimes are. And just minutes before they were ripping each other's clients apart and questioning one another's integrity. It's all a game. Fortunately I only have a few conservative friends who forward e-mails about both both Dem candidates which only a complete idiot would believe. Like my old daddy used to say, the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But--he also used to say that there was nothing new under the sun. Speaking of friends, Hillary and Barack were chatting it up today in the Senate chambers. Go figure.

My head aches with all of the garbage that passes for news. If people would just ignore the stupid racism/ageism/sexism jokes and innuendos we would soon see an end to them. If it makes news and controversy it won't go away.

Why doesn't AARP take a leadership role is combatting ageism? AARP is, indeed, the 800 pound gorilla. Use the muscle that comes from 38 million members.

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