The Real Damage Palin/Bachmann Bring
It's only been one day since the Palin/Bachmann rally in Minnesota and I'm already annoyed. At everyone. The media-right is in a froth right now about a Palin/Bachmann ticket, one built on their good looks and innuendo-ladened stump speech. And there's really no way to talk about the event, or the reaction without it creating the equivalence of a hostile-work environment as it's just so charged in a gendered/sexualized fashion, in large part because deep down this country still cannot wrap its collective brain around and not get weirded out by feminine power.
Let's start with the candidates. No surprise that I'm not a fan. I think they are intellectual and policy lightweights compared to the Kay Bailey Hutchinsons, Sandra Day O'Connor's and Christie Whitmans of their party. They find success in large part because they are good-looking women with a lot of charisma and a good sense of how to play their strengths. Which makes them just like about 75% of the rest of Congress. And in a party where national money gets spend at lesbian fetish bars I am not at all going to fault them for playing up the cheesecake factor. It's smart business even if it results in shitty national politics.
At the same time, the venom spit their direction from many on the left smacks of the same kind of sexism as that elevating their campaign for prom queen. Let's attack Bachmann for ignoring her constitutents as they face the highest foreclosure rates in Minnesota, remind the public that she suggested a government investigation of members of Congress and the media for anti-American views, and her suggestion that the Obama administration is going to round people up into reeducation camps. Her McCarthyism is the real thing, but all we can seem to talk about is her "chemistry", particularly when paired with the likes of Palin.
And in a sentence I never thought I'd write, ever in my life, poor Tim Pawlenty. For real. He was there too, remember? He's got national ambitions too, right? But he didn't wear a skirt and wink, so clearly he's not a serious contender for the 2012 nomination. Or, he might be serious, but he's obviously not going to get it. He too is a victim to our culture's fetishization of feminine power. Tim Pawlenty, always the bridesmaid when Palin's around.
Perhaps one of the reasons I'm the most annoyed is because I want to have some solid conservatives in on our national conversation, and these two are not it. But it's more. By creating the equivalent of political blow-up dolls out of Palin and Bachmann the media, particularly on the right, has created a race to the bottom for all national contenders because they can't compete. David Frum has some interesting things to say about national policy but most Americans don't know who the hell David Frum is, let alone his thoughts on how the right should be shaping national discourse. Without those voices, the voices of the conservative intellectuals -the right is degenerating into a rage of knee-jerk populism that doesn't create policy as much as it incites reaction. And in the history of this country that element of populism directs its economic and cultural alienation through violence, always with tragic consequences. Add some sexualized energy and the powderkeg just might blow.
And here's the deal. I want women candidates to be taken seriously and succeed on the national stage regardless of political affiliation, and it's not happening with Palin/Bachmann. And to anyone on the right who disagrees, please leave, in the comments, the names of any women, not already mentioned above, within the Republican party that currently hold leadership positions and/or high level policy positions. No, Mary Matlin, Michelle Malkin, or Ann Coulter don't count. Not pundits. Politics or wonks. Right now, they don't exist.
Which makes the Palin/Bachmann frenzy all the more tragic. Not even those same folks currently hyping their chemistry take them seriously enough to try and persuade the rest of the conservative movement to get behind the rifle-totin' populism these two preach. That means no counter-balance to the policy proposals from the Democrats and a backlog of administrative appointments based purely on obstructionism. That is not leadership. It is not even governance. It's simply resistence. And right now our problems are too big and the consequences too great to pander and participate in simple resistence. I'm sure there are some mighty talented women in the conservative movement who could help lead the Republicans back into relevance, but I don't see that happening in our current cultural climate. And that's a damn shame.
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