Monday, August 30, 2010

A Dem Palin? Not Needed

The Sunday NYT carried an unusually useless op-ed yesterday, asking for a "Palin of Our Own" for the Democrats.  Anna Holmes and Rebecca Traister note that Sarah Palin generates a lot of publicity, and conclude:
The left should be outraged and exasperated by all this — but at their own failings as much as Ms. Palin’s ascension. Since the 2008 election, progressive leaders have done little to address the obvious national appetite for female leadership. And despite (or because of) their continuing obsession with Ms. Palin, they have done nothing to stop an anti-choice, pro-abstinence, socialist-bashing Tea Party enthusiast from becoming the 21st century symbol of American women in politics. (emphasis theirs).
Let's start with the second point, that Democrats "have done nothing to stop" Palin from becoming the "symbol of American women in politics."  This is our old familiar bugaboo, the idea that one party lets the other "get away with" things.  Liberals have exactly zero ability to affect which Republicans are featured on Fox News or what those Republicans say, and have almost zero ability to affect how Republican pols are perceived by the people who watch Fox News and otherwise get their news from inside the conservative bubble.  Beyond that, it's hardly surprising that the GOP nominee for VP, who has since had a bestselling book, maintained a high public profile, and is considered a leading candidate for her party's presidential nomination, would be, well, very visible.  There is nothing that "progressive leaders" could do about that.

Now, as far as the other part: have Democrats somehow failed to support and promote women pols?  Well, here, one can make a case that Democrats could do better -- but absolutely not a case that Democrats are doing a worse job than Republicans of supporting and promoting women.  Holmes and Traister complain that Hillary Clinton has been mistreated by Democrats, that "Democratic leaders never really celebrated Mrs. Clinton’s nation-altering place in history as the first female candidate to get so close to a major party’s presidential nomination," and that "she is most appreciated when she plays well with others in the Senate or the State Department."  This is preposterous nonsense.  While I would agree that occasional portrayals of Clinton before, during, and after the campaign play to misguided stereotypes, I'm not sure what exactly Holmes and Traister want here.  Clinton was certainly celebrated at the Democratic Convention in 2008; that she was then selected by Barack Obama for Secretary of State, which is generally considered the most prestigious and visible job in the cabinet, is exactly the opposite of ignoring her.  (Plays well with others?  What's that supposed to mean?  Other than Clinton, like all pols, is a lot more likely to receive intraparty attacks during contested primaries, which is hardly news). 

Beyond Clinton, we're told of "the left’s failure to nurture and celebrate female politicians."  Assuming they're talking about liberal Democrats (and not the actual left, where Cynthia McKinney is probably as nurtured and celebrated as anyone, I suppose)...well, what about Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi?  Doesn't she count?  Or Barbara Boxer?  Claire McCaskill?  Amy Klobuchar?  Patty Murray?  Barbara Mikulski?  Jeanne Shaheen?  Maria Cantwell?  Should I keep going?  I haven't finished listing the thirteen Democratic Senators who are women (compared to four Republicans -- one of whom just probably lost her primary for renomination, one of whom lost a gubernatorial primary earlier this year, and the other two of which (Collins and Snowe) are hardly "nurtured and celebrated" by conservatives).  I haven't listed the 56 Democratic Members of the House who are women (compared to 17 for the GOP).  It's true that there are as many (3) female Republican governors as Democrats, but below that there are far more statewide elected Democratic women.  And don't forget that 70% of state legislators who are women are Democrats.  So, I don't know about nurturing and celebrating, but as far as nominating and electing, the Democrats certainly shouldn't be looking to the GOP for examples.

