Monday, March 31, 2008

Bunker Mentality

[Updated to clarify final paragraph.]

Big Tent Democrat of TalkLeft posted this morning a not entirely rhetorical question asking if the A-list Blogger Boyz (poster child – Josh Marshall of TPM) hate Hillary Clinton so much that they would destroy the party to guarantee her defeat. Well, duh, of course they would. It’s what they are doing right now. Then they will deploy the excuse used by domestic abusers around the world – you made me treat you like this - to justify the violence done to both.

But this is not an interesting question. I have written for years (since before the 2006 elections) that the “netroots” is not that liberal nor is it a trustworthy political partner to Democrats, so I am 100% unsurprised by what I’m seeing now. If you had been reading my blog all along, you would have known this as well. These guys are easy to explain. They are made up of the demographic most likely to support Obama (young, white, male, college educated, usually with some graduate school, and with enormous upper-middle class earnings/earning potential). These are people for whom political choices rarely have immediate life altering consequences for them. In the case of the Blogger Boyz, they have hitched their wagons to Obama’s star in a very public way. If he fails, he takes them and their credibility with him. Their problems with powerful women I have discussed in greater depth elsewhere.

The interesting question is why people like Howard Dean appear willing to destroy the Democratic Party rather than permit a Clinton victory. What’s up with the party power brokers? There is nothing I have said as a point of analysis on my blog that Howard Dean doesn’t already know. He’s a smart guy even if you hate what he’s doing. What I’m going to talk about is mostly speculation on my part. I’m not trying to address the horse race going on (Simple – count Michigan and Florida and let the chips fall where they may, or else lose by a landslide in November.) , but instead try to understand why we are in this situation without reducing it to individual personalities or the power mad fantasies of this or that individual. Parties do not engage in internal battles like this for simple reasons.

This is also part of my long term thinking about politics in America, and relates to my shifting views of “The South” in the liberal imagination.

I think we are seeing the North/South split among party power brokers, but not so much physical geography as much as “North” and “South” as modes of political thought, clans of political actors, and styles of political strategy. As articulated by outstanding liberal thinkers like Paul Krugman, Mark Schmitt and Rick Perlstein, the major parties have gone through a tectonic realignment starting with FDR and due almost entirely to a reversal in their stances about race and their pursuit of white Southern votes. The Republicans took advantage of the racist exodus from the Democrats and incorporated it almost without modification, whereas the Democrats have declared that mentality as “not us” and engaged in a simple but absolutely necessary rejection of that legacy. However, what the Democrats have yet to do is to articulate the ways and conditions under which we will say “us” and include the South. This is the third act of our multi-generational political drama. Act one was from FDR to LBJ. Act two was from LBJ to WJC. How will the Democrats handle their Southern problem?

The other part of this internal battle (and it is no mistake that we tend to deal with these two issues in tandem), is the tension between the “elite” and the “lunch-bucket” Democratic partisans. The terminology is misleading, of course, and engages in some unhelpful stereotypes. Anyone who is a high-ranking member of the Democratic Party leadership these days could only be considered an “elite” – college educated, professional class, with a higher likelihood than the general Democratic population of coming from that kind of background and of being part of a political family. The dynastic and multi-generational upper class affiliation would be greater in the Republican Party, but it is still present in the Democrats. Perhaps we can call these broad and often over-lapping groups within the party the Truman contingent and the Stevenson contingent. Perhaps we can call it class. As much as North and South look askance at each other, these constituents of the Democratic coalition do not always see eye to eye.

FDR was supremely successful at bridging the class division, bringing workers and eggheads, unions and academia, to mutual advantage in the New Deal, though he did so to a saddening degree by leaving race untouched. The bigotry of the base (and even more so the bigotry of the elite) was left unchallenged in tacit exchange for their support at the ballot box. Paul Krugman goes into a good amount of detail about this festering sore upon the New Deal, and the way in which everyone knew it was going to have to be addressed. Then, LBJ brought down the curtain on that act with the Voting Rights Act. It took a Southerner to do that, someone for whom the experience of racial privilege was not alien or academic and who knew in the depths of his soul why it was so appealing to its beneficiaries. It kept you from the bottom, no matter how low you were, if you had even a sliver of that privilege in your favor. The Republicans’ electoral brilliance stems from the way in which they tied loss of that privilege with liberal policies as such, and held out the (not entirely empty) promise to defend the Southern status quo.

In the minds of the liberal elite, the problems and failures of the progressive agenda could be laid at the feet of bigoted whites, the “Archie Bunkers” of the North, and the “Bubbas” of the South. And there lies the strategic fault line of the Democratic Party, the willingness of a significant portion of the party, and I’m willing to wager the majority of the party power brokers, to see the electoral problem as how to minimize the damage of the Bunkers. The nadir of this strategy was under Reagan with the rise of the Reagan Democrat, when Democratic Party leaders simply could not speak to this socio-economic constituency, and believed the worst of it. Nor were they entirely wrong. The Republicans rewarded this constituency for acting out their worst, most selfish and hateful impulses in culture wars and through Darwinist economic policies. At the same time, the lack of powerful Southerners in the Democratic Party leadership helped to preserve the Stevenson contingent’s dominance of the party. There may have been people like Sam Nunn or Al Gore, but you did not see any LBJ.

Onto the scene came Bill Clinton, equal parts Bubba and Rhodes Scholar, the walking, talking embodiment of where the South, as geography, as history, as cultural imagination, could go. He was the New South. He had the Elvis. He liked fried food and NASCAR and wonkish policy papers in German. He made being “Bubba” OK, even something to be proud of, in a way that called upon culture constructively. I’m not talking about Clinton’s policy accomplishments, as they are a mixed bag, though more good than not, as much as the psychological effect he had on working class America. More than anything, Bill Clinton was an immediate and powerful threat to the power elites of both major parties because he made the South an unapologetic player in Democratic Party politics again.

