by BooMan, Wed May 17, 2006 at 06:38:30 PM EDT
Joe Gandelman has a good and quite amusing piece in the Moderate Voice about concerted GOP efforts to do to Nancy Pelosi what the Clintonistas did to Newt Gingrich.
You can hear the music starting now. That menacing cadence. The numbing feeling that something could soon happen. A small move that you see in the corner of your eye that makes your blood run cold. And then it happens:
Nancy Pelosi could be Speaker of the House...
That's apparently the gist of a GOP effort right now to try and rally the party's faithful.
Before I even discuss this strategy, it is worth noting that no woman has ever held the position of Speaker of the House. For a woman to rise to the top of an organization of 435 politicians would be a greater accomplishment and a more difficult task than for a woman to simply win the two step process (primary and general elections) to become commander-in-chief. If Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker, it will be a moment to celebrate on those grounds alone.
And that gets me to the analysis.
At this point you might be asking, 'yeah, okay, but what happened to Hillary?' In response, I would say that Hillary was a special case. Hillary came to Arkansas with a Yankee's attitude. Her independence, ambition, and her dripping contempt for traditional gender roles and restrictions clashed with a more conservative ethos that prevailed in the south. It is fine for Nancy Pelosi to behave the way she does in San Francisco, but it would be another thing for her to behave that way in Fayetteville. Hillary hatred was rooted in a mutual disrespect.
I'm not some Tammy Wynette standing by my man.
Hillary gave and she received back in return. Hillary hatred has begun to recede as she has settled in New York, lost her southern accent, and moved on to other battles than questions about her ambition. She no longer threatens the south in large part because she is no longer a southerner.
Pelosi has never been a political figure in the south. In fact 51% of Americans do not even know who Pelosi is (a number that is probably much higher in red states than in blue). What the Republicans will do is attack Pelosi for representing San Francisco. For much of the country the mere words 'San Francisco' are code for 'homosexual'. It's also code for 'hippy', 'radical', 'leftist extremist'. These types of attacks are not gender specific. For two generations the Republicans have attacked Democrats from Massachusetts, characterizing them as liberal and out-of-step with mainstream American values. San Francisco represents a similar opportunity.
"[I]f Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. ... You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead"- Bill O'Reilly, November 5th, 2005
The right will try to paint San Francisco as an alien place, a place of sodomy and hatred of America. Pelosi will become the personification of sexual permissiveness and anti-militarism. And, yet, Pelosi is a mother of five, grandmother of five. She just isn't that scary. She isn't that threatening.
There is a certain element of the American public that remains distrustful of women in positions of power. Part of it is doubt about whether women can be tough enough to be trusted with national security. Part of it is probably related to deep-seated psychological issues, perhaps related to potty-training...who knows? But a woman like Pelosi, who opposed the war and wants to bring it to a swift close, plays into those fears of lack of toughness. And that is where the GOP will strike. Homosexuals are not seen as tough, anti-war demonstrators are not seen as tough, San Francisco is not seen as tough. But, a woman doesn't rise to the top of the House of Representatives by being a wallflower. Pelosi is as tough a political fighter as there is in D.C. And it is not clear how successful the GOP will be in trying to convince the public otherwise.
Republicans believe Pelosi, daughter of a former Baltimore mayor who represents San Francisco, could become a liability for centrist Democratic incumbents and challengers, such as Reps. John Spratt (D-S.C.) and Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), who have to rely on independent and centrist GOP voters to defeat a GOP incumbent.
Gingrich was easy to demonize. He divorced his wife while she was in the cancer ward of the hospital. We'll see whether Pelosi can be painted as the menacing face of the Democratic Party. Methinks they will fail to make much headway.