Friday, May 16, 2008

Sweet(ies') Revenge

(Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

(From The Times of London, by way of Mark Simpson, with thanks to the blogger formerly known as qta)

Had enough? Apparently, some Clintonistas have. There's a movement afoot among pro-Hillary bloggers and others to girl-cott Barack Obama, to stand up and say, We won't vote for him no matter what, because we're sick of his condescension (toward women and workers), of the Democratic party's limp-membered inaction on the debacles of FL and MI, of the rank displays of media misogyny and the grand delusion that the Precious has been anointed by god, history, and the American people to save us from. . .all the icky stuff we just need to transcend, because transcendence is so much prettier than . . . politics and work and conflict over deep-seated inequalities and differences. Boring. Old-style Washington politics. Close your eyes now, children, and just believe in . . . His Hopeness. He will take us higher.

So, it's out there, this idea that we should abandon ship -- vote for McCain, not vote, protest at the convention, pour vats of menstrual blood on Howard Dean's desk -- and Roxie's World is in a dither. Some of us will never abandon the Dems, and some of us don't have any menstrual blood left to give to the cause, but all of us are near the end of our ropes over the idiocies of this campaign. We can't believe how clueless Dems seem to be, how arrogant they are in their assumption that Clinton voters will fall into line, as good girls have always done, and support the party that sold their candidate down the river for the sake of a man with a pretty voice and a thin resume.

Sometimes late at night here in Roxie's World, when we're drunk and bitter, we play a game we call Substitution. Imagine, we say to ourselves, that Keith Olbermann had said of Barack Obama that what is needed is "Somebody who can take [him] into a room and only [one] comes out." Imagine that instead of saying, "Hold on one second, sweetie," as Obama said to a woman reporter, someone had said apropos of him, "Hold on one second, boy," or "negro." Imagine how those words would sound to contemporary ears trained in racial political correctness. Not all of us have lost our sense of gender-fairness or appropriateness. When a man smirks and calls a woman "sweetie," we still hear an effort to demean women and marginalize their concerns. We hear the voices of men who counseled patience as they explained to women they would have to wait to gain the right to vote after the Civil War.

Substitution is a nasty game. We don't like playing it. We are Democrats because we don't believe we should have to play it. We believe that rights are inalienable and infinite and that we gain more by acting together for the rights of all than we could ever hope to gain by acting separately.

And yet . . . and yet . . . we are not sweeties. We do not iron your shirts. We do not cross our legs and wait for you to tell us it is our turn to run the world. We are not waiting for your approval or permission. Stab us in the back with a star or a knife, and we will turn, pull it out, and throw it right back at you. We are strong, we are ready, and nearly 17 million of us have voted for the girl. Do not fuck with us, fellas. This is not our first time at the rodeo.


  1. Hi Dr. Lindemann! This is Eitan Freedenberg from the LGBT Studies program. I stumbled onto your blog somehow, and I've been catching up. You may or may not know that my girlfriend and I are both on Barack Obama's staff. Frankly, it doesn't particularly matter.

    I deeply respect your support of Hillary Clinton, and have always felt that she is a tough, deeply intelligent, and phenomenally capable public servant. I saw her speak at a healthcare panel last year, and she bowled be over with a heartwarming and brilliant story about growing up and competing in the Presidential Fitness program, and having that sense embedded in her that the President deeply cared about the health and fitness of an entire nation of children. It was a flawless angle and a great story, clearly told in the months leading up to the campaign, when she was more inevitable than Daniel Day-Lewis at this past February's Oscars. I nearly switched campaigns, but something intangible held me back. You call it the "Hopeness." I think it's a certain je ne sais quoi. Agree to disagree there.

    I understand your anger, as I am helping my own mother through the same process. You can only imagine what it has been like at our family dinners over the past twelve months! Assisting me, interestingly enough, are my grandmother, who is an uppity, cosmopolitan old firebrand who sends me five Obama-themed emails per day, and my girlfriend, who is a hardcore EMILY's List supporter and a longtime activist for NARAL and Planned Parenthood. (Not to mention my vegan feminist sister in San Francisco, whose green-card-toting South African husband is, fascinatingly, gung-ho for Hillary.) So there's definitely a generational divide there, with lots of brilliant and successful women from all parts of my family representing different political views.