This scrambled a lot of socio-political narratives, not to mention upsetting various power-broker apple carts. The opposition to him within the party, it always seemed to me, came more from his effect on the balance of power than any policy or even any scandal he brought about. It is important that political cartoonists who hate Clinton, especially those on the left, emphasize him being a Bubba – a hillbilly, a hick, an untutored rube, someone who can’t speak good English, who dresses in overalls, chews on grass stems, and eats varmints for food. Oh, yeah, and he fucks a lot. Can’t forget that. Hillary becomes the foil, an uptight shrew who hates the slob she married and throws things at him. These two brilliant, educated, well-traveled, scary-smart people denigrated as Southerners. Pundits who write critically about the Clintons have no compunction against speaking of them as coming from a lower class than the deserving DC politicos. “Bubba” is used derogatorily, just as the Obama campaign dismissed Ohio voters as “Archie Bunkers.” My point here is not to promote the Clintons (though I think they deserve it), but to emphasize the way in which they are demonized by their own party. They become the embodiment of the old South, the unrepentant, segregationist South, just as northern blue collar voters who challenge the party orthodoxy are labeled Archie Bunkers. Working class Democrats know that those terms are meant as put-downs, shorthand code for “stupid racist we have to cajole through Election Day and can then ignore.”

This is why the current campaign reminds me of 1968 all over again, except that the targets of the high-minded ire are so unlike the caricatures being painted that I’m left going “WTF?” From Hillary herself as some kind of crypto-racist to Hispanic women Ohioans being compared to a 70’s era ethnic white male bigot, it just boggles the mind. The Stevenson contingent has no narrative, no political frame adequate to address the coalition that has formed around Hillary. They are left grasping at what this person represents to people who do not fall into the educated (male) wine-track or the uneducated (male) beer-track. On the other hand, I’m not sure anyone else has a clear concept of this new constituency either. What does it mean that an upper Midwest born, New England educated white woman who lived for several decades in Arkansas and now calls New York home is sweeping border state primaries and also cleaning up in Florida, California and Massachusetts? What part of the Democratic imagination is she setting on fire?

She is creating a new coalition of voters, more diverse than the pundits are really aware of. It is different than the powerfully Southern draw that Bill had, but, given her strength in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, southern Ohio, roughly the Appalachian areas plus Oklahoma and Texas, there is definitely a Southern component. It is too easy to write it off as race due to the tremendous appeal that Obama has for AA voters, because it assumes only “Bunker” and “Bubba” stereotypical motivations (race hatred) for her supporters, and not that a large portion of people who would otherwise gladly be counted on her side are motivated by salutary racial pride to support another. Racism and ethnic prejudice exist in this country, but I refuse to reduce the political decisions of the majority of my fellow Democrats to destructive racist motives, whether in Hillary’s favor or in Obama’s.

Stepping back from the current campaign and refocusing on the power plays that must be happening, I get this weird sense of déjà vu all over again. The northeast liberal elite with the help of the Chicago Daley machine is battling against a wily Southern populist who carries a lot of baggage, but is immensely popular with “jus’ folks.” There is no picking between these two constituencies if the party is to remain the majority party in the country. The question is where the balance of power will lie. And I think we’ll have a better answer to that question after the convention, though probably not a final answer until after the general.

What I do know is that to the degree that the base of the party is equated with "The South" in the minds of the Democratic Party leadership and the leftist punditocracy, and that "The South" means Archie Bunker and Bubba, there is no future for the Democratic Party.



Pat Johnson said...

I pretty much agree with your thoughtful analysis. My fear, should Obama get the nomination, that the southern white male vote will automatically register in the McCain column. The push by the GOP to hinder his chances will rest on nothing more than the perception that he is not patriotic enough in comparison to McCain's record. That voting block most assuredly will use that reasoning to withhold the vote for a black candidate. They will be stirred up even more with their identification with the evangelical ministries who dominate the southern tv stations. The "elite" may not be enough to carry Obama into the WH and if the Hillary voters feel disenfranchised and sit out this vote it will surely be a McCain victory. I think the blue collars will go elsewhere.

A G said...

This has to be one of the best, most insightful, overarching analyses I've read so far during this word-heavy-but-thought-light primary season.

Thank you for an excellent job done.

One question - where exactly does Jimmy Carter fit into all this?

Common Sense Gram said...

I agree with Chevalier! Insightful and thought provoking! Kudos!

The "elite" are in for a very rude awakening!

Common Sense Gram said...

By the way- you are on my must read every day list! Thanks!

CMike said...

This is my first visit here after bookmarking this site. Very interesting post. However, I got a little lost in the last paragraph.

If Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama wins in the general election the party will hold together. If Sen. Obama loses in the general election the party will split thereafter. If Clinton loses in the general election the party will have split after the convention but will come back together after the election; thereafter working class Dems will lose their clout in the party but they will have no where else to go. Is that your expectation?

(Hillary Rodham moved to Fayetteville in the summer of 1974 and to Washington, D.C. in January of 1993. Therefore she lived in Arkansas for nearly two decades, not "for several decades.")

Chinaberry Turtle said...

My god woman - I swear, YOU ARE IN MY HEAD!!!! Reading your journal is like an episode of 'Here's Your Life' with me as the focus. I generally consider myself a reflective guy, but I've never really turned my powers of self-examination onto the political aspects of myself. YOU KNOW MY POLITICAL PERSONA THROUGH AND THROUGH!!!

Your analysis is brilliant and soaring, but allow me to put a little flesh on your skeleton.

