The Fight Stuff
by TeresaInPa, Sat May 10, 2008 at 05:20:01 AM EDT
NOTABLE in the Indiana and North Carolina primary results and in many recent polls are signs of a change in the gender weather: white men are warming to Hillary Clinton -- at least enough to vote for her. It's no small shift. These men have historically been her fiercest antagonists. Their conversion may point less to a new kind of male voter than to a new kind of female vote-getter.
Pundits have been quick to attribute the erosion in Barack Obama's white male support to a newfound racism. What they have failed to consider is the degree to which white male voters witnessing Senator Clinton's metamorphosis are being forced to rethink precepts they've long held about women in American politics.
Yes, IT has never made sense to say that men who previously supported Obama are now racist. That is not what is happening, she is winning them over and he is losing them. My opinion is that once white males got to know Obama they liked him less. Once they got to know Clinton better they liked her better. According to an old friend of mine "she is the toughest person in the race" and "has the "best poker face and we need a poker player right now". When I read this article I thought of him.
For years, the prevailing theory has been that white men are often uneasy with female politicians because they can't abide strong women. But if that's so, why haven't they deserted Senator Clinton? More particularly, why haven't they deserted her as she has become ever more pugnacious in her campaign?
Maybe the white male electorate just can't abide strong women whom they suspect of being of a certain sort. To adopt a particularly lamentable white male construct, the sports metaphor, political strength comes in two varieties: the power of the umpire, who controls the game by application of the rules but who never gets hit; and the power of the participant, who has no rules except to hit hard, not complain, bounce back and endeavor to prevail in the end.
For virtually all of American political history, the strong female contestant has been cast not as the player but the rules keeper, the purse-lipped killjoy who passes strait-laced judgment on feral boy fun. (snip)
The specter of the prissy hall monitor is, in part, the legacy of the great female reformers of Victorian America. In fact, these women were the opposite of fainting flowers. Susan B. Anthony barely flinched in the face of epithets, hurled eggs and death threats. Carry A. Nation swung an ax. Yet they were regarded by men as the regulators outside the game.
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Certainly through the many early primaries, Hillary Clinton was often defined by these old standards, and judged harshly. She was forever the entitled chaperone. But that was then. As Thelma, the housewife turned renegade, says to her friend in "Thelma & Louise" as the two women flee the law through the American West, "Something's crossed over in me."
Senator Clinton might well say the same. In the final stretch of the primary season, she seems to have stepped across an unstated gender divide, transforming herself from referee to contender.
What's more, she seems to have taken to her new role with a Thelma-like relish. We are witnessing a female competitor delighting in the undomesticated fray. Her new no-holds-barred pugnacity and gleeful perseverance have revamped her image in the eyes of begrudging white male voters, who previously saw her as the sanctioning "sivilizer," a political Aunt Polly whose goody-goody directives made them want to head for the hills.
It's the unforeseen precedent of an unprecedented candidacy: our first major female presidential candidate isn't doing what men always accuse women of doing. She's not summoning the rules committee over every infraction. (Her attempt to rewrite the rules for Michigan and Florida are less a timeout than rough play.) Not once has she demanded that the umpire stop the fight. Indeed, she's asking for more unregulated action, proposing a debate with no press-corps intermediaries.
I disagree that she is trying to rewrite the rules, she is actually asking the DNC to follow their rules which allow the votes to be counted if the state party does the most they can to fix the situation which they have.
If anyone has been guarding the rules this election, it's been the press, which has been primly thumbing the pages of Queensberry and scolding her for being "ruthless" and "nasty," a "brawler" who fights "dirty."
But while the commentators have been tut-tutting, Senator Clinton has been converting white males, assuring them that she's come into their tavern not to smash the bottles, but to join the brawl.
Deep in the American grain, particularly in the grain of white male working-class voters, that is the more trusted archetype. Whether Senator Clinton's pugilism has elevated the current race for the nomination is debatable. But the strategy has certainly remade the political world for future female politicians, who may now cast off the assumption that when the going gets tough, the tough girl will resort to unilateral rectitude. (snip)
Susan Faludi is the author of "Backlash,""Stiffed" and "The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America."
To me, Obama trying to declare victory makes him look both like a bully and at the seem time very weak. But then that is the same thing isn't it?
He has refused to debate because he knows he doesn't do well against Clinton and he is trying to pretend that only pledged delegates count in the end and that he will have enough to win (he will not). He just keeps looking more and more like a prissy weasel. I think he needed to fire some campaign staff weeks ago when he started losing. He needs to stop looking by turns petulant and triumphant. It is a really bad strategy and if he should prevail at the convention it is not going to put him in good stead for the GE.