Gender Bender

by digby

You all remember this little exchange between Tucker Carlson and Cliff may from a couple of weeks ago I'm sure:

CARLSON: Do you think that people who are voting on the basis of gender solidarity ought to be allowed to vote in a perfect world? Of course they shouldn't be allowed to vote on those grounds. That's like -- that's moronic. I'm sorry. I know I'm going to get bounced off the air for saying it, but that's true.

ROBINSON: That doesn't trump all other characteristics. There are a lot of women who are going to vote for Republicans in November because they're conservative.

CARLSON: I'm not saying women shouldn't vote for Hillary at all. I'm merely saying the obvious: that you shouldn't vote for her because she's a woman. Here's what the Clinton campaign says: "Hillary isn't running as a woman. As Hillary says, she's not running as a woman candidate. The only reason to vote for her is that you believe she's the most qualified to be president."

Well, that's actually completely false, considering the Hillary campaign -- and I get their emails -- relentlessly pushes the glass ceiling argument. "You should vote for her because she's a woman." They say that all the time. She just said that on The View. I mean, that's like their rationale.

MAY: At least call her a Vaginal-American, as opposed to --

CARLSON: Is that the new phrase?

According the Carlson, women are assumed to be backing Hillary in greater numbers than men because they are voting purely on the basis of gender solidarity. And they probably shouldn't be allowed to vote if that's the case.

Fast forward to this week:

CARLSON: Senator Hillary Clinton enjoys a big lead in the national polls, but it‘s a much tighter race in the early primary state. Today a new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll reveals that over half of the men in the country and almost 40 percent of the women say they would never vote for Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, a poll in “Parents” magazine found that among all the candidates, Hillary is the one parents would least trust to baby-sit their children. But wait. If that‘s true, how is she doing so well?


PRESS: I also have to say the parenting thing, here‘s the real question. Would you want any of those—trust any of those presidential candidates to baby-sit your kids? I mean, get serious. They‘d be dialing for dollars the whole time.

CARLSON: Let‘s be honest. Who would be the most severe when it comes to toilet training. I think we know the answer.

BUCHANAN: Who would you allow—you wouldn‘t want to be baby-sat by her. Holy smokes...

CARLSON: I think a lot of—it‘s interesting. If you—a lot of people love Hillary Clinton and she can obviously be elected president. I‘m not even attacking her. But I notice married people, married men and married white men, getting more extreme, despise her. Why is that? I‘ll tell you why. Because she gives off the feeling that she despises them. If you give the voters the feeling you don‘t like them, they won‘t like you back.

PRESS: That‘s your read of it. My read is different. I think first of all that these polls—I think we make too much of these polls. We don‘t know who the opposition is, what the issues are in November 2008. So how can you say that 55 percent of married men today are never going to vote?

CARLSON: Married guys—she won‘t get within ten points of winning them. No way.

PRESS: There are a lot of married men out there today who are afraid of strong women and don‘t want a strong woman and won‘t vote for any woman.

CARLSON: You really believe that?

PRESS: I honestly do.

CARLSON: I live in a world of strong women. I love strong women.

PRESS: So do I, I‘m just saying we‘re not among that category.

There are a category of men out there who would never vote for a woman.

CARLSON: This is how she loses when people say things like that. The implication of that is you‘re not a good enough person to support Hillary Clinton. If you‘re a more decent person, you‘d like her. That‘s how liberals feel about it. Like you‘re not ready to support her. Maybe I just don‘t like her.

Notice that little sleight of hand there? When women say they support Hillary it's because they are irrationally supporting someone because of their gender. When men say they won't support Hillary it's because "she gives off the feeling that she despises them." If you even bring up the fact that there are men out there who will refuse to vote for any woman, you attacked for allegedly saying that men aren't decent people. Heads I win, tails you lose.

Carlson believes that women shouldn't be allowed to vote if they like the idea that a woman may become president and vote for her partially on that basis, but it's not irrational for (white) men vote against a woman because they irrationally feel she "despises them."

I get accused of being a shill for Clinton all the time because I write about this stuff and it's assumed that it's some sort of partisan plot to boost her candidacy. But the truth is that I haven't backed anyone and my reasons for highlighting this narrative is because it reveals the way these Village pundits really think. I don't care who you support in the election, this kind of talk -- especially just spewing out in the mainstream media with very little awareness --- makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck if you happen to be female. It's like having everyone assume that the "normal" state of being in this world is male and this strange idea of appealing to women is some sort of illegitimate pander to an extreme, fringe interest group.

For decades the Republicans have been running against the "soft" (read: "gay" or "sissy") Democrats and it's worked quite well for them. But with an actual woman running to be the Big Kahuna, it seems to have scrambled the decks, which isn't surprising. Their attacks are received differently when they aren't seen through the lens of a puerile boys locker room. It has a different characteristic, more jarring and dissonant, maybe because it's so much more direct. (I'm certainly not defending the "gay" slur either --- it's just that it's so commonplace in politics that most people don't even see it.)

But what did surprise me --- and I guess I'm just a fool for not having realized it before --- is that so many of these men in the media seem to have such severe psychological issues in this sphere. Tucker and Matthews and many of their guests are personally offended that a woman would appeal directly to other women for votes, as if that's undemocratic and unfair. And they get extremely bent out of shape when their sexist attitudes are challenged.