I hate Obama, as any of your readers who have read my previous comments already know. But when I close my eyes and think of Obama, you know who's face I see, the representative visage of his campaign? No - not Obama: Josh Marshall!

A skinny, physically weak, pasty faced privileged white boy from the North born into an upper-middleclass family and for whom politics is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate feats of intellectual dexterity.

His skinny weakness is the key metaphor for me. I'm from the South; deep South. I respect labor, hard labor, especially agricultural labor. I respect fleshy muscle and stong arms and shoulders built up around back-breaking physical labor. Though I'm born from this tradition, I'm not a physical laborer now. But that's the core reason behind why I hit the gym. I like to be big and muscular because it means something deep for me. It demonstrates respect for the fleshy primordial strength of the South; a strength centered around the scythe and hammer. No, not commie bullshit - but deep respect for labor and the sacrifice of the flesh that blue-collar work so often entails.

So I've been a Democratic Lifer. I go to meetings. I see the people that show up. I've seen these Josh Marshall punk clones. I know I could clobber these pin-head little pricks; and I've always WANTED to clobber these effete, groomed, *gentelmen*. But fine - they're in my same party, so i'll endure these skinny little punks who've never work a hard day of labor in their lives.

But THIS primary is different; THIS is where it's all come to a head. Now, all these fucking prissy little effete gentleman are attacking my gal. My gal, who has NEVER displayed derision or disdain for the likes of me and my uncouth muscly comrades of the South. My gal, who DOESN'T think her shit stinks any less than us poor dumb Southerners. My gal, who WOULD NOT laugh at the fact that I actually do call my boy "Bubba" (no joke, so get over it).

Well, we've FUCKING HAD IT!!! Obama, Kennedy, Kerry, and all the rest of those wind-surfing and yacht sailing punks can suck it. This uncouth muscly-strong Southerner is finally giving in to his long desire to punch that smug little skinny carpetbagger in his face this primary season.

Obama is going DOWN in November. I could never quite articulate all of the deep felt anger as to why this would be so delicious for me. Finally, Anglachel's post here EXACTLY explains what I'm feeling.

So all you Northern fuckers who make fun of Nascar, look down your noses at us Southern podunks - the perfect storm has hit. You've somehow kept me in your party this long. I don't know how, but you did. Well, this primary has opened my eyes, and you can all just SUCK IT.

That is, unless my gal Hillary wins. In which case, I'll go back to tolerating the visage of Obama (i.e. skinny white brat Starbucks college punk) standing next to me at my next Democratic meeting. But if you think i'll stick around with the likes of Obama/Kerry/Kennedy condescending to me, you are wrong, and I look forward to the fruits of your wrongness in November.

Also, if the party decides to throw out both Hillary and Obama and put in either Edwards or Gore, that would be fine too. Gore's got muscle and there's no denying Edwards' love of the South.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting for a variety of reasons -- I'm white-collar myself, and aware of it. Now.

The thing is, I grew up in a VERY blue-collar family. My blue and pink-collar parents busted their asses to give me the opportunities I've had. We're all what they call "lunch-bucket" Dems. I suppose that makes us Archie Bunkers, although our stereotype is always the Mafioso with the battered wife and the crucifix over the bed.

I'm so 100% union and blue-collar inside that it's amazing -- and here I am in a white-collar life. Precisely because my blue/pink-collar parents believed the line about how education was the ticket to a better place for your kids.

So what am I? And where do I fall in the Democratic party? And why is it that the upper-class white women I know, who grew up in white-collar homes, are leaning one way, and me and a friend of mine with a JD whose family was on public assistance when she was little are leaning the other?

And what the hell IS "Democratic" or "liberal" anymore if those two parts of my past aren't even seen as possible, in a country where we predicate our very existence on the story that it IS possible? That you can work your ass off and your kids can do better than you?

I'm also fascinated by your observation that Clinton's sex drive is just another way of marginalizing him as "low-class." That hadn't occurred to me; I'd just always considered that they HATED him because they never got over the resentment they had toward John Kennedy for bagging Marilyn Monroe. But you're right -- it's a low-class thing. Low-class southerner, in a town where everyone's got the same last name, yadda yadda. We've all heard it.

God, this is WEIRD.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

OK, now that I got that out of my system, a serious question for you Anglachel:

Do you think Dean and other Democratic party leaders are actually thinking as in-depth about how to deal with the South as you are? I'm curious, what do you really think is their attitude? Do you think it's actually consciously condescending? As in, "how do we get poor working class southern racists who aren't educated enough to understand that the Democratic party represents their interests to actually vote in their own interest?"

I've read and enjoyed your analysis of what the Dem leadership *must* do in order to have any hope of keeping me and other Bubbas in the party. But I'm really curious as to what you think their explicit strategy actually is w/ respect to the South. As you said, Dean is not a dumb man. He must have some articulate plan (wrong or right) regarding the South.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Or please, anyone else w/ an answer to my question - I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

Cathy said...

Hmm, a great post. Let me make a slight quibble - very slight - about the emphasis on geography.

This election is based on a class distinction. It's late so Edward's great line is escaping me right now. But he once stated something like the difference in America is between those who labor and those who live off labor. That affects every region of the country.

Many of us grew up poor and moved into the middle or even upper class. However, we never forgot to respect the value of hard work because we watched our parents (in my case, my mom) sacrifice to get us up the ladder.

As a lesbian feminist with a graduate degree I apparently would share little in common with chinaberry turtle. However, I'm willing to bet we could break bread and enjoy ourselves far more than some of the professionals I meet at work. (If nothing else we could discuss football and the importance of family. :>)

That's what been missing for a longtime in this country. Politicians who instinctively know how to bring people together across seemingly impossible divides. Bill did it and Hillary (frankly) seems better at it.

