Sunday, August 31, 2008

With Friends Like This

Zuzu at Shakesville says this all far better than I can. Key graphs, but please go read the whole thing. The article is filled with excellent links to posts I had not seen:

Well, what's one of the Democratic Party's greatest strengths? Its appeal to women -- who make up more than half the electorate -- as the party that cares about their rights. The party's problem, of course, is that Clinton's candidacy exposed that for the expedient lie it is, since the party establishment allowed the blatant misogyny directed against Clinton by the media, Democratic lawmakers, the Obama campaign and the rank-and-file to go unchallenged. Then, when Obama was ushered into the nomination by a fishy decision by the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee that was contrary to the DNC's own rules, the party establishment finally spoke up, albeit weakly. But only for so long, because there was no time to pay attention to silly things like rooting out misogyny in the party that claims to care about women. Get in line and vote for the Chosen One, and keep your mouth shut and don't spoil the optics.

This did appear to be a fairly serious problem for the Dems; Obama was losing support among women and other groups with his lurch to the right. And instead of trying to bring those voters back into the fold with persuasion and carrots and addressing their concerns, the campaign, the party, the media and especially the fan base turned to threats, mockery, infantilization, accusations of racism, doomsaying and RoeRoeRoeRoeRoe when those voters started saying that gosh, love to vote for you, but you haven't given me any reason to and how dare you assume that I have nowhere else to go?

Now, there was never a real risk that progressives would vote for McCain en masse; those Hillary supporters who show up in polls as planning to vote for McCain may very well be Republican and Independent women who were voting for Clinton, not for the Democrats.

There has been, however, a real risk that progressives who are sick of the misogyny and sick about the direction the party was taking would sit this one out. And the Republicans were counting on that continuing.

And then a funny thing happened -- after a lot of tension about whether Clinton and her 18 million supporters would be shut out of the Convention, the Obama people agreed to give Hillary and Bill Clinton prime-time speaking slots. And they both spoke of unity, and urged Hillary's supporters to vote for Obama. And a lot of the Hillary diehards here watched those speeches and said they were convinced, they'd now vote for Obama. Others, too -- as Jack Goff said, it was what he'd been waiting for, though he hadn't known he'd been waiting for anything.

Obama's speech, too, convinced more people that Obama was not necessarily all style and no substance, that he understood the need to talk issues and the need to fight.

Then McCain -- who, it should be noted, was telling the press he had not selected a running mate as late as the final day of the Democratic National Convention -- dropped the Palin bombshell.*

Right on cue, the sexist attacks against Palin began on the left -- which the McCain people were undoubtedly counting on.

Zuzu's excellent distillation of the primary dynamics helped crystallize a thought that has been rattling around my brain for a few weeks. The framing of this election cycle on the Left uses as an operating presumption that any fault or failure in the Democratic march to victory is to be laid at the feet of women voters, specifically female Clinton supporters. This is more than just IACF, though that is one of the cornerstones.

It is the presumption that we are an untrustworthy, disloyal, always in need of discipline part of the party. An internal enemy. A band of evil sisters just drooling over the chance to defect to the dark side, or else a bunch of brainless, shallow, vagina voters who just don't know what's in our own self-interest, poor mindless dears that we are.

We are threatened, bullied, lectured and warned that we had better not go vote for some hard-right cultural conservative. Any female public figure who it is imagined we might support is assailed in vile and sexist ways, always seeking to demean, humiliate and cut that bitch down to size. And it's not just the bully boyz at Cheetopia who are doing this, though they are the worst offenders. I've stopped going to TalkLeft after Jeralyn's offensively paternalistic lectures on how bad Palin is and don't we foolish HRC holdouts know what's good for us undermined whatever credibility she had as an Obama supporter trying to convince on-the-fence Clinton Democrats to grit their teeth and vote strategically. As if I am not a life-long Democrat and feminist who has never voted for a Republican.

Think about this. Did anyone ever hear Hillary criticize a single voter for declining to cast their vote for her? Did you hear her campaign do this? I can think of one person, Jim Carville, calling out one super delegate, Bill Richardson. I have heard Hillary say, with her typical humility, that she failed to get her message across and she was going to have to work harder at winning the voters' trust and support.

Hillary herself has been very publically lectured, buillied, warned, threatened, and harassed that she had better deliver her voters (And why is the image that I get in my brain when I read this stuff is of a bound, gagged and drugged female form being handed over for gang rape?) to Obama, or else she is ruined, done, over, disgraced, without a political future.

Treating half your base as presumptive enemies is not a good way to run a campaign. Just sayin'...



madamab said...

Thanks to this disgusting primary season, I have a new awareness of the massive misogyny endemic in the Democratic Party.

My new philosophy is: Never vote for people that hate you.