Jamison Foser captures one of those moments in his column this week. I saw it and it was jaw dropping:

While kids are dying in the war, Matthews obsesses over Hillary Clinton's "Chinese" clapping. For three straight days, Matthews wasted viewers' time with discussions about ... clapping. Thursday night, he discussed it in two separate segments. Finally, Chrystia Freeland of the Financial Times urged Matthews to get over his fixation with Clinton's mannerisms and focus on issues:

FREELAND: I do think that we have to be a little bit careful also about not picking on Hillary's mannerisms a little bit too much. So --

MATTHEWS: Ah, those secondary characteristics are off-base. Am I being told that?

FREELAND: Just a little bit. I mean, there's the clapping, there was the laugh. I think there are things to pick on Hillary about, but probably the clapping wouldn't be what I'd choose.

PATRICK HEALY (New York Times reporter): Well, there's one thing, Chris --

MATTHEWS: Well, give me a list -- Chrystia, give me a list some day on email of whom -- what I'm allowed to criticize about Hillary. And how --

FREELAND: Any policy matters; dynasty I think is OK, too.

MATTHEWS: Oh, OK. Yeah, I'll be sure to keep that in mind. Jim Warren, what do you make of this as a cultural phenomenon? If you're watching us from overseas, you say, "Is this what Americans do at political rallies? Oh, it's interesting."

JAMES WARREN (Chicago Tribune managing editor): Well, I mean, she can't copy me and stick her hands into her pants pockets. So, there's not much left to her. And given the repetity of her life, 10,000 different appearances a day -- oh, my gosh, it looks like she's at Sea World in San Diego. Here comes the seal! Yikes. [This was in response to a video that spliced a bunch of different events together. --- digby]

MATTHEWS: You're worse than I've ever been.

WARREN: Anyway.

MATTHEWS: Throw me a fish.

Watch the video. Matthews' "I'll be sure to keep that in mind" was just dripping with sarcasm.

(If only Imus had been on hand to call her a fat-assed bitch, the show would have been complete. I'm sure they'll all be making pilgrimages to his new show to resume snapping towels at each other as soon as possible.)

Keep in mind that Chrystia Freeland was a reporter for the Financial Times, not a Democratic operative. And as with Tucker Carlson, there's that puerile derision between the host and one of his guests. Plenty of people on those shows seem uncomfortable with the bizarre inappropriateness of the hosts, but they don't quite know what to do about it. Carlson and Matthews end up picking one to be his Ed McMahon to laugh loudly at his "jokes" and egg him on.

It's a very bizarre spectacle, especially since it's on the newly anointed "liberal network." I find myself turning over to the somnambulent tones of Wolf Blitzer whenever these guys get going on this subject. I can only stand so much of it before I boil over. I hope they realize that if they want to place themselves on the leftward side of the dial that non-stop juvenile sexist banter isn't exactly going to get them there.

The fact is that politicians of both genders and all ethnicities and races all over the country are trying to say in one way or another, "I'm one of you. I understand your needs and your problems and I will represent you!" It's what they do. To say that Clinton is doing something that's out of bounds by making a pitch to women is mind-boggling, (particularly after the years and years of hunting trips and horseshoes and cigarette boats to make that pitch to the ever valuable "angry, white male.")

To constantly deride her on the basis of gender is ridiculous. She's the front runner and there's plenty to criticize her for. (Her support for the Peru free trade agreement, for one.)That these guys are obsessing on the gender stuff is very, very revealing.

And by the way, despite all the fuss about how married men are rejecting Clinton because she allegedly despises them, the race probably isn't going to hinge on their tender feelings of insecurity:

Single parent households have grown from under a quarter to over a third of American households over the past 25 years and a majority of households are now headed by unmarried Americans for the first time. From 1960 to 2006, the percentage of the voting age population that was unmarried grew from 27 to 47 percent. Between the 2002 and 2006 elections, the growth rate of unmarried Americans was double that of married Americans. If this trend continues, the unmarried will be a majority of the population within 15 years. These changes have broad implications for the future of our country, its politics and the policy direction of the national government.

Importantly, unmarrieds come to the table with a somewhat different agenda, even more focused on changing the direction of the country, more focused on basic issues of the economy and jobs, more focused on ending the war and, it should be noted, a bit
more cynical about law-makers’ willingness to listen to their concerns. For this and other reasons, the rising unmarried majority has so far remained relatively quiet in our national conversation.

While improved in recent election cycles, unmarrieds, particularly unmarried women, still do not vote at the same levels as their married counter-parts. In total, there are over 53 million unmarried women of voting age, 20 million of whom stayed home in the last presidential election. What is clear is that this cohort is changing America culturally and demographically and as it becomes increasingly involved in the democratic process, will continue to change America as well.

The importance of unmarried Americans is clearly demonstrated by the demographic shift that this country has been (and is continuing to) undergo. Between the 2002 and 2006 midterm elections the proportion of unmarried voting age citizens grew at a rate that surpassed the married population. In fact, the rate of growth of the unmarried population was nearly double the growth rate among those who are married.

While the rapid growth of the unmarried population over the past four years is notable, it is merely the continuation of a long-term trend. Between 1960 and 2006, the percentage of the voting age population (as opposed to households) that was unmarried increased from 27 to 47 percent. If the current growth trend continues, the unmarried population will become a majority in the next 15 years.

All the Democratic candidates will hopefully be smart enough to look to the future of this country and go where the votes are, including unmarried people and Latinos and other growing influential demographics. Perhaps they will finally throw off this self-defeating notion that the only people who are worth trying to persuade are a bunch of white male Village pundits who have serious problems with ordinary Americans they don't recognize from the favorite TV shows of their childhoods. I'm holding my breath.

If you are a blogger or have a web site, you can get a neat little widget that allows people to register to vote at Women's Voices, Women Vote.