When people try to tell me that Obama is the one who can bring everyone together I laugh at them. This guy has played every angle on the way - not just race - to divide folks so he can win with the smallest numbers possible. We're suffering now under a leadership that privileges the smallest number. Why continue the trend?

Anonymous said...

BTW Chinaberry, you know who I see as the face of the Obama campaign? The angry white male geek who is consumed with rage at all things female in retribution for the fact that he isn't screwing a supermodel yet.

Either way -- privileged, vicious, male, and white.

God, how awful this all is. All because they were so convinced that Clinton couldn't win it that they elevated some punk to the stage before he was ready. And now they will stick to their guns if it rips the country apart and hands the only shoe-in election the Dems have ever had straight to John McCain.

Cathy said...

I'll take a quick stab at the answer to Chinaberry's question. Gore technically won the election without the deep South in 2000. (That's assuming that one wouldn't count Florida as deep South. I suck at geography.)

That led many in the party to believe that victory was possible without the South if the Dems took the Southwest and Western states. Hence the emphasis on winning places like Montana and Oregon.

But that was always based on cultural attributes. Many dems believed the South was bad due to racism, sexism, and homophobia so "good riddance." But this ignored two things (1) South had moved further along than North due to civil rights movement and massive immigration of Asians/Latinos; (2) the Northern/Western states were just as racist, sexist, and homophobic.

Now leadership dems are acting in an even more stupid manner. They fail to recognize that similarities exist across state lines. In other words, working class folks in Pennsylvania are not that much different than those in South.

What's making it all boil over this election, however, is what you raised in your first post. The party leadership has gone out of its way to offend most of us. They've trashed our families (or us) for being poor and stupid. They have pushed over any woman who refuses to fall in line for Obama as old, sexless, and shrewish. They have also cheapened every bit of anti-racist work done in this country by allowing the Obama campaign to play the race card with impunity.

So the short answer is yes, they have written off the South. They have also written off the working class vote because we don't exist in their world.

Their gamble? Life is so bad under Bush anyone can win as long as they don't have a R behind their name.

Like always, however, they will likely lose this gamble.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Hi cathy. By the way, at the various "liberal" meetings I've attended, lesbians are usually present (self-identifying; i'm not stereotyping; i.e. "hi, i'm Lisa and this is my partner Sue"). Despite my thick southern accent, none have ever made me feel "low-class". So, I'm genuinely happy to be in the same political party with lesbians. The effete, prissy, Kennedy-esque gentlemen? - not so much.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

BTW Chinaberry, you know who I see as the face of the Obama campaign? The angry white male geek who is consumed with rage at all things female in retribution for the fact that he isn't screwing a supermodel yet.

Oh janis - you are telling it like it is. There is TRUTH in these words - no joke. Seriously.

Just for the record, as I've already described in other comments in other posts by Anglachel, my A#1 reason for revolting against Obama in November is all the horrible misogyny directed at my gal Hillary. That was the deal-breaker for me.

My new-found understanding (from Anglachel's post today) that much of my anger also centers around issues of class and geography is just icing on my hate-cake.

Anonymous said...

As in, "how do we get poor working class southern racists who aren't educated enough to understand that the Democratic party represents their interests to actually vote in their own interest?"

Hm. You know what the problem with that is (aside from the insulting definition of the people who "need enlightening"): their definition of "the Democratic party."

I think they are thinking that, but they are mentally replacing the words "the Democratic party" with the single word "us."

How can we get those silly little folk to recognize that WE KNOW BETTER?

This is in direct opposition to, "How can this shindig be sold in such a way that ALL non-elite people everywhere realize that they have more in common with one another?"

That's the last thing they want, because the coda to that is of course, "... and less in common with us." Thus ejecting them from the role of Paternal Saviour.

They are trying to get us all to hitch our wagons to THEM, and not to one another. The LAST thing they really want is for us all to realize that we've got way more in common with one another than we do with them, because well ... they're the powers that be. They've got the money and the positions, and the minute we all REALLY wake up, that's when we start telling them, "Shut up telling us what we want, we'll articulate it just fine, thanks. Gimme that mike."

They do not want to hand control over to us huddled masses. And that's why they hate the Bill Clinton -- he HAS seized the mike, an empowered member of the working class with a frightening intellect, certainly far superior to theirs, who can articulate the party's goals better than they can.

How dare one of our noble savages start speaking for itself. The other noble savages just might get the idea, too.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Since I'm among friends, I'll make an admission, as i think it's pertinent to what's going on and is helping even some like myself (southern Bubbas) fall sway to the Clinton hatred.

I've got mad love for Hillary. But part of my make-up is being a good family man, a good husband, a good father. A key ingredient of this formula is being a faithful husband. Cheating on your wife is not just cheating on her, but on the whole family, kids and all. Cheating on your wife means that your own physical pleasure is worth more than the well-being of your family; it means that you can't sacrifice of yourself so that your family can survive and move forward.

If a man cheats once on his wife, fine. Everyone makes mistakes. Twice - uh ... hmmm ... OK. But a *SERIAL* cheater, who dumps on his wife and family OVER AND OVER AGAIN!? This is unforgivable for me, and, I think for a lot of Southern bible belt Dems.

You just can't do that and it REALLY makes me have disgust for you if you can't make the sacrifice that all of us other decent husbands and fathers have made.

So, I think Obama and the Dem party leadership has really tapped into this. I know I feel it. As much mad, mad love as I feel for my gal HRC, I feel the opposite for her betraying husband. It was unforgiveable what he did to her over the course of DECADES.