    There are so many women like my girlfriend, grandmother, and sister, who have chosen to embrace Obama because they like his policies and his confident intellectualism. They could care less that he's black or a man; they just have an instinctive sense (as I did, when I joined his campaign as an event planner) that he's the light at the end of this long, 8 year tunnel. You can agree or disagree with that. It's not the salient point here. What I find interesting about your blog is the intense reliance on identity politics that I feel like so many others in the LGBT Dept. have been rejecting over the past three years or so that I've been involved. I commiserate with you over the debacles of this election cycle. But I think we should echo here what Martin Luther King so avidly strived for... that we may judge people not by the color of their skin, (or, in this case, what's between their legs), but by the content of their character.

    I haven't really read a single post here that brings up a legitimate point about a substantive policy difference between Clinton and Obama, and that's because there aren't any. If it's all about Michigan and Florida, and Hope, and cynicism, and the fact that he's a MAN -- for Chrissakes, what could possibly invoke such righteous anger that you would become a McCain enabler... over what? It's all so counterproductive. When you step back, you have to simply appreciate the liberal values that both Obama and Clinton share, and recognize that when you strip away the pretense of their gender, there's a hairsbreadth of policy difference, and basically just a huge stylistic gap.

    I'm furious with Clinton over her decision to send 4,000 American men and women to their deaths in Iraq. You're furious with Obama for (inappropriately, of course) calling a reporter a sweetie, and for earning the endorsement of NARAL, who can clearly see that he is the presumptive nominee. (At this point, an endorsement of Clinton would have been politically irrelevant. Admit it.) Does that not give you pause?

    We can argue all day over the woman vs. black man history-making angle of this whole thing, but at the end of the day, you have to recognize that a gender- and race-blind approach to this competition is inherently more progressive and more fair than focusing ONLY on the micro and losing sight of the fact that we could very well be electing Bush to a third term if we don't start acting rationally.

    At this point, Obama is, for all intents and purposes, the presumptive nominee. In fact, I am so confident that he will win enough delegates and superdelegates that Michigan and Florida will be seated and given the right to vote at the convention. Their primaries violated rules agreed upon by both the Clinton and Obama campaigns, but by August it would be cruel to refuse them, especially if they don't effect a previously determined outcome.

    Hillary ran a good campaign but got beaten fair and square. Her downfall has way less to do with the fact that she's a woman (and, in fact, most people I talk to see that as a huge asset for her, obviously given her massive built-in constituency) than with the fact that she hired thugs, goons, and inexperienced loyalists (read: Mark Penn, Harold Ickes, and Patti Sollis Doyle) to run her campaign. History will see her not as a failed female candidate, but as simply a failed candidate, regardless of her gender identity. Relentlessly pushing the "woman" narrative of her campaign only solidifies the worst possible stereotypes. (And I don't think that James Carville could quite decide whether she was a woman or a man... he has quite a fixation on her "testicles")

    So, sometimes you put up a great team against an underdog, and the great team gets beat. Obama has more states won, more pledged delegates, and by all media counts, the popular vote count -- INCLUDING FL and MI. But that's a metric that doesn't count anyway; ask Al Gore. She said she was "in it to win it" and someone else won it instead, so you can fault her gender and essentially thrash at a straw man, or you can fault the hundred other things that went wrong with her campaign (no post-Feb 5 plan, near-fraudulent financial practices, huge debts, inconsistent message, whatever) and actually come to some sort of acceptable and even comforting conclusion. It's easy to peg this all on sexism and try to wish it away to the cornfield like Bill Mumy on the Twilight Zone. Or, you can accept the political reality, which is that Obama was an unstoppable cultural zeitgeist who captured the public's imagination at the exact moment when they needed inspiration.