Sorry, Barack Obama. You're out. Auf wiedersehn!

katiebird said...

I've felt for a long time that one of the (many) things that makes Obama unelectable is that he just can't stop himself -- and he has no interest or inclination in stopping his fans.

Their language is brutal and insulting. And in many cases, they're talking to long-time friends!

It's the complete opposite of good politics.

Andre said...

Concerning Jeralyn and Palin, on the contrary, there seems to be a going reluctance on the part of a lot of Hillary supporters on the net to criticize Palin (because she's female?). It is a good idea to remind ourselves that she is a republican. I have a niece who lives in Fairbanks, who could be a double for Palin, but her brother, my nephew, a strong liberal, and not from Alaska, makes the point that Alaska IS Republican, far and away more so than Massachusetts is Democrat. None of which, of course, helps those of us who want to vote with our dilemma, huh?

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. The explosion of sexism against Palin probably is not surprising. Oh my god, a sexy mother of five who shoots moose! No wonder the progressive blogs seem to be having a collective nervous breakdown.

Anonymous said...

Has a male primary loser ever been blamed for a GE candidate losing? Just curious.

Anyway, men, especially of a certain childishness, still consider us "their" women, who should toe the line. But more than that, I think they honestly do believe in hierarchy sooo much that they really expect the loser to roll over and play submissive. They just cannot understand that anyone would "break the rules".

"She lost; get over it." To me, the hierarchically-challenged, that has no meaning whatsoever. To the SCLB, that has all sorts of implications for how the loser is to act towards the winner. Demanding any sort of attention is not within their understanding of how the game must be played.

Life As I Know It Now said...

I have tried to warn some liberal bloggers that if they discuss Palin then to just discuss the issues and not the fact that she is female, has given birth to children, how she looks or how she sounds. Enough with the misogyny! But fools that they are, they won't listen. It's apparently too much fun to stop I suppose. This is pushing progressive women, such as myself, away from the party just when some of us were getting comfortable with the thought of voting for Obama based on party identification and issues.

It won't be Clinton's fault when or if they lose in November; it will be theirs for having their heads totally up their asses when it comes to how to treat women with respect and dignity. Some of these bloggers act like they never graduated from high school so juvenile is their behavior.

Unknown said...

it’s still all Hillary’s responsibility (and fault). Now it's up to her to save us from Sarah Palin. From a comment on Jane Smiley's post at HuffPo (

"I'm from the South, too, and your post shows why Hillary MUST come out as strongly against Palin as Jane Smiley has. Otherwise, Hillary will be guaranteeing the end of abortion rights, not to mention the scuttling of national health insurance for those sad women she kept referring to all throughout her campaign. It's really very much Hillary's responsibility now to stop Palin with women, or at least with her supporters. If Hillary does not do all she can to accomplish this, she will be complicit in all that Palin and McCain do after the election to destroy everything Hillary has fought for all her life.
"Posted 11:50 PM on 08/30/2008"

daily democrat said...

Many in MSM and on the blogs have commented on the misogyny in so much of the anti-Palin commentary. But few have noticed what you mention here, that the anti-Palin misogyny also reveals some residual distrust of the female electorate, even among women.

It surprises me that anyone still expects women to be less capable of reason that men are, but I suppose that quite a few of us fall back on ancient prejudice when we don't like someone or don't agree with them.

This past May, in your "Caution About Video" piece, you wrote:

I also say that whether or not I like Michelle Obama, there's a shitload of sexism and, yes, racism (not to mention foul language and plain old bad manners) aimed at her that is not acceptable under any circumstances. I don't care if she's been a jerk. I don't like sexism aimed at Hillary and I don't like it aimed at any other female public figure, even those who tick me off.

When I first read those comments, I realized I had been guilty of falling back on prejudice in my response to Michelle Obama, and I felt a bit ashamed. Your words helped me to change the way I see her, now I can see Michelle Obama as a person first and as an AA woman second.

I hope that this latest post will convince others to recognize and discard their latent prejudice and allow themselves to look at Sarah Palin and at the female electorate first as candidate and electorate, and only afterwards as women.

Susan petry said...

you know, I fought for abortion rights all my life.
now that I am post-menopausal, I see modern women don't take our struggle seriously. since they think it's such a cake walk, let 'em figure it out for themselves. see what WE went through to try and save their freedoms for them.

Unknown said...

I'm back, after reading a thread at digby's (, whose descent has been sad and shocking. In multiple comments, the seriously deranged "tanbark" expresses his (just a guess, but sounds like a he) outrage at Hillary for not stepping up to take out Sarah Palin. Here's a sample:

". . . As for Hillary being called a bitch by the republicans; boy would I like to see that. :o) My 2c, her stock with me would rebound some, after all these months of admiration and political support from the likes of Limbaugh, Coulter, O'reilly, Bennett, etc...:o)

Plus, after the hiding that those SAME people gave she and her family for all those years, if she doesn't have a kevlar component to her epidermis by now, she never will.