I know - I know. It's none of my business. It's a personal family matter. But, for better or worse, I DO know, and it DOES make me mad, and it DOES piss me off when that kind of serial infidelity is not taken seriously.

Anyway, I think this sentiment is playing in somehow and hurting HRC among some Dems who might otherwise be pre-disposed to like her.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Mainly, my last comment was meant for Anglachel. Anglachel recurring analysis is that

hatred on Clinton's infidelity = hatred of working class sexuality

That's just not true. I think I've proven I'm down for the working class. But I don't take kindly at all to Bill's infidelity. That's a continually nagging point for me. I DO NOT like him appearing on TV. And it's got nothing to do with him being a horny Southern dude. It's got everything to do with him being an asshole betrayer of his wife and family.

Again, I know - not my business. But we all know and so it's a fact that has to be dealt with.

Also, I really hated the way he referred to Ms. Lewinsky. "That woman." Just very cruel and mean. Totally uncalled for.

I just don't think he's been a very nice guy to women, either his own wife or his mistresses.

I would love to see Anglachel's further analysis on this whole topic, b/c I really do think it plays a big factor in what's going on.

CMike said...

Chinaberry Turtle,

I'm just not getting why you associate "skinny" with "effete."

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for making sense! I don't agree with you 100% but you make a lot more sense than most bloggers.

Sherry said...

I think they are thinking that, but they are mentally replacing the words "the Democratic party" with the single word "us."

Janis -- Matthew Yglesias as much as admitted this point when he made this statement

I think if voters better-understood the situation, they’d be much more inclined to vote for their second-favorite Democrat in the race, much less eager to do volunteer work for Clinton, much less inclined to donate money to her campaign, etc. But people won’t understand the dynamic unless it’s explained to them by credible party leaders.

Poor dumb voters.

Anglachel, thank you for a thoughtful analysis of this situation. I have been distressed by the way the A-list bloggers treat the South as though it were a monolith of racist troglodytes. It's like the old Biblical saying of trying to remove the mote from your neighbor's eye without noticing the beam in your own.

And I've always thought a major reason for CDS had to do with class (with some race thrown in because, like LBJ, WJC seemed to understand where African Americans are coming from.)

It's always suited some power elite's purpose to divide poor whites from poor blacks. And religion has always played along. But it's easier to see the redneck as evil than it is to try to understand. As I said on my own blog yesterday, I think it's easier for southerners to recognize reformers' patronizing attitudes than it is to see populist demagoguery.

From my point of view, the person who seems to understand this dynamic is HRC. Like everybody else comment here, with Obama, I think the blogger boyz look in his face and see a reflection of their own.

I'm not a political strategist. I'm going on my own emotional/rational observations. I don't know what's going to happen to the Democratic party. I don't like what I'm seeing. But one thing I've learned over 63 years is that the future will always surprise you.

PM Summer said...

You have articulated the thoughts that have been banging around in my head for some time now. A remarkably clear statement of the "way we are".

Even my cousin Harry Truman (1st/twice removed) would not/could not tolerate this mess. Nor William Jennings Bryan, nor LBJ, and perhaps not even FDR.

Cathy said...

Well Chinaberry in response to the Bill problem I see your point.

My late mom's greatest disappointment was that Hillary didn't serve him with divorce papers on the day his presidency ended. (Not that she didn't appreciate his presidency. She just was ticked off.)

Thus I asked my partner of almost 16 years to opine. She is a still a committed Christian and also from the South. First she asked me isn't true that Bill has given it up? Then the Christian thing to do is forgive and move on to let people heal.

I gulped, shook my head, and told her "who knows." She grimaced. But then thoughtfully said look it's not about Bill this time. It's about her. If he was running again then punish him.

That's probably the best answer.

But let me give you my answer. The AIDS and breast cancer epidemics taught me a great deal about love. I saw people who had been together sexually with someone maybe a few times care for them until the bitter end. I watched as those of us who have had no sexual relationship with someone do the same thing.

For most people the traditional family model works the best. Outside of not having children that's who it has been for my partner and me. For my mom it was staying single to raise three kids after a horrible marriage. But for others it's a combination of love and infidelity.

In the end it's what you do with your life that is your ticket to the next one. Putting aside the Clinton's great service to their country just look at their daughter. Despite the horrible things said about her parents and frankly her she turned out more than fine. Unlike the Bush twins. That's probably their greatest achievement.

Stella said...

Brilliant. This is analysis. What the Boyz are not capable of doing. They just throw trash talk out without any substance.

The saddest part I think that a Hillary and Edwards primary fight would have brought the south back. People would have heard the issues and the core policies would have been clear. Instead the "elites" got it wrong. They tried the marketing approach, shock and awe. But it did not work. They wanted to out Rove, Rove with Axelrove, but alas, they magnified the racial and class lines.

lori said...

It brings to mind David Broder's comment about how Bill Clinton came to town and trashed the place, and it wasn't his place to trash. Then it brings to mind the Reagan family joke about how Ronnie found chicken bones behind the curtains of the Oval Office. I never could figure out how Broder justified that comment considering the fact that Carter and Nixon are probably the only two presidents in the past 50 years who weren't unfaithful.

There's a lot to think about here.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

it's not about Bill this time. It's about her. If he was running again then punish him.

I agree with that Cathy. But I think that a lot of the anti-Hillary feeling is based on the fact that it's actually not just about her. If Hillary wins, Bill will move back into the White House and will surely rejoice and benefit.

Look - I'm capable of making the mental divorce. Love Hillary - Hate Bill - Don't let disappointment in Bill affect my vote for Hillary. But for a lot of people it's just hard to get over. It's not about Bill being horny. Hell, Jimmy Carter admitted *he* was a horny southern guy and had eyes for women other than his own wife. But he also made it clear that he was a good family man and did not stray.

