Thursday, May 01, 2008

Hands-On Politics

(Photo Credit: Jeri Reichanadter, Indianapolis Star; Bill Clinton shakes hands after a campaign speech at Carmel High School, Carmel, Indiana, 4/28/08)

Campaign '08 keeps coming to the Moosians -- and the Moosians are coming to Clinton! Photo above shows Bill Clinton engaging in a bit of political handiwork (that's his hand at the center of the frame, adorned with a groovy friendship bracelet) at the high school of one of Moose's several nephews, the one she fondly calls Mr. B. That was on Monday. By Wednesday a.m., Moose's cell phone was bouncing like a Mexican jumping bean (in the middle of a meeting on, you guessed it, Learning Outcomes Assessment) as her formerly Republican (but mostly apolitical) older sister kept phoning in from a Bill Clinton speech in Apex, North Carolina. Moose swears she hasn't heard Big Sissy sound this excited since she went to see the Beatles at the Indiana State Fair back in 1964. Big Sissy swears Bill Clinton looked her right in the eye and that he really, really saw her. Moose said, "Of course, he did, Sissy, and he felt your pain, too. Listen, Sissy, you gottta go easy on this politics stuff. I'm not sure you should have seen Ole Blue Eyes as your initiation into Democratic political events. If you had called me first, I might have suggested easing your way in -- with, you know, a Senate floor speech by Harry Reid or something."

Anyway, the truly extraordinary political news among the Moosians this week is that Big Brother himself, who probably wouldn't mind being described as Pat Buchanan without the liberal tendencies, actually ventured into the belly of the beast. On special assignment from Goose, Big Bro went to Clinton's campaign headquarters in Indianapolis to get "Hoosiers for Hillary" signs and pins for his besotted Middle Sister, who, as you might have noticed, has become obsessed with her native state's suddenly pivotal role in the Democratic primary battle. He was successful in his mission and is even teasing his sister, as brothers will do, by pretending to back Clinton -- whether because he thinks Clinton would be easier for Geezer McCain to knock off in the fall or because he truly believes Obama is the anti-Christ she cannot tell, but Moose is grateful for the gear and hopes he will spend the weekend knocking on doors for Senator Clinton, because an ally is an ally. And, trust me, it's rare that Moose and Big Bro are allies in any political cause.

Excellent interview with HRC in the Indianapolis Star is here, and it's worth noting that one of the senator's main messages is that Democratic voters should under no circumstances abandon the party in the fall, regardless of how the nominating contest is resolved. The money quote, and we promise to copy it out in our best handwriting and slip it under Goose's pillow tonight, is:
"Anyone, anyone, who voted for either of us should be absolutely committed to voting for the other” in the general election, Clinton said during an hourlong meeting with the Indianapolis Star Editorial Board. “I’m going to shout that from the mountaintops and the valleys and everywhere I can, no matter what the outcome of the nominating process is.
From the rooftops, people, so stop with the whining and the accusing about Clinton's diabolical plot to destroy the party, okay?

We know you're all desperately disappointed that Roxie's World has not weighed in on the mad Oedipal psychodrama that has consumed the Barack Obama campaign in the last week. Because all progressive bloggers, no matter who they are backing in the primary, are duty-bound to offer words of sympathy to the Obama campaign for Rev. Jeremiah Wright's stunning display of narcissism and bad timing in his outrageous remarks at the National Press Club on Monday, we do hereby offer this full and heart-felt statement of shock, support, and sympathy for the senator from Illinois. Are you ready? Here's the statement:
Boo-fricking-hoo, Barry. Guess you shouldn't have dozed through all those sermons, huh?

You are paying the price for being caught in the act of politics -- of carefully tailoring your message and persona to appeal to different audiences (black, white, religious, secular) -- even as you've been selling people the fantasy that you magically transcended the unseemly business of politics, of race, of difference. Here's the thing, Precious: Politics is the business you are in, and it is necessarily messy. Race is real. Differences are real and stubborn, and they won't disappear just because you have a pretty voice and a winning smile. Rev. Wright understands that and had the audacity to say it out loud. If you suffer for his inconvenient truth-telling, it is only because you have committed the sin of pretending to be something you are not: a non-politician.
(Friday Update: 58% of likely voters agree with Roxie's World that Obama denounced his minister for political reasons and not because he was genuinely outraged, according to a Rasmussen poll released this morning. Uh-oh, Precious. Looks like voters are figuring out that the emperor might be a few threads shy of a complete outfit. Question: How long will it take the Obama campaign to announce that 58% of likely voters are racist?)

