15 June 2008

Rich: Clinton's Women Angry Enough to Back McCain?

This morning’s New York Times featured a well-observed piece by Frank Rich, “Angry Clinton Women (heart) McCain?

In pointing out the irony of irate feminists’ alleged support of John McCain out of spite, Rich references out some of Senator McCain’s documented sexist behavior (I shy away from using the term “misogynist, which seems to have lost some of its bearings), such as a tasteless joke he made in at a 1998 Republican fundraiser: “Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno,” and how he dealt with the question “how do we beat the bitch [Clinton]” by laughing awkwardly (Rich doesn’t mention McCain reportedly referring to Cindy McCain as a “cunt” and a “trollop” in front of others).

Now, I don’t believe that McCain is a walking, talking, woman-hating machine, I do think that his brain isn’t always engaged (not because of age, but because John McCain doesn’t always seem to consider what he’s going to say before he says it). What is more striking about these incidents is that women who have been crying out in anger and frustration at Senator Clinton’s treatment have (allegedly) declared their support for someone who has enabled and enacted that treatment. So what accounts for those legions of Clinton women for McCain that we keep hearing about? Rich claims that the media, and the public, perception on these feminists relies on prejudiced views of women:

the notion that all female Clinton supporters became “angry white women” once their candidate lost — to the hysterical extreme where even lifelong Democrats would desert their own party en masse — is itself a sexist stereotype. That’s why some of the same talking heads and Republican operatives who gleefully insulted Mrs. Clinton are now peddling this fable on such flimsy anecdotal evidence.

Indeed. The media has played for months on the image of the irrational, hysterical woman who, being emotionally attached to her cause (here, to see a woman achieve the highest office in the USA), would cut off her nose to spite her face. Didn’t this stereotype prevent women from obtaining political power for centuries? Don’t we celebrate figures such as Elizabeth I, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, and Queen Victoria because of their stoic mien? They proved that women are as capable of reasoned, rather than primarily emotive, thinking and behavior as men. (1)

It is true that some women are truly furious and disheartened by Senator Clinton’s suspension of her campaign (we’ve seen them on YouTube), and some websites such as Hillary is 44, No Quarter, and Taylor Marsh (2) feature disenchanted posters who are stridently anti-Obama. However, there is little evidence to support the belief that McCain’s campaign is benefitting from an influx of Hillary fans. (3)

As Rich argues, this fracturing of the party by sex is only part of a larger media, and political, drama: “[t]he larger plot has it that the Democratic Party is hopelessly divided,” when, in reality, “[i]t’s the Democrats who are largely united and the Republicans who are at one another’s throats.” Dissension lingers amongst Republicans. The Senator’s funds are limited, in part because Bush’s supporters have not contributed to McCain’s war chest. Fourteen Conservative congressmen and women haven’t endorsed McCain. Ron Paul’s supporters aren’t straying from their man, and many noted Republicans have endorsed Senator Obama. Among them are Francis Fukuyama (a neocon architect and author of The End of History) and Douglas Kmiec, a conservative legal scholar (Kmiec also supported the liberal legal scholar Erwin Chermerinsky when U C Irvine withdrew an offer of deanship for political reasons). For other examples, please see the Wikipedia entry for “Obama Republicans.”

So how long will this portrayal of the distaff Democratic defection play out? I shouldn’t think too much longer. The more that polls show Obama leading McCain, the less we’ll here about the masses of disappointed females. Eventually it will seep through to the media that pollsters are calling people who don’t fit the latte sipping, Volvo driving, African-American, university educated, elitist, moonbat, liberal male demographic. Perhaps it might take a bit of time, but as we move closer to the Denver convention, and then to the general election, the media will recognize that maybe--just maybe--there really is a longing for optimism, unity, and change that's floating about in the zeitgeist, and that the majority of Americans, male and female, are willing to take a chance on the young junior senator from Illinois.


1) Keep in mind that Elizabeth I, Margaret Thatcher, and Queen Vctoria were not “masculine,” indeed, they retained their woman-ness. But they didn’t allow emotion to overwhelm key decisions. Being “rational” does not equate with being “masculine.”

2) A strong support of Senator Clinton’s campaign, Marsh has announced her support for Obama.

3) There are questions about the posters on these sites. For one, there are claims that many are, in fact, Republicans devoted to continue Operation Chaos. Another is that the number of Clinton followers out there is artificially inflated because the majority of these people post commentary to several fervently pro-Clinton blogs, sometimes under different nyms.

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