I really just think it's awful - the things Bill has done. What if Bill had found out that while off at Wesley, one of Chelsea's old male professors was having sex with her. You think the fact that it was consensual would make Bill feel OK with the matter? No - he would be pissed off at the truth of the situation: a slimy old guy was using his position of power and influence to extract consensual sex from a young college woman who idolizes her professor.

Now personally, I won't stand for this dribble from the A-List Blogger Boyz because I know, that in the back room with just guys, they think Bill is the BOMB for getting it on with all those ladies (just look at Chris Matthews as he admiringly talks of Bill's way w/ the ladies). So, I won't stand for this disingenuous criticism from them.

But there are a LOT of guys & gals who are really good husbands and wives, who genuinely care about marital fidelity, and for whom the thought of Bill going back into the Whitehouse is anathema. Personally, I myself am able to get past it and focus on the fact that I'm voting for HRC, not Bill. But I tell ya - it's hard.

I just think Anglachel is missing a deeper truth here when she dismisses the anger against Bill's infidelity as anger against working class 'gutteral' sexuality. There's nothing working-class or Southern about serially cheating on your wife.

I really don't think there's a whole lot HRC can do on this front. Lately she's kept Bill on a short low-profile leash. That's good. It helps to see him cast by HRC's campaign as a man who deeply wronged his wife and who is now paying life-long penance by dutifully serving Hillary.

lori said...


You totally mischaracterize what happened between clinton and lewinsky. Lewinsky came to the White House with the intent of seducing Bill and had to make repeated plays for him before he finally succumbed. And that is HER version of the tale from the Tripp tapes. So, you're sad co-ed tale is irrelevant. Young woman are capable of deciding to seduce powerful men. They are rarely rejected.

Since you say you care about fidelity, are you implying that people who support Clinton, don't? What is the relevance of your value there?

What I would suggest is that it's wise to value fidelity in marriage, and value competence in presidency. Conflating the two would lose FDR, JFK, LBJ and Clinton from US history - as well as Ike and a few others. Of course, Ronnie ran around on Nancy, and Nancy quite famously fellated sinatra in the White House. Bush Sr. had Jennifer Fitzgerald.

The odds are overwhelming that whomever you elect would not be able to withstand the investigation that Clinton endured. Are you saying that you find moral value in ignorance of a person's personal sexual history?

Anonymous said...

At March 31, 2008 9:19 PM, Chinaberry Turtle said...

"So all you Northern fuckers who make fun of Nascar, look down your noses at us Southern podunks - the perfect storm has hit. You've somehow kept me in your party this long."

Hey Shipmate - My dad was a machinist, my grandfathers steelworkers and my great grandfather a miner and I'm from the North and I'm a retired Navy Chief so I'm taking this characterization personlly.

Both the North and the South have their elitists and their lunch box dems so if you hate being catagorized so much why are you doing the same to me?

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Lori - First, I'm not making any statement about what people should or should not do when they vote. I am saying that Anglachel's simplification of anger toward Bill's infidelity as really being anger toward Southern working-class horniness is incorrect. Whether you agree with it or not, lots of traditional married couples think of fidelity as a cornerstone of marriage and look at Bill as being a serial betrayer of this sacred cornerstone. I'm just putting that out there as a fact, not something you should either agree or disagree with.

If you want to engage in complete political analysis, then you have to deal with this fact. I generally think Anglachel does an amazing analytical job, but a couple times now she's made this faulty equation. It does not help the analysis.

Second, regarding your statement that I mischaracterize Lewinsky, there are two mistakes you make. First, you seem to think the (alleged) fact that Lewinsky threw herself at Bill is relevant. It is not. I am so sick of people thinking that a husband deserves praise for being faithful.

I have never cheated on my wife. I love her and respect her and it is a complete impossibility that I would ever cheat on her. If a supermodel threw herself at me, I would not betray my wife.

I also do not spit on crippled children. I deserve precisely the same amount of praise for both these 'laudable' qualities - namely, none.

It is so easy to not cheat on your wife. You just don't do it. Period. The fact that the faithfulness of a husband has come to be seen as some Holy Grail of matrimony that only the purest of men could ever attain is sickening. And I don't say this out of some crazed religious notion - i'm not religious at all. I say it out of the basic human decency that any person should show towards his/her life mate after making a solemn oath of monogamous life-mating.

Third, it is a legitimate political concern vis-a-vis Bill Clinton (though not vis-a-vis HRC). I will not do business with a man I know to serially cheat on his wife. Or, if I do, I am circumspect in ALL my interactions with the man. If he can't keep from betraying those who supposedly matter to him most in his life, how am I to trust that he won't betray a business partner, or a face-less voting constituency?

Fourth, Lewinsky is but one. The examples are legion. There is no denying the fact that Bill betrayed his wife and family in a deep and hurtful way.

I accept the fact that this is none of my business. I accept that HRC should smote me down for saying what I'm saying now b/c its her business, not mine.

But I'm talking about political fact here. These are things I think about. I've got friends who are good men, good husbands, faithful husbands. I know they think about this too and its important to them as well. I think a lot of anger by some women towards HRC (justified or not) centers around what I'm talking about. So, it is a huge disservice to the truth to call anger toward Bill's infedility some sort of predilection against working-class, Southern horniness.

Finally, even if presidential competence can be separated from infidelity, it still matters to me and many others. Suppose you found out that presidential contender X horribly berated his wife on a daily basis behind closed doors. Called her a worthless B----, a useless C---. Would than not sway you against him, even if he did all the right things by pressing for a pro-feminist agenda in office?