And dammit, she OWES it to us to cut Palin's legs off with this. It's HER name. Why in the hell should Obama, Biden, and Kerry be risking the "sexist" charge to go after Palin, when Hillary could do it so easily?

This is dead square in her job description, to hammer Palin. That she hasn't done it yet is disheartening, and it's suspect, too."

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Anglachel said:

"Treating half your base as presumptive enemies is not a good way to run a campaign."

Good god - that is EXACTLY right. Basically, that's what this whole primary has been about. If I am in full agreement policy wise with somebody, but that somebody keeps treating me like shit, well then screw 'em. That's just human nature, and I don't give a damn anymore whether it's consistent with my larger ideological beliefs to vote for Palin.

Obama has treated me and the issues I care about (women's issues and the working poor) like shit for so long that I just don't give a damn about policy anymore. He really just doesn't understand how enraged some of us are, how utterly offensive it was for him not to pick Hillary as VP.

And now, it's a WHOLE lot easier to hold my nose and vote for McCain w/ Palin now on the ticket. yeah yeah yeah - she bad lady, evil bad policy lady.


This election cycle I am now so beyond giving a shit about policy. My political party gave a big FU message to me, and now I'm gonna give an FU message right back to them come November.

That's just interpersonal human nature. That's deep, ancient stuff. You can't reprogram 5,000 years of evolutionary learning (i.e. don't be kind to those who keep fucking you over) with an appeal to policy.

Anonymous said...

Great post, and I certainly agree that rhetorically a lot of unfair shit gets laid off on women in the Democratic Party as if it's their responsibility and not the guys' to deliver. I'm a little confused by your disenchantment with Jeralyn, though. If she thinks (as I do) that Palin is a standard-issue conservative nutburger and that voting for her ticket is a mistake, why can't she say so? I agree that name-calling, either at Palin or at folks we disagree with, is stupid, but I don't see anything wrong with saying that this is a transparent gimmick that liberals shouldn't fall for if we're voting on the merits of what these candidates stand for, have done, and will do in the name of their respective parties. Am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

It upsets me how many progressives, men and women, attack Palin for being a lousy, negligent mother for putting her ambitions ahead of her children. I am shocked by how many feel comfortable admitting they have a double standard and wouldn't dream of criticizing men with young children.

Some rather hypocritically attack her for having her son at all, then go on about how she is neglecting and abandoning him. From the pictures I have seen, Trig seems to be having the time of his life, being tenderly held all the time.

When JFK became president, he had a two month old son. Jackie had another baby, born prematurely who died. I don't recall anyone's questioning his fitness to be president.

Palin's husband has announced he intends to stop working to take care of the children.

Anna Belle said...

But, A, all due respect (and my respect for you is immense), I don't get the mentality in the quote below. This mentality is what my eyes have been opened to for the first time this year:

Now, there was never a real risk that progressives would vote for McCain en masse; those Hillary supporters who show up in polls as planning to vote for McCain may very well be Republican and Independent women who were voting for Clinton, not for the Democrats.

There has been, however, a real risk that progressives who are sick of the misogyny and sick about the direction the party was taking would sit this one out. And the Republicans were counting on that continuing.

Hillary supporters who see Obama for the way he is are still pulling this 1-drop bullshit rule on fellow progs. If a woman, however progressive her history or values, casts a vote for McCain, why she can't possibly really be a progressive. She must have misidentified--she was actually already conservative or independent. I've read a lot of blogs in the last few days, but I thought I saw you do it yourself in a recent post. It's every bit as insulting as what O-bots put out every day.

I don't know how else to say this other than to say that true progs don't fall for DP propaganda that tells them the other side is so evil they should never be considered. Another institution practices this kind of rhetoric, it's called a church. Anyone who says they would never vote for a Republican, or even consider it, is of that church, the church of the DP.

It's sad, really. It's been like this for a long time, but I was too blinded by the sloppy rhetoric and corruption on the right to notice how much sloppy rhetoric and corruption there was on the left.

Anglachel said...

Anna Belle, voting for a rabid conservative Republican is not a progressive vote. I won't say you personally aren't progessive because you have decided to cast a strategic vote, but don't try to make Palin into something she isn't.

If you want to compare me to an "O-bot" because I will not be badgered into saying Palin is a good choice if you squint really hard and ignore all of her key positions that make James Dobson's heart go pitter-pat, be my guest.

Hint, this is not a good argument to make with me.


Anne said...

