Are Pantsuits Treated Equally?

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Even though there is very little difference between a woman's suit and a man's suit (they both include pants and  jacket), yet they have different names: "pantsuit" and "suit", respectively.

In the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, Hillary Clinton was ridiculed daily for her pantsuits.  And yet, the only difference between these suits and her opponents' suits were the colors, and the fact that Senator Clinton's pants don't have pockets.

The color of the women's pantsuit is important because the colors that Senator Clinton often wears would be considered outlandish and unacceptable on a man.  And so the question arises whether women's goal is to adopt the culture of men in order to be accepted in the "men's" province of politics, or whether women's goal is to insist upon and establish that the bright "feminine" colors they have traditionally been allowed and encouraged and even culturally obliged to wear are just as legitimate in politics as the navy blues and greys that men have traditionally worn.  

Are women adopting a male political culture to be accepted by it, or are women changing a male political culture in order to make it more amenable to them?  Could Hillary simply wear the same suits Bill does, but a little bit smaller?  What ARE a woman's pantsuit options that don't put her in a bind?

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straight talk and goodbyes

You might think the following analysis is not constructive. But I really think it needs to be said. Because much of the continuing vitriol among Democrats comes from a reluctance to face a stubborn truth.

The central rationales for the candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are fundamentally incompatible. At the close of this extraordinary change election, certain progressive voices will suffer some degree of disempowerment.

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Direct Democracy is our only hope

Before we can hope for change (hope for individual choice on each of the issues that affect our lives) we must personally live and breathe peace.  Only then are we believable.

Foremost in our actions is respect.  Next comes humility.  The underlying strength is always education.

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Civil Disorder

    Not long ago I wrote an article on the loss of civility in our society. While I originally thought that it was confined primarily to the political spectrum, I now realize that I was wrong. The more time I spend reading netroots the more I am convinced that the majority of people today don't want civility. Maybe I am too idealistic, but I had assumed that in the progressive blogosphere that people of differing opinions could come together and "discuss" their differences in a constructive way. This doesn't appear to be the case.

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Beyond Canvassing and Phone Banking: Expanding the Scope of Participation

I'm in the deep south (Mobile, AL) for a wedding this weekend, so forgive me if my posts are a little looser on the stats/research and heavier on the thematic riff.  It's a hell of a weekend to be partially out of pocket.  I share Shai's sentiments about Chris and Matt's departure, but the show must go on, and I hope I can do my part.  And if you haven't seen it, I don't have time to fully blog it this weekend, but check out CIRCLE's new analysis of 2006 youth turnout.

So today I want to riff a little on numbers 35-39 of my youth vote theses:

35. Culture is a progressive's natural advantage.  We should use it.
  1. 95% of the people in these constituencies won't ever care about politics as much as you do.
  2. Asking them to participate in hard core political actions (canvassing, phone banking, etc.) as their first introduction to politics is doomed to failure and low conversion rates.
  3. Politics must be made relevant to the life of a person if you want them to participate and make civic participation a habit.
  4. This means there must be a ladder of participation providing substantive involvement for people at multiple levels of engagement.

Culture is a progressive's natural advantage.  From Hollywood to Madison Avenue, the creative class leans heavily democratic.  Most often, that translates into money for campaigns, or a pretty face on the trail.  Rarely does it mean employing the natural talents of that segment of the base.  We see it when campaigns hire political consultants to manufacture stale, uninspiring ads while guys like Bill Hillsman get locked out.  This is as true on campus and among young professionals as it is among the "adults." Yet if you look at the work of someone like Michael Moore, or watch An Inconvenient Truth, creative use of media (old and new) can be one of our biggest assets.  Considering their media consumption habits and the growth of new outlets for that creative energy online, this is doubly true when reaching out to young people.

I don't mean to traffic in stereotypes - there are certainly exceptions to what I'm about to say - but in general, political involvement on campus and among young professionals typically draws membership from a specific type of person: (ex)poli-sci majors and aspiring politicians/staffers/policy wonks.  The volunteer and leadership opportunities in youth activism are similarly limited: donate money, canvass, phone bank.  

I fully understand that democratic youth groups are under enormous pressure to justify their existence to the party and to political operatives.  That means they need to quantify their work and produce tangible results: voters registered and GOTV'd; doors knocked and phone calls made.  Volunteer efforts are generally focused like a laser on producing the highest numbers possible in those categories.  But that leaves a lot of people who (understandably) don't want to participate in those activities out of the Party.

It doesn't have to be that way, and I worry that by not reaching out and involving these folks while they are young, we're making more work for ourselves (and shooting ourselves in the foot creatively) further down the line.  These lost volunteers have a lot to offer, and Democratic youth groups, and the progressive movement generally, need to make an effort to expand the scope of what it means to volunteer to include the types of activities and talents that these other people who are left out can offer.

More after the jump.

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