And here's a little message for all our friends who have Clinton death-watch widgets on their blogs and Facebook pages:

We don't get it. Oh, I know we feminazis are humor-impaired and everything, but do you really think all these jokes whose punchlines involve the rape, murder, or death of Hillary Clinton are funny? You're smart people, decent people, progressive people. Does that feel like a healthy contribution to the political discourse? How would you feel if we put an Obama jive talk detection widget on Roxie's World? We suspect you'd get all ticked off and call us racists, but we're wondering why you're not worried about looking misogynist or just obnoxious and hateful when you traffic in the cruder forms of anti-Clintonism. We're wondering why you're all up in arms over the media trying to sink Obama's candidacy through some trumped-up guilt-by-association with his "extremist" minister, when you were happy to declare Clinton unelectable because she had a complex history and some dubious associations that created resistance to her candidacy in some quarters. Suddenly, the impressionistic politics of perception are turning against your guy, and they're not so fun anymore, are they? Suddenly, you want to talk about math instead of likability (which has recently been revealed to be a racist code word, though Clinton was playing the victim card when she objected to the likability standard).

If you haven't already, go check out Melissa McEwan's Hillary Sexism Watch (now up to "Part Eighty-Goddamn-Seven) over on Shakesville. Melissa tracks it so we don't have to, and we are grateful to her for doing so.

And here's a link to the first two parts of HRC's lengthy interview with Bill O'Reilly on the The O'Reilly Factor. Talk about journeying into the belly of the beast, kids! It is a riveting pas de deux, we promise. We think old Billo was impressed and charmed -- We just hope Moose's brother was watching.

Peace out, beloveds. Play nice.


  1. Roxie, you made me laugh out loud this morning, even as you underscored how terribly biased our media are and how nasty those dear anti-Clinton friends (yes, friends) sometimes are. I don't remember any of them standing up for Hillary when she was accused of murder by right-wing nutbars and now they joke about murder in venting their opposition to her and their fear that she is going to win over their guy. . .again. Metaphors structure thinking, folks, and so I worry about the violent comparisons being used to express Obama support and Clinton opposition.

    And I worry that the current Democratic frontrunner and his supporters are willing to blithely disenfranchise Florida and Michigan and that when he is asked who his supporters should support should HRC become the nominee he says they should vote their conscience rather than they should support the Democratic nominee. He sure has come a long way from a different kind of politics, hasn't he? He's left me with little hope for change. The candidate who leaves me with hope for change is the one he privately says he hates. How is it he is going to bring people together again? Hate is just the same ole same ole, is it not? I was also saddened to see that his real opposition to his old friend Rev. Wright was that Wright was not worshiping Obama. Very very sad, and very worrisome for someone who wants to be President. His thin skin certainly bears witness to what thin line there finally is between love and hate. And there's nothing new in knowing that. . . .

  2. Anonymous12:42 PM EDT

    Hill Rod v. The Precious is great! And it’s the undercard! Man, I can’t wait for the cage match.

    Big props to Bill’s staff for sending him to the IN high school with the highest population of hot chicks. I’m sure that’s on his rider, though.

    So Rox, I want to go slightly off topic for a second a get your opinion on the dustup going on between mainstream sports media and sports blogs. The last episode of ‘Costas Now’ (HBO) had a segment where Will Leitch, the Editor of sports blog and sports journalist Buzz Bissinger have a "roundtable" about news coverage on blogs versus traditional journalism (Braylon Edwards was there, too, but he doesn't say anything until the end; discussion + NFL player = BORING). It was pretty much an ambush for the old guard to tell the new whippersnapper what they thought of his potty mouth. I still had a bit of respect for Costas until I watched this and realized he was in on the whole thing.

    LINK: (but, uh, don’t go poking around Deadspin unless you know what you’re getting into, kids. You’ve been warned.)

    I’m not looking for you to weigh in on the content of Deadspin but I would be curious how you feel about this idea that mainstream media has that bloggers should be held to some sort of standards similar to journalists. I read blogs because I’m tired of getting a spun message from a media outlet promoting the agendas of their sponsors. It seems to me that “journalists” have forgotten what “news” actually is or their hands are so tied that they can’t break out of the letter grade, recap formula that nearly all mass media stories consist of these days.

    There is no long tail to mass media. A story breaks, they recap it; rinse, repeat. There is never any resolution to anything. Sure, they’ll report the dead bodies and it looks like arson on the 11oclock news but good luck finding out if it really was arson, good luck finding out if there was ever an arrest made. Blogs have a long tail, blogs promote discussion, blogs look for resolution. Obviously, I’m generalizing here but the point is that mass media has totally missed what blogs have gotten right and it appears they’re going to fight like hell to discredit the medium.

    So Rox, being a blogger, where do you stand on blogging and its place in mainstream media?

