America by Fart

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I’ve seen a number of critiques of the Beck-Palin phenomenon lately that attribute The Rise of the Silver Slurpers to a simple longing for leadership in these tumultuous times. There was this NYT op-ed over the weekend by Anna Holmes and Rebecca Traister, lefty feminists pining for “A Palin of Our Own.”

Since the 2008 election, progressive leaders have done little to address the obvious national appetite for female leadership. And despite (or because of) their continuing obsession with Ms. Palin, they have done nothing to stop an anti-choice, pro-abstinence, socialist-bashing Tea Party enthusiast from becoming the 21st century symbol of American women in politics.

The left’s failure to nurture and celebrate female politicians has had a significant effect on its policies. In recent years, Democratic majorities and progressive legislation seem to have been built on steady trade-offs of reproductive rights, culminating this year when the first female speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was forced to push through health care reform with a compromise on abortion financing.

An older generation of female Democrats, including Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Pelosi, are about as eager to mount a Palin-style girl-powered campaign as they are to wear a miniskirt on the House floor. For them, proudly or aggressively touting one’s feminist credentials (if you’re actually a feminist, that is) is taboo. It’s considered too, well, female.

I call bullshit on this. First of all, let’s look at the examples they cited:  Clinton, Pelosi and Palin. Hillary Clinton is arguably the most powerful woman on the planet, busily running the foreign policy apparatus of the world’s only super power. Nancy Pelosi is the only female Speaker of the House—ever—and a highly effective legislator in that role by any objective measure. And Sarah Palin is…an occasional Fox News contributor, a former second-fiddle on a losing presidential ticket and a half-term governor who quit every important job she ever held.

Sorry, ladies, but I’ll match our record up with the GOP’s on women’s leadership any day of the week. Sure, Palin has a creepily devoted fan base and scads of Facebook friends. So does Lady Gaga. And Lady Gaga has more progressive policy chops.

As for the lack of a “Palin-style girl-powered campaign,” I don’t see the reluctance on the part of the Dems to present a second such abomination to the planet as a sign that Democrats are ashamed to tout their feminist credentials or celebrate the historic nature of pioneering women in top spots. I’m not satisfied with the representation of women in leadership positions either, but let’s not forget that the halting progress that’s being made is being made by the Dems.

Let’s recall, after all, that it was in the Democratic Party that a woman duked it out with a man in a very closely run campaign for the top spot. Palin was John McCain’s sole executive decision and gimmick, and she skipped out on the heavy lifting that Hillary Clinton handled. She hasn’t paid the dues to be put into the same category as Clinton.

Holmes and Traister longingly imagine a female progressive taking to Facebook and Twitter to rip opponents Palin-style. But here’s the thing—unlike Palin, Democratic leaders like Clinton and Pelosi have actual jobs and political accountability. There is no shortage of female progressives without political jobs who rip opponents more effectively (and coherently) than Palin: Hell, Holmes and Traister themselves do.

But, according to Holmes and Traister, there’s this lack of leadership. And it’s the Democrats’ fault because they didn’t rush out to identify a progressive Palin clone. 

In a similar vein, Joe Scarborough voices discontent with the quality of leadership on the non-insane-wingnut side when discussing this weekend’s Beck-Palin dog-and-moose show thingie. Scarborough lays it at Obama’s feet, blaming the president for creating a leadership vacuum that allows demagogues to take center stage.

Take a look at this remarkable exchange between Howard Dean and Scarborough yesterday. The interesting part starts at about 6:00 (do yourself a favor and skip the puke-inducing Lil’ Luke fluffery at the beginning):

To recap, Dean compares Beck to Father Coughlin, a right-wing hate-monger and fascist with a peak audience of 40 million Americans during the Great Depression. (Too bad Pat Buchanan wasn’t on hand to give a first-person account of Beck’s precursor—Buchanan’s father was neck-deep in the Coughlin movement.) 