    Anyway, this has all been pretty incoherent. I promise a much higher standard of work if I am ever in one of your classes! I hope that once the disappointment sets in (and, once again, I know that disappointment... I was a staffer for Kerry's 2004 campaign in Missouri and Ohio), you can come around and find noble and exciting things about Barack Obama that inspire you and push you to keep promoting important liberal and progressive ideals this fall. This sounds extremely silly, but I'd love to maybe meet up with you and talk about the election. Not all Obama supporters are mindless, spineless "Obamaniacs," and maybe I can be an exemplar. You might never be crazy for the guy, but think about McCain's potential SCOTUS picks, and hopefully you can spin the "Yes We Can" video until the sight of "His Hopeness" doesn't make you queasy.

    All the best. Thanks for a spirited campaign, and here's to Democratic unity and the promotion of worthy candidates up and down the ballot.

  2. Oh, and I should add that Obama supporters can and should work hard to win your trust and support as the campaign kicks into full general election mode. I personally will not put a cherry on top, or say opretty pretty please, but I will make a real and quantifiable effort to help foster a culture of inclusion. I will make sure that I hold up my end of this bargain. I hope that you don't sit on your hands from June til November. It would be a shame to lose such a passionate voice.

    I'm ready when you are.


  3. Eitan,

    This is Goose here. First, had you read all of Roxie’s World, you’d know that she has repeatedly pointed to substantive differences between Senators Clinton and Obama (there are some, though it is true that he is not nearly so liberal as some claim and that he tends to adopt her policies). Second, you would also know that Roxie’s support for Senator Clinton is not about identity politics: it’s about who is the most qualified candidate. To be outraged at the sexist, demeaning treatment of a candidate is to oppose bigotry. We supported Senator Clinton long before we became so outraged at the condescending treatment of her and her supporters. Our support is not the result of an “instinctive sense” or because of her “intellectualism.” We admire her clear policies and her INTELLECT, as well as her detailed knowledge of history, and made a clear decision to support her candidacy.

    OK, for the policy differences: Senator Obama has made much of giving a speech against the war when he was in the Illinois Senate. Yet since coming to the U.S. Senate, he has voted time and again to fund the war. He has not led any movement among Senators to oppose the war. By contrast, Senator Clinton has a detailed plan for withdrawal from Iraq (, one that has been vetted by nearly 40 generals and admirals (38 to be precise), and has promised to start working on instituting that plan on Day One of her presidency.

    Also, as far as health care is concerned, Obama’s plan will not cover all the uninsured and will not pay for itself. By contrast, Senator Clinton’s plan really is one that will insure universal coverage. We cannot afford to risk otherwise right now. Also, she has clear energy plans (that were not drawn up by the coal companies; I assume you’re aware of Obama’s indebtedness to big coal and that he has taken big bucks from oil executives while claiming not to take money from them at all?), clear plans for improving education, clear plans for childcare. Those are why we support her.

    I could go on, but I’ll close by saying that another reason I cannot support Senator Obama is his very embarrassing reaction this week when he assumed that President Bush’s speech in Israel was about him. We could go back farther than 70 years and Neville Chamberlain’s Munich Agreement (1938), but Senator Obama did not invent appeasement nor is he the first to suggest negotiations. Yet his childish, self-centered response to what Bush said indicates a self-absorption that is deeply troubling. Besides the fact that other Democrats support negotiation, Bush has said similar things in speeches over the years (all you need to do is google some of his key phrases, and you’ll see what I mean), and the argument over appeasement is a very, very old one. If the Bushies were trying to bait Obama (which is possible), that Obama did not have the gravitas to rise above is not at all encouraging. I’d like to see someone with a much thicker skin in the Oval Office. And Obama’s inconsistencies talking about Iran, Korea, Syria, and Hamas (lumping nations with movements, then correcting himself, then doing it again) have not been encouraging either. Also, how is it that he was apparently the only person in Chicago who did not know that Rezko was a shady businessman? I don’t need someone who repeatedly says, “I wasn’t there when that was said,” “I didn’t know of his less-than-honest business dealings,” “one of my staffers signed that,” “I pushed the wrong button when I voted on that.”

