Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Eighty-Eight Years Ago Today

Let's face it: Eighty-eight is a weird number, unless you're a piano player. And so the only reason we're all hearing about today being the eighty-eighth anniversary of American women winning the vote is because the Democratic convention is shining a spotlight on it. And that's only happening because Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be a serious, serious contender for the presidency.

But precisely because eighty-eight is such an artificial number to celebrate, it's got me doing the math. I realized that my grandma - the one who fancied herself the queen bee of Republican politics in North Dakota - was already thirty when American women achieved suffrage. I was just shy of thirty when she died in 1993.

When you run the calculation that way, eighty-eight years sounds like nanoseconds on a geological scale. It's a lot harder to take for granted our right to vote. And yeah, non-white men got the vote earlier, but if they lived in the South, Jim Crow kept them from actually exercising their vote even when I was a little girl.

And so it's especially frustrating when CNN picks out a teary Hillary delegate from the crowd at the convention in Denver and gives her about five uninterrupted minutes to state that she won't vote for McCain, but Obama has two months to convince her that she shouldn't just stay home. This particular delegate was black, female, and about my age. I don't begrudge her tearing up; heaven knows I got all wet-eyed watching Michelle Obama's speech yesterday, and I did it again today at the thought that McCain could maybe possibly actually win.

But staying home to make a point? You might as well vote for Ralph Nader.

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