  3. Well, Spudz, I can't weigh in on sports blogs v. traditional sports media, because the only sports blog I regularly read is the marvelous dcbasketcases during women's collegiate basketball season. I do, however, have an opinion or three on the relationship between blogging and the MSM generally. One of those opinions is that traditional or dead-tree journalists should quit whining, because bloggers, even when they mercilessly criticize the MSM, bring eyeballs to their pages or web sites. If they were thinking clearly, they'd realize that the relationship between blogs and the MSM is a mutually beneficial symbiosis.

    As for standards, well, part of what we love about the blogosphere is the wacky, Wild West quality of great ideas and utter nonsense, dazzling analysis and complete garbage just kind of duking it out without a referee or any kind of licensing authority. It can be unnerving, because it's just as easy for a complete falsehood to take off like a rocket as it is for a previously hidden truth to find its way into daylight, but we like the free-for-all and just hope that netizens will be responsible and skeptical consumers of what they find in the blogosphere.

    I don't quite agree with your suggestion that blogs look for resolution in a way that more traditional media do not. Seems to me that most blogs -- or perhaps I should say THIS blog! -- flit from one topic to another very quickly and seldom reach anything like resolution. I like that, too, and see it as part of the un-scripted, un-spun nature of conversation in the blogosphere.

    Thanks, Spudz, for giving me something meaty to chew on for a sunny Friday afternoon!

  4. Clinton death-watch widgets are certainly a low form of discourse, but the fight's gotten nasty, hasn't it? The difference between a jive-talk widget and a death-watch widget is that one breaks out grotesque racist tropes and the other is merely coarse language with no actual referent -- unless you're paranoid enough to believe that death of all women, or powerful women, is a pervasive misogynist fantasy.

    As a sister feminist, I agree that the popular treatment of the Clinton campaign has been sexist, and offensively so. Her supporters' complaints would be more credible, however, had they dissented loudly from her campaign's own trade in racist stereotypes and denounced both the racism and the misogyny of the media's coverage of this race.

    Instead, I read gleeful accounts of the Rev. Wright firestorm, with only sotto voce acknowledgements that the man is more right about the true state of American race relations than either of the Democratic candidates. Roxie's World champions this as a simple fall to earth for a hopelessly idealistic Obama. But let me ask this: are Clinton's own claims to transcend difference -- gender, race, and class -- any less hollow because she has never professed any loyalty to those who are brave enough to speak out about these issues?

  5. You make some important points, Stephanie, but I don't think it's at all "paranoid" to assert that the death of powerful women is a pervasive misogynist fantasy and that it is every bit as grotesque as the tropes shaping the idea of a jive-talk widget. Such fantasies are staples of Western culture. Further, there are no jive-talk widgets in this campaign, and there is very little racism as open and unapologetic as what we have seen day in and day out in the treatment of Hillary Clinton. And I would try to defend Clinton's claims of transcending difference -- except that I haven't heard her make them. Seems to me she has positioned herself against Obama's rhetoric of transcendence, particularly since she adopted the stance and rhetoric of fighter for the forgotten. Is that hollow, too? Not to my ears, but I will admit to being biased in this regard. We'll see what the voters of IN and NC had to say about it later this evening.

  6. Well, I suppose we'll learn more about the results in the morning. Meanwhile, thank you for your thoughtful response. I have just a few further comments.

    First, my language was imprecise above. What I meant was that fantasizing the demise of those who rise above their station is not a uniquely misogynist trope in the same way that the notion of "jive talk" is a uniquely racist one. (Indeed, systemic violence toward African Americans and reckless disregard for African American lives is every bit as much the fabric of American history as is the impulse to control and wipe out powerful women.) So your friends' waiting for the Clinton campaign to die a natural death -- no matter how crude the metaphor, no matter how presumptuous the sentiment -- is not analogous to your hypothetical Obama jive-o-meter.

    Second, there's no use in fighting over who's had it worse in terms of hateful prejudice. Both campaigns have suffered indignities, and the eventual Democratic nominee will surely see worse in the general election. Nonetheless, the claim that "there is very little racism as open and unapologetic as what we have seen day in and day out in the treatment of Hillary Clinton" is without much support in a primary season where pundits have routinely dismissed Obama as a lightweight beneficiary of affirmative action, where opponents need only speak his middle name to stoke fears of terrorism, and the prophetic tradition of African American churches has come under attack as unpatriotic and anti-American.

    Finally, I do like Clinton's turn to populism as a "fighter for the forgotten." But I'm not sure how you read her identification with the working class, claims of "electability," worship at black churches, and participation in events like the State of The Black Union if not as a rhetoric of universal appeal and transcending the thorny politics of identity. And if it's true that Clinton has positioned herself against this ideal, and multiculturalism in particular, perhaps it's because she simply isn't marked by the kind of difference a majority-white electorate would ask her to transcend.

  7. Oops, I see that there's a missing "where" as an introduction to the last clause of my third paragraph. I'm sure there are other typos and errors, but it's late, so I'll just blame my clumsy writing on exhaustion. :)


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