Scarborough blames Obama for the Beckocalypse, arguing that people are glomming onto Beck because Obama hasn’t been a strong enough leader and people are “hungry for leadership.” Scarborough asserts that Beck’s following contains a significant number of disgruntled Obama supporters.

Dean doubts that very much, and, well, duh. But Scarborough, who is convinced that “anecdote” is a synonym for “data,” relates a vague tale of some “evangelical preacher” he knows who voted for Obama (even though he disagreed with Obama’s policies!) and who might have attended the Beck rally “if he could get away.” In Scarborough’s tiny pea brain, this is called “proof.”

Then Scarborough makes a claim I’d never heard before—that following Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, many of RFK’s supporters transferred their allegiance to George Wallace. Huh?

I would never describe myself as optimistic about human nature nor believe I could underestimate the deep stupidity of the human race. But I think Scarborough is full of crap, both on the Kennedy-to-Wallace and Obama-to-Beck transference. 

I’m not saying it never, ever happens: There are weak-minded fools in any large group—people who identify unhealthily with a candidate, a religious figure, a celebrity, etc., due to some deficiency in their own character and willingly surrender their free will and capacity for rational thought. And because these people are there for the wrong reasons in the first place, they may very well act in irrational ways if disappointed.

Therefore, it’s entirely possible that a handful of people transferred their allegiance from a social justice liberal (RFK) to an avid bigot (Wallace). There may even have been a disgruntled Obama supporter—even two!—at Beck’s “Be a Sunbeam for Mormon Jeebus” Show.

But Scarborough and the media at large tend to overemphasize the significance of that sort of phenomenon. Just as Holmes and Traister (and others) overestimate the significance of Palin to women’s progress.

I’m sure none of us around these parts will ever forget the gigantic belly-flop of the over-hyped PUMA movement, which not only did not deliver the 2008 election to McCain-Palin but failed to even statistically dent Obama’s showing among female voters in the general election as compared to the performance of past Democratic candidates.

The PUMAs were a fart in a whirlwind. To the extent they exist, the Obama voters who’ve embraced Beck and Palin’s far-right vision are farts in the whirlwind too. Holmes, Traister and Scarborough are drawing false conclusions because they’re analyzing America by fart.

That’s not to say Beck, Palin and the rest of the wingnut fringe pose no threat: Of course they do. Demagogues always have, particularly during times of social and economic dislocation.

But aping their tactics isn’t the way to counter them: We don’t need a progressive Fembot who shoots Facebook bullets from her boobs. And we don’t need a lefty snake-oil salesman to identify divine providence in the flight patterns of Canadian geese.

What do we need? You tell me.

Posted by Betty Cracker on 08/30/10 at 07:09 PM • Permalink

Categories: PoliticsBarack ObamaBedwettersElection '08Election '10Hillary ClintonManic ProgressivesNuttersSarah PalinTeabaggeryOur Stupid MediaPUMAsRelijunYouTubidity

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Holmes and Traister longingly imagine a female progressive taking to Facebook and Twitter to rip opponents Palin-style.

I hope to God there isn’t a known female progressive who is as dimwitted, inarticulate and vituperative as Palin. Maybe they’re auditioning for the gig?

But then, I had no idea Palin was the symbol of anything except the GOP thinks stomping on the accelerator will stop the car as it barrels towards that cliff.

I smell PUMA scat.

Palin’s a fluke who was only accidentally promoted to public prominence by a desperate GOP that’s otherwise rather indifferent to women, both voters and candidates.

Any attempt to “manufacture” a DemoPalin is doomed to failure, largely because you can’t fabricate phenoms...but also for the same reasons Liberal Talk Radio failed: i.e., Liberals don’t need a constant stream of reassuring static telling them what to believe and letting them know they’re not alone. The Daily Show is plenty, not to mention the zillions of hilarious and/or thoughtful Twitter feeds we already have access to.

Seriously, I can’t even conceive of a human being so wise and charismatic that I wouldn’t feel damn silly QA-checking my every political instinct against the postings on Super-Democrat-Woman’s Facebook page. I don’t even read Obama’s page, and Conservatives tell me all the time he’s my Messiah.

