Digby's got some interesting observations on the subtle (and not so subtle) ways in which the right wing media machine portrays Democrats as unmanly and effeminate and, therefore, weak on national security:
All of this is to say that there has long been a campaign to emasculate Democrats. (I suspect that there is a corollary in the defeminization of Democratic women as well.) This is powerful stuff and we'd best admit that it is going on so that we can formulate a response that actually works. Right now, we either try to out-manly them or we laugh it off, neither of which are working. (The worst advice that Paul Begala ever took was when Tucker Carlson told him to laugh when these kind of insults are hurled. He often sounds like a nervous hyena they come so fast and furiously and it has the effect of making him appear slightly unhinged.)
I think this tactic plays into many people's anxiety about changing social and gender roles in our fast moving society. A lot of folks out there are genuinely freaked out by the rapid pace of change and because of it are very susceptible to rigid stereotypes. They just feel more comfortable on the side of the fence where the macho high school boys and the girls who love them are. It's very hard to even get them to peek over and see what's on the other side.
And all people refuse vote for someone whom they think of as weak. It goes to the very essence of what leadership is. Half the country is obviously able to see past this little high school game and evaluate the strength of a candidates on the basis of something other than image and macho rhetoric. The other half is clearly in thrall to the manufactured Hollywood image of manly leadership.
I'm not entirely sure what to do about this, but I think dealing with it is far more important than any single stand we take on foreign policy. The people who Peter Beinart thinks to reach are not going to be impressed with historical references to faceless "fighting liberals" of the 50's. This aversion to voting for Democrats on the basis of national security is much more primal than that and it needs to be dealt with in the same way.
Yes, I had some ideas along these lines in November, just after the election:
...I think a significant percentage of Bush's vote went to him because of the persona he projects, and which, to those people who aren't apt to think in critical or skeptical terms, is strongly received and significantly influenced their vote. To these people, Bush appears to be a strong leader who knows what he wants to do and lets nothing get in the way of doing it. At the same time, he seems to them to be close enough to a "regular guy" that they believe they'd be comfortable sitting down next to him and having a beer, or having him over to the house for dinner.
Needless to say, these aspects of Bush's perceived persona are carefully crafted and almost certainly false. I've got no special personal knowledge of Bush's true character, but it's possible that my years of working in the theatre, watching and helping actors adopt, build, alter and finesse the characters they present to their audience may have trained me to be able to look behind the superficial presentation to see some of the true personality behind it. Or, perhaps I'm simply kidding myself -- but it is nonetheless true that I see behind Bush's projected personality a very different person, a hard, cruel and selfish man. I see it in his posture and body language, in the way he walks and his facial expressions. (I find that watching him with the sound off is one of the best ways to get in touch with the reality underneath the surface.)
So, if Bush's perceived personality was a significant factor in his victory, and I think it was, it leads to an obvious factor which is not, at least that I can currently see, being seriously considered as something we need to do to win the next Presidential election, and it has to do with the type of person we select as our candidate.
I think that the Democrats had better start looking outside the normal ranks of the party for their next Presidential candidate.
I look at Bush's persona advantage over Kerry, and I look at the reception that Schwazenegger got in Japan when he was on a trade mission there, and I look at Reagan and (to a certain extent) Ventura, and my conclusion is that the best hope we have of breaking the right-wing stranglehold on national politics is to run an actor for President.
What we need to do, I think, is to consider casting the role of President.
Yep, I'm advocating that we give in utterly and completely to the triumph of style over substance and groom a figurehead that people will like and vote for.
In 2008, we can't allow another persona gap with the Republicans.
There are, of course, other iconic archtypes that project strength and manliness beside the cowboy (Bush's chosen image reference -- the Texas ranch bought as a stage prop, "clearing brush" on vacation, etc.): the military leader, the hard-boiled detective, the strong businessman as rugged individualist, and so on. The mistake we made with Kerry (to the extent that it was a mistake -- I'll remind everyone that we lost the election by a nose) was that Kerry was a war hero, but he didn't look like one, and the prime lesson of modern politics is that it's a lot easier to break down facts (one simply lies outrageously and shamelessly over and over until your lies start to be preferred to the actual truth) than it is to break down image, which re-enforces itself minute by minute, day by day.
Ask any director who has to choose between two equally good actors for a role, which of them is most likely to get the part, and the answer will be the actor who looks right (or, as we say in the theatre, who "reads" the best).
The best of all possible worlds for our political purposes is, of course, someone who both looks and is the part -- an actual war hero who looks like a war hero; but if one cannot have both, then the hard lesson of contemporary American politics, one we've yet to completely learn (because, to our credit, we don't really want it to be true) is that the guy who looks the part is a better choice than the guy who is just better qualified for it.
So, really, the thing we can do next time around is fight fire with fire, and answer Bush's perceived persona of strength with another, equally strong one, and we need to cast our candidate with this in mind. No one who doesn't, in some manner, project strength, stability, steadfastness and the willingness and ability to use power when necessary need apply.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.