Sunday, May 04, 2008

On Good and Bad Analogies

A Good Analogy: In this limited respect, Senator Barack Obama is like Jesus Christ: Some of his more devoted followers are truly, deeply obnoxious and see it as their mission to convince non-Obamaniacs that their commitment to any other candidate arises from sin, error, bad faith, racism, or failure to grasp the deep connection between the cars they drive and the votes they cast.

Case in Point? Goose came home late yesterday afternoon from a conference she had attended on campus. She held in her trembling hands the carefully written note you see above, which had been left on the windshield of the cute little Prius she and Moose bought for Christmas last year. Read the note, please, and try to help Moose and Goose understand why their devotion to Senator Hillary Clinton should be viewed as a betrayal to the cause of Prius owners everywhere -- or is it only a betrayal of owners of silver pine mica Priuses? If they had gone with the Barcelona red metallic, would Tim have felt less implicated in their bad politics and not been compelled to try to shame them out of supporting her? Moose and Goose spent hours and many glasses of wine last night trying to imagine what on dog's earth made Tim think he had the right and the obligation to leave his series of heart-felt but poorly supported assertions about Senator Obama's supposed virtues and Senator Clinton's alleged vices. By the end of the night, they were drafting their own imaginary letter to Tim in which they patiently explained that harassing fellow Prius owners did not count as a politically significant act and was not likely to be conducive to the party unity that will be essential to Democratic success in November.

Dear Tim, they thought of writing, We appreciate your taking the time to try to slap us out of our political stupidity and get us to join you in the dazzling light of hope and change, change and hope, and other super-delicious rhetorical treats. However, if we were amenable to appeals based on thin evidence ("most progressive candidate. . .in decades"), veiled threats ("helping John McCain"), and compliments to our good taste as consumers ("NICE CAR!"), we would have dumped Hillary and climbed aboard our unity ponies months ago. Instead, we continue, proudly and on the basis of solid evidence and considered judgment, to support the candidate in this extremely close race whose grasp of the issues we face and the office she seeks impresses us more with each passing day. We are in no mood to be harassed about our position by sniveling little hope-mongers who implore us to "do the right thing," when by "the right thing" they mean "our thing." Pardon us, Tim, but we think doing "the right thing" means listening carefully to the voices of nearly half of Democratic primary voters rather than trying to bully them into siding with you. We think it means realizing the party has a serious problem with Florida and Michigan that won't be resolved by condescending explanations about party rules. We think it means refraining from systematic efforts to demonize a Democratic candidate who, on the substance of policy and issues, is not a whit less progressive than her opponent. Which brings us to the next point of this post.

A Really Bad Analogy: It is in no way fair, appropriate, or politically constructive to compare Senator Clinton to Eight Belles, the filly who took second place in yesterday's Kentucky Derby, broke both of her front ankles not long after she crossed the finish line, and was euthanized right on the track at Churchill Downs. Such comparisons are not even justified by the fact that Senator Clinton herself, in Louisville on Thursday, urged supporters to put their money on the first filly to race in the Derby since 1999. And yet, sadly, inevitably, such comparisons are being made.

Case in Point? Check out the comments to Jake Tapper's report on the hard race and sudden death of the filly Clinton backed in his ABC News blog, "Political Punch." This one from an enlightened fellow named Tom is typical of the riotous good fun one can have with analogies:
one nag down - one to go!!!
Then there's this one from Greg:
It was a shame having what happened to that horse. Horrible. I wonder if Vince Foster and Ron Brown are feeding her carrots right now telling her "it's took one for the team"?
I'm telling you, kids, garbage like this makes me glad I'm not a member of your species. Sometimes I think laptops should come equipped with showers to allow users to cleanse themselves of the filth they too frequently encounter in cyberspace. Of course, many bloggers, including Jake Tapper, are condemning the coarse analogies between Clinton and the filly. Jeff Fecke has a nice piece on Eight Belles over on Shakesville that also makes this point. Sally Jenkins has a column in Wa Po this morning that raises the important questions about the ethics of horseracing and the breeding of modern thoroughbreds.