    So I’m for the candidate who does not call men or women by demeaning names (nor say that her opponent is “likeable enough”), who talks about voters and our needs rather than about herself (check out their speeches after the Pennsylvania primary; she talked about voters, he whined about ABC News), who is not afraid to debate, who is not afraid to have all of the votes counted. That’s why Hillary Clinton has my vote; that’s why I’m campaigning for her; that’s why I’ll vote for her in November (even if I have to write her in).

    Her clear superiority as a candidate is exactly why Senator Obama has not been able to beat her and is why so many voters have stuck with her, in spite of the fact that we are repeatedly told it’s over (gee, imagine if we could do that during Maryland-Duke basketball games; just say it’s over while we’re ahead regardless of the fact there’s still time on the clock). We don’t need “help” in processing our anger, and, once again, anger is not what motivates our support for Senator Clinton. We are angry at the blatantly unfair treatment of our candidate, a treatment that has resulted in issues going undiscussed and positions (or lack thereof) remaining unvetted. We are angry at the blatant (and dangerous) media bias (most recently revealed in the sad lack of historical context shown in the coverage of Bush’s remarks in Israel). This is a very sad time for our country. We need leadership, not celebrity.

  4. Lesson to Eitan:

    Never, ever try.

  5. Hi, Eitan -- I hope you're kidding about that lesson. Dr. Lindemann isn't here, but she'd be pretty disappointed if that were what you picked up from a visit to Roxie's World.

    Part of what I mean when I say, "Dr. Lindemann isn't here," is that this space is different and separate from (though in some ways related to) the academic spaces of Dr. Lindemann's professional life. Roxie's World is not an "academic blog," even though a few academics hang out here for reasons I've never quite understood. (Dog love? Work avoidance?) We offer a quirky combination of analysis, commentary, sophomoric humor, and images that grab our attention, and we welcome everyone of whatever species or persuasion. Comments here have not tended to be of the long, discursive variety that one sees in a lot of the blogosphere, but we welcome that, too, which is why I told my typist to sit down and help me think about how to respond to your thoughtful effort to engage.

    Sometimes here in Roxie's World, we just vent, and that's what last night's post was really all about. Our support for Senator Clinton has never been rooted primarily in identity politics, and our reservations about Senator Obama are certainly not about that. As the primary battle has gone on (and on), we admit we have developed an impulse to circle the wagons around Senator Clinton, because it has seemed to us that the vicious attacks upon her have been highly gendered and rooted in an ambivalence (if not downright hostility) toward powerful women. We acknowledge and have commented often on the many mistakes the Clinton campaign has made, but the media's persistent efforts to declare her candidacy dead and the irrational hatred toward her in much of the so-called progressive blogosphere have created a rift in the Democratic party that won't be easily healed. Politics is as much about feelings and perceptions as it is about issues and policies. If Clinton's supporters end up feeling that she was treated unfairly and their concerns were ignored,many of them will stay home or vote for someone else on election day.

    Goose, as you can see, has already declared that she will not support Obama. Others of us around here aren't yet prepared to say that, but we felt it was important to give space to a burgeoning effort among Clinton supporters to stand up and say, "Ignore us at your peril." The political African-American community has been quite vocal about the risks to Democrats of superdelegates not supporting Obama for the nomination if he emerges from the primary process with the most pledged delegates. Some Clinton supporters are organizing to make a similar point based on the closeness of the popular vote. You say that Obama is the presumptive nominee. Maybe. We say that Clinton has earned a spot on the ticket if she wants it. That seems the surest way to guarantee Democratic unity and triumph in the fall.

    By the way, Eitan, Dr. Lindemann says she'd be delighted to get together with you to talk politics sometime. She knows good and well that not all Obama supporters are glassy-eyed Obamaniacs. Some of the kids in charge of Roxie's World occasionally get a little too caught up in their snarky rhetoric. That's one of the downsides of running a non-academic blog. Anyway, she proposes a coffee at College Perk as soon as grades are done. Deal?

  6. Goose, if Bush's remarks about appeasement were not directed at Obama, what accounts for Clinton's response? Even pro-Clinton blogs like Talk Left and hyper-NObama blogs like Roxie's darling Anglachel's Journal characterized Clinton's response as a defense of Obama.

