Coincidence of opposites...?

Talk about uncanny coincidences. Everyone knows that Barack Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field on Thursday night will take place on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech (Aug. 28, 1963)...

But this morning, reading Susan Faludi's essay on The New York Times' Op-Ed page, I learned that Hillary Clinton's speech tonight takes place on the 88th anniversary of women's suffrage in the United States. On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote, was formally certified.

Did somebody plan this?

Faludi's op-ed is well worth reading. She notes the historical irony of claims that Hillary Clinton's candidacy represents a major victory for women's equality. We've been here before, Faludi writes:

Shouldn’t they [Clinton's supporters] be celebrating, not protesting? After all, Hillary Clinton’s campaign made unprecedented strides. She garnered 18 million-plus votes, and proved by her solid showing that a woman could indeed be a viable candidate for the nation’s highest office. She didn’t get the gold, but in this case isn’t a silver a significant triumph?

Many Clinton supporters say no, and to understand their gloom, one has to take into account the legacy of American women’s political struggle, in which long yearned for transformational change always gives way before a chorus of “not now” and “wait your turn,” and in which every victory turns out to be partial or pyrrhic. Indeed, the greatest example of this is the victory being celebrated tonight: the passage of women’s suffrage....

In the years after the ratification of suffrage, the anticipated women’s voting bloc failed to emerge, progressive legislation championed by the women’s movement was largely thwarted, female politicians made only minor inroads into elected office, and women’s advocacy groups found themselves at loggerheads. “It was clear,” said the 1920s sociologist and reformer Sophonisba Breckinridge, “that the winter of discontent in politics had come for women.”

Faludi goes on to note that "For all the talk of Hillary Clinton’s 'breakthrough' candidacy and other recent successes for women, progress on important fronts has stalled." And then she runs through some pretty sobering numbers. You don't have to be an old-school feminist, or even a woman, to appreciate the point. (Read the full piece here.)

Meanwhile, over at Slate's XX Factor blog, where a different set of brainy women hold sway, a different mood prevailed. Reacting to Michelle Obama's speech last night, Dahlia Lithwick (a frequent On Point guest) seems to capture it best, in a post titled (perfectly) "So That's What Brave Looks Like"...

What I loved best about Michelle Obama's speech tonight was that it was fearless, but in a very different way from the fearlessness modeled by Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. Here is a woman with a degree from Harvard Law School, who could have talked about law and policy and poverty, and yet she talked about her kids, her husband, and her family.... She did what everyone else in this campaign is terrified to do: She risked looking sappy and credulous and optimistic when almost everyone has abandoned "hope" and "change" for coughing up hairballs of outrage.... Good for Michelle for reminding us that to "strive for the world as it should be" is still cool, and for being so passionate about that fact that she looked to be near tears.

You don't have to be an Obama fan, or even a Democrat, to appreciate that point. Or do you? Thoughts? I wonder what my mother, a dyed-in-the-wool Texas conservative, would say?

This program aired on August 26, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.


More from On Point

Listen Live