Moose and Goose were watching the Kentucky Derby live yesterday at a party they have attended almost every year since they moved to Maryland in 1986. They were also watching the 2006 Preakness when the magnificent Barbaro fell to the ground with the injury whose complications would kill him eight months later. When Eight Belles went down, they saw not an analogy but a tragedy -- and possibly their last horse race. Moose shook her head sadly when they got home from the party. "I was born in that town (Louisville), Rox, and I've watched the Derby all my life, but I don't know. There are just some things you can't risk seeing, not when you've seen them before. The wholly unnecessary death of all that beauty and all that power in a spectacle designed for gambling and entertainment? I don't think so, Rox. I just don't think so." She looked deep into my eyes, which are cloudy and red right now from a nasty infection. I looked back at her. Sometimes, I think Moose wishes she weren't a member of your species either.

(Photo Credit: Brian Bohannon, Associated Press; Eight Belles on the track at Churchill Downs after her catastrophic injury in the Kentucky Derby, 5/3/08)


  1. Anonymous11:50 PM EDT

    Roxie--that note and story about finding it is one for the books. Please ask your typists to preserve it in their home archives (or glovebox in the prius, whatever) as a memento of this lovely primary season. Historians of the very near future will marvel at it, and learn a lot from it.

    That note really sums it up: entitlement, smugness, the use of invective rather than facts, and above all, the attack on Clinton (and her supporters) FIRST rather than anything positive about their candidate.

  2. Thank you, Historiann, for appreciating the historical value of the Tim letter. Perhaps you can give the moms some tips on document preservation -- They're just lit critics, you know, so their sense of texts is highly abstract. The one who is a manuscript scholar prefers her documents in digital form, so how could she be trusted to save a piece of paper??? (Let's see how long it takes Goose to take that bait, okay? Should be fun!)

    As for the note itself, yep, I'd say poor Tim is representative of a new breed of bull-dogged Dems seeking to win through intimidation and attacks on fellow Dems. Sad.

  3. And hey Rox,

    Apparently stoking misogyny has become an Obama Campaign strategy. Thanks to our Mighty Hillary Woman up at Hopkins for pointing us to There one of the entries points out what Michelle Obama is STILL saying:

    Michelle describes “rolemodeling and what families should look like”
    then brings up Bill Clinton’s infidelities in a speech at Southside Black Women’s event:
    “if you can’t run your own house you can’t run the white house”

    White women and all women who have ever been cheated on by their spouses can crawl under the bus now.

    There are also signs that are being made at Obama rally’s that say

    “If she can’t keep Bill happy, she can’t keep me happy”

    Brings back fond memories, doesn’t it, women? If you are too young to remember, then welcome to the universe where women are shamed for other’s acts. Misogyny is great ain’t it?

    By the way, the poster at correntewire reports that "The Obama staffers do nothing to discourage this." So much for a new kind of politics.

    I wonder if Tim has seen his note on your blog, Rox?

    Here's to DEMOCRACY FOR ALL,

  4. Anonymous12:55 PM EDT

    Roxie and Goose--I've been considering doing a post today about the note you got and that nasty handwritten sign about "keeping Bill happy." Ugh. Writing about the denial of tenure to women seems strangely low-conflict compared to writing about this primary any more, although they're about basically the same thing: holding women to entirely different (and much higher) standards than men. SUSA has HRC up by 12 in Indiana, but we'll see tomorrow night...

  5. Anonymous12:58 PM EDT

    Oh, and p.s., I don't have any tips for you. I think just popping it in a file folder labeled "2008 Dem Primary" and forgetting about it for 10 years will do nicely. (I wish I could forget about all of the ugliness in this primary as easily as tossing my memories into a folder.) Don't bother with acid-free folders, unless you're obsessive-compulsive. Digital is good, but some of us like to feel and smell the paper. (Does it have fringies from being torn out of a student's notebook? Is it on a piece of paper recycled from the computer lab? Etc. I'm not sure these questions are terribly important, but you never know...)

  6. Blog away, Historiann -- Feel free to share Tim's note with your legions of loyal fans. We'll cross our paws that a few will find their way over to our humble little corner of the blogosphere. BTW, Moose snapped some photos of the red-headed vintage Barbie Goose's parents gave her as a child (an early example of consumer-based identity politics, I think). She's been meaning to send them to you for one of your Barbie blogging posts -- Maybe when classes end next week.

    Thanks for the preservation tips. The note was written on a folded up piece of some kind of graph paper. Definitely a student production, I'd say.

  7. Anonymous3:44 PM EDT

    The barbie photo would be wonderful--can't wait to see it!

    Graph paper = engineering or math student, right?

  8. i'm with roxie there i'm new to ur blog but i'm reading everyday

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