Well, you said it better in three paragraphs than I did in three hundred, Strange.

Traister is a twit. Of all the Weak Sister Sauce doled out by Salon over the years, going back to the scrofulous “Mothers Who Think” (or as I always thought of it, “Pussies Who Ponder” because as long as we’re reducing women to biological imperative, why the fuck not?), she’s one of the worst offenders. And really, a woman who writes a column called “Broadsheet” has no business dissing the Dems for not doing enough to change the image of progressive women.

Jesus Fucking H. Christ. Two women on the Supreme Court. More women in cabinet-level positions, including Clinton as Secretary of State, than ever before. A female speaker of the house. But because there isn’t some moron like Palin vomiting out faux-red meat talking twits for Dumb Dora Phony Feminists like Traister, the progressives have failed.

I think she and whoever this other Banana Slug Brain are who wrote that tripe are just angling for book deals. They can eat my fuck on a plate.

What a stupid premise.

It has always been my goal to be judged as a person, not by how well I represent my gender, race or religion.

The very phrase “girl power” makes me want to puke.

Oh, she’s with Jezebel. The Perez Hilton of feminism. Okay. Now it makes sense. That site is all about cute and snarky with occasional nuggets of wisdom (unlike the fine folks here who blend the snark and wisdom with a sure hand). Maybe that’s the problem with coming up through the internet world. You tend to mistake “page hits” for “influence.”

You go Betty!  And also, what StrangeAppar8us said.  Those folks who wish we could manufacture a feminist/progressive Palin clone don’t have a clue what feminist or progressive means.  They seem to think that we on the left can be moved by twitty tweets and bumper stickers just like Snooki’s followers.  But they’re wrong, because we think!

I too want to puke when I hear “girl (grrrlll) power.  (1) I am no longer of an age where I’d find being called a “girl” anything other than an ironic insult, and (2) I’ve done plenty of time in the trenches both becoming a feminist and defending the term when Limpballs decided to demonize it.  Say it loud and wear it proud fellow feminists, but that “girl” shit is just so infantilizing.

Read it from a young friend of mine and I didn’t have the heart express my…disdain. It’s not that these guys aren’t right to want more women in politics, but that idiot isn’t something I want to ape, nor do I consider her any sort of a voice I wish to hear. Holding up her sway over simple minded fools as an example of feminist power denigrates feminist power.

Also, I’d love to see Traister and Holmes point out where the Democratic leadership, prior to Barack Obama, addressed the “obvious national appetite for non-white leadership,” given that no black man had ever been nominated for the veep slot, despite the decades of loyalty exhibited to the party by black voters. Surely they could have found a black man with the same glaring dearth of solid qualifications exhibited by Gerry Ferraro to put up at some point.

This goes back to something my friend Kelly (who is generally much smarter than me) pointed out when women around us in 2008 started saying “Well, if we don’t elect Hillary, there won’t be another shot at a woman president for decades!”  The first woman president is probably somebody we don’t know of yet who is working in a statehouse or as a state’s attorney general or something like that.

Prior to 2004, nobody outside Illinois (and honestly, not even too many people outside Chicago) knew who Illinois State Senator Barack Obama was. Contrary to the conspiracy theories, there was no attempt to “manufacture” him as a candidate (must I remind the PUMAs once again that he had more years in elected office than their sainted Hillary?)He has undoubtedly been lucky in his opponents, particularly in the Illinois senate primary and general election, where his initial foes both had to drop out when revelations of spousal abuse (Blair Hull) and sex clubs (Jack Ryan) came to light. But if you’d asked somebody to name who the obvious first black president would be before Obama’s keynote address in 2004, they probably would have said “Uh, I don’t know—maybe Jesse Jackson, but he’s getting old. His son? Um, Harold Ford?—nah. Dunno.”

Which is to say that the women who are coming up now, unlike Palin, are actually doing the goddamn work and are too busy to pander their asses all over the internet to provide idiots like Traister and Holmes the quick junk-food fixes for their “appetites” for female leadership, just so they can feel better about their vaginas.