    As Clinton said, "I hope people really look seriously at both President Bush’s comment and Sen. McCain’s speech and realize that the only way we’re going to restore our leadership and our moral authority and deal with the very real challenges we face in the world is by electing a Democratic president." She added, "I have differences with Senator Obama on certain foreign policy matters, but I think we are united in our opposition to the Bush policies and to the continuation of those policies by Senator McCain. And no amount of outrageous analogies or claims for victory are going to sugarcoat what has been a dismal record by this administration and their allies in the Congress."

  7. Deal!

    P.S. I was indeed kidding. As a Red Sox partisan and a perennially-disappointed Dem, my joke mantra has over time become one and the same as Homer Simpsons: "Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try."

  8. We totally missed the Simpsons ref, because it's Saturday, so our Department of Jokes and Allusions is woefully under-staffed.

    Nice to see you again, too, Stephanie. We'll have to wait for Goose to come back and weigh in on appeasement. She's in charge of diplomacy over the weekend. Yeah, I know: scary.

  9. Stephanie,

    Yes, I had read Anglachel (she's fab) and also Clinton's response. But isn't she talking about Bush's painting ALL DEMOCRATS as weak on defense? That's how I read it, and I should have said so. What bothers me about Obama is that he seems to think everything is about him. From my view, Bush was talking about Carter and all the Dems (well, or most of them; there are still a few hawks). Obama reading it as about him and only him seems very narcissistic. As I said, this argument has been going on for a very, very long time. It's not individuals that Bush was criticizing but political stances held my many (including many in Europe, whom Bush also was criticizing, in my view). Obama did not invent appeasement, nor did he invent negotiation, yet that's how he responded. And that's what I am objecting to. Sorry if I was not clear, and thanks for the opportunity to clarify and thanks for quoting HRC -- I had intended to quote that in my post and had in the original, which got eaten by the VPN client, I suppose.

    IN Peace,

  10. Couple of links to follow up on today's lively conversation: Portly Dyke makes an emphatic argument for a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket here. Zuzu tears apart the NARAL endorsement here.

  11. Roxie and family, thank you for your welcome. I have been saddened that some other blogs -- both pro-Clinton and pro-Obama -- have been less welcoming toward my comments and curiosity. Times are rough and people's emotions are very raw.

    Goose, I still share the view of most observers that Bush's remarks were directed at Obama. And why not? His willingness to engage with hostile leaders without preconditions has been a particular point of vulnerability since the debates last fall. I read Clinton's "any Democrat" as the diplomatic person's version of "even my naive opponent." Obama may be a narcissist, but I don't think this incident is the best case in point for that proposition.

    In any case, stuff like this seems like a distraction from the real issue: how do we move forward? I liked Clinton's response from the conference call with bloggers today (I hope I am quoting this right!):

    If you have voted for either Barack or me, you have more in common than you may think right now, and you certainly have more in common with each other than you do with McCain and the Republicans. I do think that I will have the ability to try to rally the people who voted for me, to win in November on behalf of our nominee.

  12. Anonymous9:56 AM EDT

    The recent "bros before hos" mantra puts Hillary into the category of Rutgers Alumna, and thus I am on my horse here again, ready to defend.

    On searching for commonality or unity between the Hillary and Obama camps:

    Assuming Obama wins, let's move ahead a little and look at what "bros before hos" will mean in the general election. All voters (including most members of the MSM) who are impatient for a continuation of their hefty, for the rich only, tax breaks, which McCains vows to continue, will call him "bro" — and the African-American element of "hos" will then bounce over to Obama. The Obama camp would do well to obliterate that slogan now! Or maybe not, because it just might be the door to unity among the Dems after all.

    Thanks for this great blog, and letting us all bark to our hearts' content, Roxie!


  13. Anonymous11:36 AM EDT

    Hi, Eitan! I enjoyed your comments.

    Sometimes late at night here in Roxie's World, when we're drunk and bitter, we play a game we call Substitution. Imagine, we say to ourselves, that Keith Olbermann had said of Barack Obama that what is needed is "Somebody who can take [him] into a room and only [one] comes out."