Oh, and as far as Palin's supposed crop of new women, it's basically a handful of high-profile candidates and little else.  As the Boston Phoenix's David S. Bernstein has been documenting, it's possible that the GOP could actually wind up taking the House without electing any new female Members of Congress, which is really an astonishing situation (they'll probably elect a handful of new women to the House, but a GOP takeover would almost certainly decrease the number of women in Congress).  Looking at the Senate...Republicans have (probably) lost one Senator to a primary defeat.  They've nominated Fiorina, McMahon, Angle, for competitive seats, and may nominate Ayotte -- but the Democrats have Lincoln, Boxer, Carnahan, Marshall, and Murray in competitive seats, plus another two incumbents who will easily win reelection.  So a Democratic landslide will increase the number of women in the Senate; a GOP landslide will almost certainly reduce it. 

Holmes and Traister say that "Democrats often prefer their women fulfilling...diminutive models of behavior.  Well, I suppose that Barbara Mikulski is, in fact, short, and Barbara Boxer isn't very tell, either.  If that's what they mean...well, beyond that, does anyone think of Mikulski or Boxer, or Pelosi and Clinton, or Napolitano and Granholm, as, and I'm sorry to say it, shrinking violets?  I don't think so. 

Frankly, the New York Times should be ashamed of itself for running this piece, which is an insult not only to all the Democratic women in office, but actually to the few Republican women who do still hold elective office, none of which Holmes and Traister bother to mention (yes, there are some who haven't quit their jobs).  I suppose it's possible that Holmes and Traister just don't realize that there were hundred of first-rate and important women pols before Sarah Palin, and there are hundreds now, even though none of them are president or vice-president.  And, again, I'd like to see more women nominated, by both parties.  But what they're saying...it's really just nonsense, and the Times should have known better.
 

10 comments:

  1. Don't forget Sotomayor and Kagan!

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  2. Thank you, Jonathan. I was wondering what the hell they were talking about... particularly the part about Hillary Clinton playing well with others. There were a lot of Clinton supporters prior to the '08 convention who were basically demanding that the only thing Obama could do to show her the proper respect would be to make her his VP nominee. Now that would have truly been a waste of her talent. Instead, he gave her arguably the most important and visible position in the cabinet and substantial impact on the one policy area where the two disagreed during the primaries.

    And what was this line? "Imagine a Democrat willing to brag about breaking the glass ceiling at the explosive beginning, not the safe end, of her campaign." Who brags about something before she's achieved it?

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  3. Let me see if I have this straight: the Dems nominated a woman to be Vice President on a losing ticket in 1984. Twenty-four years later, the Republicans followed suit (with much more evidence that they lost because the woman they nominated) and its the Democratic Party that needs to follow the example?

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  4. I is pretty stoopid, and I LOOOOOVE the Twitter!

    Can I be the left-Palin???

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  5. I had similar thoughts reading that article. I think we can point to Nancy Pelosi alone to refute the article. Yeah Palin may be more visible and loved by her base. But what Pelosi has done as Speaker during the last few years has to far outweigh anything Palin has done in her entire career.

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  6. I've made the point here previously, but this example makes it worth repeating, that the Republican Party masterfully exploits language's influence on thought. There's a Palin-as-competent canon, witnessed perhaps by few readers here, but devoutly followed by millions elsewhere, which millions are dollar signs for the likes of Holmes, Traister and their failing overlords at the Old Gray Lady.

    I mean, really.

    "Ms. Palin, now a Fox news contributor, and her cable colleague Glenn Beck planned a rally for Saturday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, 47 years to the day after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, a wily usurpation of an anniversary cherished by progressives and civil rights activists."

    For 99.99999% of my life, I've considered myself one of the fiercest defenders of the First Amendment. But I don't know, when I read the description of Beck/Palin's hamhanded and tactless march as a "wily usurpation (of MLK)", something happened, as if I were vomiting without the physical retching, and for a milisecond I wished I was Pol Pot. Too harsh. Can we not at least banish these people to the wilderness-of-never-to-be-heard-from-again for using such hideously groveling - and utterly inapt - descriptors?

    The problem with the American left is not their lack of Palin or other totemistic leader, its their lack of balls to push their own truth into the zeitgeist, in order to counteract the idiocy routinely emitted by some on the other side. Seriously, the two most important liberal voices in America today are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, which is not particularly complimentary to liberals.