Well, that's how many of us look at infidelity in marriage. It's deeply disrespectful and humiliating to the other party. It shows that the serial cheater profoundly undervalues his/her spouse. To me (and others like me) , it's the same as if he berated her with all those horrible words.

Now look, I KNOW that this is stuff to hold against Bill, not HRC. I've gotten beyond it. I'm so in the tank for HRC that I'm voting for her in November no matter what. But for a lot of other Southern working-class Dems who have traditional marriages and traditional family values (no - Repubs should NOT have a monopoly on tender loving decency w/in the family), it's hard not to have the negative spill-over effect of Bill onto Hillary.

Saying "that's bad; i don't like that; those sentiments should go away" are not going to actually make this political reality go away.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

bloglisa - do you make fun of NASCAR? Do you look down your nose at Southern podunks?

Given that you come from a family of machinists, miners, and steel-workers (which i genuinely respect) I suspect not.

When I speak of a modern day North/South divide, it is not literally geographic. Modern southern disgust for Northerners is centered around the concept of a privileged rich white liberal who speaks high-mindedly about justice in some abstract sense, even though he's never actually been on the losing side of any social prejudice or inequity.

It's a little hard to swallow "we should pay more taxes to help social justice causes" when coming from some liberal elite who's never actually depended on his paycheck. It's a lot more palatable, and I come along for the ride, when spoken by someone who knows (and accepts) the sting that those taxes have.

I spoke of "Northerner" within the context of Anglachel's post, which I think made clear that there's a lot more going on in this North/South divide than traditional old geography. For better or worse, in the minds of many, "North" has come to mean enlightened Massachussetts liberal elites, and "South" has come to mean uneducated podunk racists. I was working off this milieu.

But I can see it's divisive, so I won't refer nakedly to "Northerners" anymore.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone find the new SUSA poll odd? And does anyone agree with me that this is a bad sign for Obama? It looks like he is picking up those white men from the conservative side of our party who voted for Edwards in the beginning. Well, I guess he will take it to be good news that at least he is closing the gap in PA:

"Survey USA has Hillary ahead by 12 points in PA. She's down 2 points from three weeks ago, Obama is up 5. Where is he making the gains?

[P]articularly in cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and among older voters, men and conservative Democrats.....There is also movement to Obama from conservative and anti-abortion Democrats.

Where is Hillary stronger? On Obama's signature issue, the war in Iraq. And the economy and health care."

lori said...


Your initial characterization of Lewinsky was revealing. You simply could not fathom that a young woman would throw herself at an older man - your only interpretation in that post is "a slimy old guy was using his position of power and influence to extract consensual sex from a young college woman who idolizes her professor."

That sounds much more condescending than anything Bill said about Monica.

Clinton left office with the highest popularity rating of any president in the 20th century - including Reagan. Most Americans separate their president's sex life out from his abilities as president.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

No lori. Here's my definition of a slimy old man: a 50+ married family man who recognizes that because of his position of power a young girl is throwing herself at him, and he JUST CAN'T HELP HIMSELF.

That's a slimy old man and Bill fits the definition perfectly. I don't have much in common with my Southern Bible belt brethren (namely, the whole "Bible" part), but we all share this sacred respect for family and what it means to be a REAL man.

And for what it's worth, we don't just bash Bill over the head for this. Any time JFK comes up in conversation, he gets the same wrath from me and my kind.

It really is not that hard to be a decent, kind, and gentle husband and father. It pisses a lot of people off to see Hollywood and the liberal elite assume otherwise. For many of us, we see (1) Bill coming back to the forefront of attention, and (2) people like yourself who seem to be dismissing what he did to his family as not that bad. Under these conditions it starts to seem like a vote for HRC is a vote for shameful husbands.

Like I said, I've wrestled with that Demon and I've gotten over it. I'm voting for Hillary, not Bill. But your (and others') continual defense of Bill in this regard is preventing many others from making this same leap.

Pat Johnson said...

The blogs were not around during the Bill/Monica mess. What most of us felt was complete disappointment in him for doing something so stupid that invited the Right Wing Conspiracy buffs into the White House. The media ran with it day after day, hour after hour, a complete repeat of the Rev. Wright tape. If Hillary chose to stand by him she probably saved his presidency at that time. The knives were out. The interesting thing was that the public stood by him. He left the WH with a 70% rating. Compare that to W's.

Monica was dumb but she did stalk him. And his weakness took over. But it was then that they called Hillary a lesbian, a woman who could not keep her man satisfied. The feeding frenzy never stopped and she is paying for that now. If she forgave him who are we to chastise her for that decision. It is understandable that she has been wary of the press. They never warmed up to her because she was not the Laura Bush or Nancy Reagan types they were more accustomed to.

Unfortunately, she is paying in spades for not conforming to their image. If they can make McCain into a "maverick" then it is just as easy they can mold her into Lady Macbeth. It is disgusting.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Anglachel, I think this whole commentary has disclosed another rift in the Democratic party that you have not touched on: family values.

Many Dems like myself are frustrated to see that the Republicans have somehow gained a monopoly over "family values" and what that means. They also seemed to have gained a monopoly as the only party that gives a shit about whatever it is that "family values" does mean.

"Family values" does not have to mean what Republicans have defined it to mean: a man and a woman in marriage with the man telling the woman what to do and with the woman and the children deferentially obeying the father/husband. Personally, I think that's a bunch of BS.

But what I also think is a bunch of BS is the fact that Democrats seem to have COMPLETELY yielded this whole ground to the Repubs! I'm for family values. To me, than can mean a woman and another woman married together, a man and another man married together, and they can adopt kids, or heck, it can even mean a good old-fashioned boring traditional marriage like I've got.