    Personally, I'm always a little leery of the game of Substitution. It has its uses, but it's not as a rule a way of generating a solid line of reasoning. And it is very often (I know--I've caught myself doing it a more than a few times) a way of sneaking in--sometimes without the knowledge of the person doing it--a fallacious line of argument.

    Example: "After the 2004 election I was flipping dials," said the conservative young man at a panel discussion I participated in, "and on NPR they were talking about how the Democrats were going to recover from this unexpected loss. If Kerry had won, you can't imagine Diane Rehm discussing sympathetically how the Republicans could recover from the loss. Clearly," he concluded triumphantly, "NPR is a biased, left-wing media outlet." Well, actually, no. We don't live in the universe in which Kerry won, so we don't know what Diane Rehm would be discussing in that universe. (I personally am looking forward to Diane Rehm talking with all kinds of people about how the Republicans will recover from 2008. Speaking of creating universes we don't actually live in [but that I'm ready to pack up and move to].)

    Likewise, we don't live in a universe in which the situation between Clinton and Obama is reversed. Or in which Dodd is in Obama's position and Edwards is in Clinton's. In either of those universes, yeah, I could see Olbermann saying the same thing. (Heck, in either of them, I'd really look forward to hearing what Bill Clinton would be saying right about now. The man pulleth precious few punches. But, having called shenanigans on this game, I'll close off that line of thinking right now.)

    So, my suggestion is not to waste that late-night alcoholic haze on games of Substitution. Crank up the Bach, the Liszt, the Stravinsky, or the Springsteen. Refresh your glasses, or just pass the bottle (glasses have to be washed). Sit back, and, since you've already got your dream home, how about, oh, putting some thought into what kind of carpet I should get for my entryway stairs that will best conceal muddy pawprints?

    Just a couple of additional thoughts. It's been observed that on some blogs, Republican trolls are running around trying to gin up outrage, dropping racist and sexist epithets into the online conversations and talking up the idea of boycotting the election (before going back to their right-wing blogs and bragging about it). Not here, obviously, because Roxie runs a tight ship, or possibly a well-ordered carp pond. But do be careful out there, kids. Not everything said by an ostensible Clinton or Obama supporter is from the horse's mouth.

    And I once again recommend Our Karl Rove for an interesting and balanced discussion of our current state of near-crockery-pitching anger with each other and where we go from here.

  14. Anonymous2:43 PM EDT

    I just want to add that the "bros before hos" turnabout I was discussing was not meant as a fantasy "turnabout-is-fair-play" sort of comment, but a very realistic possibility, that the media will shift gears in the general election, and use all of the same type of Hillary-centered demonization to attack Obama. And I believe tax cuts and other government sponsored privileges for the wealthy are absolutely the main-stream-media's hidden agenda, and not any of the ideals we might be discussing as issues of day. The sting of that slogan dissapates enirely for me, when I think of the media transforming McCain into the "bro" and Obama into the "ho," which will surely happen.

    By the way I am thrilled that my NBA team here in NYC, the New York Liberty, will have a new member in Essence Carson, the Captain of the Rutgers team, who spoke so bravely during the Imus controversy (thanks to General Manager Carol Blazejowski, also a Rutgers alum).


  15. The Sports Desk chimes in briefly to note that Essence will have Maryland alum SHAY DORON as a teammate on the Liberty. I hereby propose a Roxie's World meet-up: Moose and Goose could rendezvous with Rutgers Alumna and others of my legions of NYC-based fans at a Liberty game! How 'bout it, sports fans???

  16. Anonymous7:40 PM EDT


    Liberty played this afternoon on HDTV, and lost. Essence was a little rusty offensively, but pretty good defense for a rookie. Will look for Shay Doron on the next game -- glad Liberty have a Maryland alum too! Love you and your moms, but no meet-up for me, totally can't do the social things, sorry.


  17. Fear not, RA -- We were just indulging in a moment of fantasy. The moms don't really follow pro b-ball, though they're glad Shay and Essence are in the game.

  18. There is a dog in Germany that far from dying looks rabid...

  19. Anonymous10:45 AM EDT

    wall of words...cannot process...must drink more...


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