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  7. I (reluctantly) read Triaster regularly on Salon. She is fine when she writes about culture and other non-incendiary topics. Anything she writes about politics or feminism is to be ignored. She is like a college sophomore who is incoherently full of rage. Expecting her to make sense is wasted effort.

    The key in my mind is that your rebuttal is beside the point. They don't want an effective female politician. Not only is Pelosi all you need to rebut that argument, but Palin herself is not an effective politician.

    They may give all sorts of arguments that lead you to think they want an effective politician, but experience shows that listing to Triaster's arguments (I don't know anything about her co-author) is a waste of time. When they say they want a liberal Palin they mean just that. They want someone who is a visible and charismatic opinion leader. Someone who riles up the base and inspires passion in the masses. Someone for whom ideological purity is more important than facts or real successes. Perhaps someone who is divisive and inspires derision from her opponents. Maybe even someone who is self serving and who could bring down a presidential nomination through grandstanding.

    They want fire and passion. Your pedestrian successful politicians bore them. Give them Dennis Kucinich in a skirt and they will be happy. Dennisa will be just as effective as Dennis, but as long as she is charismatic and can hold large rallies, they will be pleased as punch.

    Now, there are large stumbling blocks to be sure. Much of Palin's success relies on a cable news channel that is eager to build her up and give her an unending platform. The MSNBC is a pale substitute. It is not sufficiently captured by the left to do what Fox does. Nor is there an army of liberal radio hosts and professional pundits willing to toe the party line and repeat the same talking points all day long who could help sustain the cult of personality. Then of course there is fact that the left is not prone to follow one leader and one school of thought.

    In short, none of the machinery that is essential to sustaining a Palin exists on the left and the left is not as willing to embrace a Palin as the right in the first place. That is why there is no liberal Palin.

    We will just have to console ourselves with our extremely effective speaker of the house, our supreme court justices and our tons of other effective female politicians while we wonder why we don't have a mama grizzly of our own.

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  8. I (reluctantly) read Triaster regularly on Salon. She is fine when she writes about culture and other non-incendiary topics. Anything she writes about politics or feminism is to be ignored. She is like a college sophomore who is incoherently full of rage. Expecting her to make sense is wasted effort.

    The key in my mind is that your rebuttal is beside the point. They don't want an effective female politician. Not only is Pelosi all you need to rebut that argument, but Palin herself is not an effective politician.

    They may give all sorts of arguments that lead you to think they want an effective politician, but experience shows that listing to Triaster's arguments (I don't know anything about her co-author) is a waste of time. When they say they want a liberal Palin they mean just that. They want someone who is a visible and charismatic opinion leader. Someone who riles up the base and inspires passion in the masses. Someone for whom ideological purity is more important than facts or real successes. Perhaps someone who is divisive and inspires derision from her opponents. Maybe even someone who is self serving and who could bring down a presidential nomination through grandstanding.

    They want fire and passion. Your pedestrian successful politicians bore them. Give them Dennis Kucinich in a skirt and they will be happy. Dennisa will be just as effective as Dennis, but as long as she is charismatic and can hold large rallies, they will be pleased as punch.

    Now, there are large stumbling blocks to be sure. Much of Palin's success relies on a cable news channel that is eager to build her up and give her an unending platform. The MSNBC is a pale substitute. It is not sufficiently captured by the left to do what Fox does. Nor is there an army of liberal radio hosts and professional pundits willing to toe the party line and repeat the same talking points all day long who could help sustain the cult of personality. Then of course there is fact that the left is not prone to follow one leader and one school of thought.

    In short, none of the machinery that is essential to sustaining a Palin exists on the left and the left is not as willing to embrace a Palin as the right in the first place. That is why there is no liberal Palin.

    We will just have to console ourselves with our extremely effective speaker of the house, our supreme court justices and our tons of other effective female politicians while we wonder why we don't have a mama grizzly of our own.

    ReplyDelete
  9. A left Palin is the last thing the Democrats need. Obviously they were not thinking when they wrote that article.

    ReplyDelete

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