(Photo Credit: Random search of internets on "Fred Flintstone")
Tough week here in Roxie’s World, kids. Emotions are running high. Nerves are raw, frayed, exposed. Everything feels slightly off kilter, a little out of joint. It could be we’ve entered into the fourth stage of our grief over the apparent implosion of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president – depression – though there is evidence some of us may have jumped back to stage two – anger. We’re glad y’all are here for us. We need our extended pack of happy political animals right now.
I pause here to note that there are no crybabies in Roxie’s World – or “whiny-heinies,” as they were called in the colorful Texas of Goose’s girlhood. We don’t see the junior senator from New York as the tragic victim of a vast sexist conspiracy. We recognize that the campaign itself is responsible for much of the pickle in which it currently finds itself. For example:
- We’ve thought for a long time that Clinton should fire pollster/strategist Mark Penn and dump the middle-of-the-road strategy he and the Democratic Losership Council have been advocating for so many years.
- We doubted the wisdom of running on experience in a year when voters were clearly eager for change, in part because it made it harder for the campaign to capitalize on the exciting, history-making aspects of Clinton's candidacy.
- We are shocked that the campaign didn’t have a game plan for contesting the nomination past Super Tuesday, having obviously assumed that their girl would wrap things up on that day.
- We give the Obama campaign major props for the brilliance of its ground game – the plan to rack up wins in small states and caucuses and keep the big states close enough to prevent Clinton from opening up an insurmountable lead in the delegate count. If he gets the nomination, it will be in large part because he and his team ran a nimble race that was strategically much smarter than the one run by the seasoned veterans of team Clinton.
Because even if we don’t believe Clinton has been done in by a vast sexist conspiracy, the toxic levels of sexism and misogyny that have been released in the course of the primary campaign have saddened and sickened us. We reject the claim that the resistance to Clinton is not resistance to the notion of a woman president per se but merely resistance to the notion of this woman as president. As our pal the Gregarious Victorianist pointed out in a recent e-mail exchange, that is the logic of sexism pretending not to be sexism: I don’t have any problems with women, such logic goes, just this woman. And this one, and this one, and that one, and that one . . . We’ve seen that logic in action too many times to pretend it isn’t still very much with us. We’ve seen it in hiring and promotion decisions at the university, in the bitchification of women who too strenuously assert themselves in leadership positions, in the marginalization of women’s issues as narrow, special interests (even though women comprise a majority of voters). Consciously or unconsciously, such biases persist and have manifest themselves in a number of ways throughout the campaign. See, for example, the collected screeds of the venomous Maureen Dowd or the mountains of articles written that focus on aspects of Clinton’s person or body (hair, clothes, cleavage, laugh, tears) rather than on the substance of her campaign.
The men of MSNBC, led by Tweety himself, Chris Matthews, are in a class by themselves as the true Fred Flintstones of this campaign, for turning coverage of a woman candidate into what felt at times like a high-tech gang rape, so pronounced were their prehistoric masculinist biases and so gleeful and one-upping were they in the venting of them. Matthews may think he can redeem himself by “tough” (but long overdue) questioning of an obscure Obama supporter who clearly wasn’t ready for prime time, but his foaming-at-the-mouth excitement over every setback suffered by the Clinton campaign betrays an animus toward women’s aspirations to power that can’t be covered over by pointing toward his allegedly strong wife Kathleen. Matthews would be an embarrassment to his profession if the profession of cable network talking-head show host were in any way capable of embarrassment.
Tweety is not, of course, the only Flintstone to rear his obnoxious head in the course of this already long campaign. Jonathan Kaufman had an article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week on the battle for the votes of working-class white men. Not all of the men profiled in the story expressed sexist opposition to Clinton (some, alas, expressed racist opposition to Obama), but such resistance to her candidacy is widespread enough that one Ohio political strategist flatly declared, "For a lot of blue-collar guys over 40, Hillary Clinton is a poster child for everything about the women's movement that they don't like -- their wife going back to work, their daughters rebelling, the rise of women in the workplace.” On the other hand, Dan Leihgeber, a steelworker, tells the reporter that he supports Senator Clinton for her experience and positions. Kaufman reports of Leihgeber:
He carries a book bag to work every day with his lunch and a newspaper inside and a Clinton button pinned to the outside. Some days, he says, he turns the bag around so the Clinton button doesn't show; he says he doesn't like dealing with his co-workers' derogatory comments. Mr. Leihgeber says he wouldn't be heckled so much for an Obama pin.Mr. Leihgeber then offers one of the saddest yet most illuminating comments we’ve seen on the Democratic campaign of 2008:
"People don't want to speak out against Obama because of the fear of being seen as racist," he says. "It's easier to say you want to keep a woman barefoot and pregnant . . . .You can call a woman anything."Moose can identify with Mr. Leihgeber’s story of the Clinton button on the book bag. She was in the hallway at school on Wednesday (the day after the latest string of Clinton defeats), rushing to get to her office before class, with her similarly festooned book bag thrown over her shoulder. A colleague came up behind her and said, in a voice thick with sarcasm, “Whoa, that’s dedication to the cause. Did you go out to Wisconsin to vote again?” “Yeah,” Moose tartly replied, “and you see how much good it did.” Her colleague – a good guy and actually a pretty good friend – went on to taunt her with some remark about Clinton’s vote on Iraq. She countered with something about Obama’s votes to continue funding the war he claims so much wisdom for opposing, and then she realized she needed to disengage – in part because she had to get to class but in truth because she realized she was deeply, viscerally angry.
Why did her colleague need to gloat about his candidate’s victory and needle her about her candidate’s defeat? Why has the left found it necessary in this campaign to turn Hillary Clinton into an evil power-grabbing bitch who must be driven from the field, her reactionary ideas consigned to the dustbin of history? Why must her supporters be mocked and ridiculed as sellouts, fuddy-duddies, and agents of neoliberalism – when there are, in fact, no substantive policy differences between Clinton and Obama?
People have worried a lot about Obama’s supporters staying home if Clinton manages to “steal” the nomination by winning Ohio and Texas, sewing up the superdelegates, and enfranchising the voters of Michigan and Florida. No one seems to worry at all that Clinton’s supporters might get mad enough about the way they and their candidate have been treated to sit out the election. If Obama gets the nomination and does not choose a woman as his running mate, we will know he is taking women’s votes for granted. He’s counting on them to be good sports, to be gracious in defeat, to be placated by a few more rallies with Oprah.
Or he knows what Dan Leihgeber knows: You can call a woman anything.
What would it take to consign that sad assertion to the dustbin of history, sweet denizens of Roxie’s World? What kind of change would we all have to be to make those words unthinkable? You tell me, beloveds. Your favorite dog blogger is one tired old bitch tonight.