Doing the goddamn work and doing it well is the fucking essence of leadership. Pelosi and Clinton and Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Lisa Jackson and Janet Napolitano and all the other women in leadership positions in Obama’s administration actually have real jobs. Palin doesn’t.

Why don’t these nitwits get that?

Also, all of Palin’s publicity whoring doesn’t seem to be polishing her presidential chops in the public mind.

Comment by Oblomova on 08/31/10 at 10:27 AM

And PUMAs said to Palin land…

Let my PUMAs goooooo…

This train of though has no logical conclusion. If indeed there was a manufactured feminist progresive counterpart to Snookie, she’d be blasted as being…a manufactured counterpart to Snookie (and rightfully so).

And Scarborough can go piss up a rope. It’s the lack of leadership in the GOP that has given rise to Beck and his kind.

@ Ruemara:

Holding up her sway over simple minded fools as an example of feminist power denigrates feminist power.

Egg-zactly.

@ Oblomova:

This goes back to something my friend Kelly (who is generally much smarter than me) pointed out when women around us in 2008 started saying “Well, if we don’t elect Hillary, there won’t be another shot at a woman president for decades!”  The first woman president is probably somebody we don’t know of yet who is working in a statehouse or as a state’s attorney general or something like that.

Excellent point. Hell, if Alex Sink wins the Florida governor’s race against loathsome Medicare fraudster Rick Scott, she could be in position to run in 2016. Most people have never heard of her. And those who do assume she’s a dude because of the name (**cough** Taylor Marsh **cough**).

I guess a Speaker of the House (or Secretary of State) is sort of like a Facebook celebrity, except that you have actual responsibilities.

Thanks, Betty.  Beautifully done.

Personally, I can’t imagine that serious feminists would pay attention to a progressive version of Palin.  The style Palin uses to communicate her positions—the vapid tweets and schoolgirl diary entries in Facebook—discredit her as much as the substance of what she says.  Feh.

I guess a Speaker of the House (or Secretary of State) is sort of like a Facebook celebrity, except that you have actual responsibilities.

Bless you, sir! (Even if I did have to clean coffee off my keyboard.)

Also, Dahlia Lithwick has a fine column on Ruth Bader Ginsburg today, which proves the point that those who do the work make more changes than those who go for the pop-star glory.

Comment by Oblomova on 08/31/10 at 11:34 AM

Hell, if Alex Sink wins the Florida governor’s race against loathsome Medicare fraudster Rick Scott, she could be in position to run in 2016. Most people have never heard of her.

Could this be, in part, because people who should know better are crying for their very own Sarah Starburst dolly (Lefty Version)?

And then of course there’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who I guess is kind of like a Facebook faux feminist except with actual victories for women’s rights.

d’Oh!  Sorry, Oblomova—missed your comment.

No worries, Mr. Hilton. I think we both saw the link at Balloon Juice around the same time! Lithwick is consistently a good read, I find.

Lithwick is consistently a good read, I find.

Me too. I wish she’d skedaddle from Slate so I could banish them to bookmark hell.

What? No TNA wisdom from Siskind about how Democrats have lost women’s votes forever?

TNA wisdom

Please broaden your search parameters to see more results.

The article about Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a great read!  She is really a role model.  I get very annoyed with women who say they’re all for equal rights, pay, representation, etc. but, ooohhhh, noooooo, they’re not feminists or anything like that.  They literally don’t understand what feminists did for them and what their lives would be like now if not for the early feminists.

And that Holmes/Traister piece is a rambling piece of garbage.  You could never have a lib or progressive “Palin” because the real Palin is all about grabbing attention and Tweeting lies.  A comparable personality on the liberal side would be devoting her energy to pushing progressive policies and getting things done.  Kind of like, um, Nancy Smash!  But nothing sexy about that unfortunately.

What? No TNA wisdom from Siskind about how Democrats have lost women’s votes forever?

Au contraire!

And of course, she’s getting her ass handed to her in the comments.

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