Another problem for the Dem Party that is coming due right now is that while of course there are traditional differences between Dem and GOP on issues, the DC Dems have refused to actually fight for any Dem position for years. So increasingly the differences between the Dem and the GOP on the ground has becomes blurred . In that the GOP does what it wants , the Dems wring their hands and cave increasingly where is the practical difference between them ?

The only fighting I have seen this crop of DC Dems do is against Hillary and their own base. Then the fangs come out. I have yet seen them stand up to Bush once. I wish they barked at Bush half as much as they bark at their own base. They can't hold Roe vs Wade over the base, because we know if the GOP wanted Roe vs Wade,( or anything else) the current DC Dems would hand it over. So the usual trusty wands used to keep us properly in line , aren't working so hot. Alot of illusions about the Party are being exposed right now.... illusions like they give a fig about women issues, ...or even women, that they care about the true reflection of votes and also the illusion that somehow caving in to the GOP makes one stronger for the next fight... Except that's what they say again when the next fight comes along.

Anonymous said...

The massive attack on Palin on all fronts is first and foremost a scared and defense reaction. After Obama made his cowardly choice of Biden instead of selecting a strong and unique person, Palin's selection is daring and expressive. This scares to death the Obamacans.

I want to point out that the demand from Hillary to deliver, Obama sitting on his hand expecting others to do his job, the harsh language used against any opposition to the Chosen One, the hate, you call it misogyny, generated by obama towards Hillary, women, and any attempt to raise an opposing view, are all distinct signs of a authoritative leader. The leader is perfect, everybody else should fall in line or is a lesser human being.

Obama's speech was as bad as they come. It was basicly a laundry list without vision and plan. the list itself was full of pie in the sky items and complete lies. (Foreign oil independence in 10 year is possible if cars are eliminated.)

For me a hater is a huge danger. I will not vote for McCain, but McCain may be a better choice than a hater and an racist. Can you imagine the misogyny if Obama end up president. We may look more like Lybia than the old US of A.

pm317 said...

Angalchel, something is becoming clear to me now. If the PARTY does not rescue (I mean rescue) Hillary Clinton from the current situation (which you so eloquently describe here:

Hillary herself has been very publically lectured, buillied, warned, threatened, and harassed that she had better deliver her voters (And why is the image that I get in my brain when I read this stuff is of a bound, gagged and drugged female form being handed over for gang rape?) to Obama, or else she is ruined, done, over, disgraced, without a political future.

we are doomed for another 16-20 years. Obama is beyond repair and if they drag Hillary down with him we will not wrest control of the WH for a decade or more. I will wait to see if the rescue starts right now (which would be advisable) or after the loss in November (which may be too late because they would have made her do things that would have driven her supporters away). The party's future is inevitably tied to Hillary's future now. They are so screwed.

Anglachel said...


My annoyance with Jeralyn is not primarily over the facts presented but the mode of argumentation. From the first "Palin is Eagleton" comparison (where I think Jeralyn was simply playing on fear), to the dire warnings about McCain's health, to the pedantic recitation of how Palin is so bad for women, she's been addressing the TL audience as though we're silly gits who are panting to run right out and vote for the new Phyllis Schlafly.

In short, a politically tone-deaf over reaction that, like the letter from her friend that she posted previously, does nothing to encourage pro-Obama sentiments and probably hardened a number of people against that choice. It does nothing to address the reasons why Palin might appeal to a certain percentage of Dem voters and it ignores the effect Palin has on Republicans.

Ironically, by framing her arguments the way she has, Jeralyn has also elevated the visibility of those who *are* making the argument that a vote for Palin is a vote for a not-so-bad-after-all candidate.

So it's a lose-lose-lose situation: Won't convince anyone who isn't already on the Obama bus; doesn't acknowledge the reasons why a statistically significant minority of Democrats refuse to give Obama their vote; legitimates the pro-Palin arguments by treating them as valid and in need of refutation.

Mostly I think I've reached my limit for being lectured about my political choices, and Jeralyn was the one who sent me over the top. I'm tired of being told "You had better! Don't you understand what's at stake?!?" by *all* sides in this fucked-up political season.


Mike J. said...

Another thing I would take issue with is the relentlessly sexist characterization of the stalwart HRC partisans as "older women". Well, I am not a woman, nor am I older, and yet I am also grossly offended by the party's sexism and misogyny. I have considered myself a life-long Democrat, but now I am pretty disillusioned by the party, to the point the usual "the GOP is even worse" exhortations have lost much of their sting.

What I find most offensive is the steadfast refusal to treat this phenomenon as anything other than identity politics. Because, presumably, if you are a woman you can't think straight, and you swoon at the sight of another vagina-owner. Acknowledging there are male Democrats who are equally offended by the party's sexism would mar this convenient picture.