A lot of family-value Dems WANT to be inclusive, they WANT to have a wider and more respectful notion of what family means. But when we see Holly-wood liberal elites telling us that our silly family-values are just so small minded and quaint, and don't you know? All the cool elite liberal Hollywood couples are having orgy parties after doing a couple of 'bumps' in the bathroom. Your notions of marital fidelity are SOOOOOO yesterday.

This is Bullcrap. I am not a troglodyte because I think that when any two people (man-man; woman-woman; woman-man) get together and make a sacred oath of monogamy, and then bring children into the midst of this sacred bond, and then one of the parties disrespects this sacred oath, that party thereby has earned our social scorn.

Democrats need to get over their whole fear of this "family values" thing. They need to figure out where they stand on this issue and announce it. And by the way, one suggestion, here's a slogan NOT to use: "Bill is so awesome rad-cool in the way he totally got all those ladies to screw him while he was married and had a baby."

Anonymous said...

Why don't you just start your own family values blog? You have effectively hijacked an extremely important post and people who might have continued to discuss Anglachel's very interesting thoughts have probably simply given up.

Redstar said...

Great, great post. There has been a complete lack of analysis of elitism in this campaign (and on the blogs). Thanks for addressing what I've been trying to articulate to myself for weeks.

Chinaberry turtle, I see your symbolic geographic distinction and also stand with BlogLisa on the internal classism we have here in the North. I'm from MA, and consider myself a Masshole - a working-class, bred, heavily-accented Boston Irish Catholic, who moved from that to the lower-middle-class to the upper-middle-class all in my young lifetime (thanks to my 'rents) and is now getting an advanced degree at one of those Cambridge universities across the Charles River. When I was accepted, my high school educated/Army vet father said, "you'll probably become one of those Cambridge radicals." I live at the intersection of our elite and working-class worlds, and this election has been a goddamn doozy for me, like it has for so many of us.

Anglachel, keep up the good work.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

ugggh ... fine - i'm gone. If you can't see how it's inter-related with what Anglachel talked about, then I fear for HRC's chances with the notorious "undecided" Dems.

Many of them don't like Obama for exactly all the reasons Anglachel has brilliantly explained. But if you press them on "why not HRC?", the whole "Clinton fatigue" thing comes up. You keep pressing more, and you find out that "Clinton fatigue" = all that stuff Bill did. And no, they're not mad at Bill for being horny. Notions of family values are at the cornerstone of the indecision.

I would never have brought this up in the first place had Anglachel not herself included this as part of her analysis (in this post and others before it) and had another commenter (see janis) not also discussed the matter.

anyway, sorry for messing up your blog. I'll stay away.

Anonymous said...

hTaylor Marsh commented on the Lewinsky scandal and Hillary's decision to stay with Bill on her radio show shortly after Spitzer resigned. I won't comment on Bill's alleged sexual harassment of other women before his presidency. I was too young to remember much of it and regardless of what really happened I do not judge or blame Hillary for something Bill did.

Taylor believes that Hillary came from a different time from young women which is why many young women my age cannot fathom how or why Hillary would stay with him after his affair with Monica. Hillary's Methodist upbringing does play a role in how she defines her own marriage. She is in this marriage through thick and thin until death. We can disagree with her decision but I personally respect her for keeping her family together and moving on from the scandal to eventually become senator of NY and now a viable female candidate for president. I don't really care what her motives are for staying in her marriage but if it really is for political reasons (which I don't believe is the only reason) then more power to her.

Politicians' marriages and personal lives are also not as much of an issue to me as it is for more traditional and conservative voters. If anything their actions only hurt themselves because sooner or later these things usually go public and often destroy their own careers and families. I find the public scrutiny of a very private matter to be enough punishment.

Taylor also placed some blame on Lewinsky for believing what many young women who get themselves into these situations believe: that they can somehow win over the older man and make them leave their wives for them, etc. That is probably the dumbest idea to get into the mind of any woman because it rarely ever happens. Lewinsky should've kept her mouth shut and accepted her relationship with Bill for what it was: a brief affair that both Bill and Monica consented to. I also agree that Monica was not a victim in this affair. We all know that Bill is weak when it comes to women. Should he have kept his pants on at least until after leaving the White House? Yes. But the Lewinsky scandal certainly does not affect my decision to support Hillary. I would LOVE to have both Bill and Hillary back in the White House. What they do in their marriage is their own business.

That's all I have to say on the matter. I'd rather focus more on policy and voting behavior which Anglachel has done a great job in analyzing for us this election. Thanks Anglachel.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow, thanks for this post. The DNC resents the Clintons and the Carters as well (look how poorly Jimmy is treated and look at all the great things he accomplished in his one term- Europeans understand better than our DNC, they gave Carter the Noble Peace Prize, which he certainly deserved) The Carters and Clintons don't fit the stereotypes so the northern elitists that control the party hate them. They are highly educated, pro Civil Rights, pro Women's Rights, are couples that have a near equal partnership, etc... The DNC really hates the pro Women's Rights and near equal partnership aspects, as they don't have that mentality, haven't since FDR. They hate both the Carters and Clintons are pro Civil Rights, because southerners that are pro Civil Rights hold that deeper than the northern elitists do. The northern elitist like to pretend we white folks all stupid rednecks down here. Let me tell you a little family history to put that even further to rest. My four times great grandfather was an abolitionist politician in southern Kentucky. His daughter- my three times great grandmother, fiercely fought in court after the Civil War for a freedman who had fought on the Union side to get his military pension- he did get it, I'm happy to report. My mother worked at the Census Bureau from 1960-61, she and all the other women in that office boycotted a resturant because the one African American lady in their department got refused service because of her race. I grew up in a houshold where Martin Luther King was a hero. I've protested and blogged against racism, sexism and homophobia. There are plenty of folks like my family in the south.