Leonard Pitts Jr. | Adjusting to the new normal

March 2, 2014 

Lee Judge

LEE JUDGE — Kansas City Star

President Clinton?

Maybe, if Democratic voters have their way. While the Republican faithful are split between a number of contenders and not particularly enthusiastic about any of them, a new poll finds Democrats overwhelmingly united behind a Hillary Clinton candidacy for 2016. A commanding 82 percent of the party, according to the CBS News/New York Times poll, wants to see her run.

It is, of course, way too early to be taking polls seriously. But perhaps an observer can nevertheless be forgiven for being heartened at the prospect of a Clinton campaign, much less a Clinton victory. Either would send a much-needed message to those who are still waiting for America to get back to normal.

You know the definition of “normal,” right? A world wherein straight, white Christian men still call all the shots. That world has been under assault for the past 50 years and the pressure has only increased in the past 10 as gay people roll back restrictions of their human rights, as a black man with an exotic name makes an improbable ascent to the presidency, as a woman positions herself to make the same climb.

The political right has responded with apoplexy, a temper tantrum of epic proportions:

On gay rights, for instance, we are seeing attempts to reinstitute honest-to-Bull Connor Jim Crow, laws legalizing discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

Meantime, the aforementioned black president has endured a nearly unprecedented barrage of resistance and name calling from right-wingers who long ago decided to render the country ungovernable rather than let him govern it. Indeed, last month, Ted Nugent called the president a “subhuman mongrel” and one was only surprised that one was not surprised.

Which brings us to the woman who would be president. Given what we’ve seen thus far, you have to wonder, albeit with sickened fascination, what they will do to her — especially since she’s already one of the more polarizing political figures of the past quarter century.

If she sheds a tear, will they say she is too emotional for such a tough job? Or that she’s using femininity for political gain? Will she be allowed to have an opinion on reproductive rights, domestic violence or income inequality or will they say she’s playing the “gender card”? Who will be the first pundit to use the “b” word, comment upon her figure or crack a rape joke?

Not to reduce Clinton to the sum of her chromosomes. If she runs, she ought to be subjected to adversarial questions about her politics, plans and programs just as anybody else would be, and elected, if at all, because voters decide she is the best person for the job, period.

No, the point is only that if it does happen, if Democrats run her and if she wins, it would provide a useful lesson for a part of the electorate badly in need of same. This temper tantrum, this screaming and crying and stamping of feet that now passes for dialogue on the political right, springs from nothing more or less than a denial of change, a refusal to accept the fact that you cannot squeeze the paste back into the tube, and that those who were once stuck in the closet, relegated to the back of the bus or kept in the kitchen have freed themselves from those constraints and will not go back again.

There could no better way to make the point than to follow the first black president with the first female president. And who knows? Maybe the president after that will be gay — and perhaps even be a Republican.

And maybe then, finally, this temper tantrum against social change would end with the belated recognition that change comes, regardless. We are forging a new American paradigm, and there will be no “getting back” to normal.

We’re already there.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172. Readers may write to him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

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