Well, what a week that was. It started last Saturday, when I attended the San Francisco version of the Rally to Restore Sanity. Several hundred people were there to wave ironic signs and watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert clown around on a big video screen; best part for me was at the end, watching Mavis Staples sing “I’ll Take You There” with backing from Kid Rock(?!) and the scary Mooslim formerly known as Cat Stevens. I love Stewart; I think he does more actual journalism than most of the media whores on the networks, and he and Colbert have the sharpest takes on the political system of anyone in infotainment, but I think Will Bunch nails it:
From the stage we saw a tacit endorsement of the dangerous notion of false equivalencies — the very concept that in a phony quest for journalistic balance caused the news media to give equal weight or greater weight to unsupported spin, not just for the war in Iraq but its cheerleading financial coverage before the 2008 crisis that Stewart demolished on his own show. “The press is our immune system,” Stewart said in his closing speech on Saturday. “If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker–and, perhaps, eczema.” But that’s only part of the puzzle — on way too many critical issues the last 10 years, neither the press nor the public has reacted enough, particularly to ideas that are lacking in reason. It’s stunning that Stewart of all people — who became a national comedic icon in that 2003-04 era, in large part by calling attention to that “Mess O’ Potamia” that the mainstream media was largely content to ignore — would forget where the road to insanity started.
The scary part is that central to Stewart’s message on Saturday was what one of best media critics around — the New York University professor Jay Rosen — calls “the view from nowhere,” the same kind of high-minded pooh-pooing of the messy fray of actual democracy, including passion and commitment that involves fighting in the muck of ideas, that the kind of people who gathered on the National Mall once detested from the likes of the punditocracy’s naysayer-in-chief, David Broder.
On Monday, I watched the teevee as the collection of misfists, castoffs, and pot-smoking hippies known as the San Francisco Giants won the championship of professional baseball of the entire world (North American division). As an unabashed and long-suffering Giants fan, I greatly enjoyed their improbable ride to the World Series over the past month or so. It made life much more bearable, and almost enjoyable, and totally numbed me to what I knew was about to transpire on the following day.
Tuesday, of course, was election day, and as expected the Republican Tea Party won every contest for every elected office in America, from dogcatcher all the way up to Chief Scumbag of the House. Actually, the GOP did about as well as was expected in a mid-term in the middle of the worst recession since 1929, especially considering their dickless competition, the Democratic Pussy Party, which failed to deal with the foreclosure crisis in any meaningful way, and managed to get only a half-as-much-as-needed stimulus passed, while half-assing health care and financial reform, despite holding huge majorities in both the House and Senate. One place the Goopers missed entirely was the Liberal Fascist tribal homeland of California, where not a damn Republican was elected to anything, in spite of Meg Whitman spending $140 million of her own money (how many jobs could that have paid for, Megs?) to get only 42% of the vote. And like EMeg, most of those Ladies Against Women (dubbed by their leader Sarah Palin the “Mama Grizzlies”) that were poised to join the boy’s club came up short (more on that later).
On Wednesday it was back to San Fran for the huge victory parade and rally, which drew approximately 100 times more people than the biggest Tea Party or Glen Beck Rally. Most pleasing to me, besides the strong smell of reefer that wafted over the crowd, were the lusty boos directed at Gov. Terminator, who forgot how enormously unpopular he was as he attempted to bask in the reflected glory of the Giants. Not today, Arnold.
Back to the election: something I was noticing a few weeks ago was how many anti-feminist women there were running for office this year under the GOP banner. We’ve had them in years past, of course; long before Palin’s trainwreck in 2008, women like the batshit crazy Michelle Bachmann, the totally unhinged Jean Schmidt, and the downright creepy Virginia Foxx were already haunting the halls of Congress. What makes these women want to run for political office, with all of the ambition and cold-bloodedness which that entails, when they profess biblically-based beliefs in the second-class nature of women? Shouldn’t they just stay home, shut up, and let their husbands do the dirty work of governing, as Jesus (or at least Paul) commanded? No, actually Jesus told them to run, so that they could deny other women ownership of their own bodies, derail medical care and unemployment benefits to struggling families, and turn back the clock on every civil rights accomplishment of the past century – every one, that is, except for the right of women to vote, and consequently to hold office.
Clearly, part of why these women run is to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the GOP to succeed in a niche role: that of being a minority, while supporting (rich) (white) (heterosexual) male dominance (think Log Cabin Republicans, or Michael Steele). As Amanda Marcotte puts it:
For many women in rightwing families and marriages, doing anything more than quietly entertaining the most conservative feminist positions would be disastrous. For other rightwing women, it’s a narrowly self-interested calculation – there are rewards for women who reject feminism and promote male dominance. They may still be second-class citizens, but they get to be considered “good girls” and may even be given more liberties than rebellious women. And that goes a long way towards explaining how the religious right, which teaches that women belong at the home, still blesses hard right women who make a political career for themselves: by complying with and promoting a patriarchal ideology, these women get a pass on their ambitions which they wouldn’t get if they embraced a version of feminism that challenged the premises of that community.
2010 was not kind to them, however – EMeg and CarlyFornia, both CEOs, part of a new class of Republican women who were running as corporatist conservatives, while paying lip service to the Tea Party bullshit; Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle, Tea Party favorites who were clearly not ready for prime time; even Blanche Lincoln, nominal Democrat who tried to out-conservative the Republicans – all lost, and lost big. Marcotte attributes it to the “curse of the Mama Grizzly,” and the very contradictions inherent in an anti-feminist female candidate:
Candidates bestowed with this label were supposed to clean up at the polls, not just picking up the traditionally conservative male vote but also sweeping up some more left-leaning women by simply being female. In reality, Mama Grizzlies performed below expectations in many high-profile races. Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell lost, and Nikki Haley in South Carolina barely squeaked by with 51 percent of the vote in one of the most conservative states in the country.
The main problem with Mama Grizzly candidates is that they present a contradiction, laying claim to feminism while denouncing most feminist ideals. Sarah Palin, with her peculiar genius, created the term Mama Grizzly to rationalize this contradiction. The Mama Grizzly could be ambitious without being feminist, could be fierce without being threatening, because her feminist means are in service of anti-feminist ends. To an extent, the metaphor worked. But the contradiction hurts Mama Grizzlies in two major ways.
First, the contradiction sits uneasily with the true believers of the Christian right… Fundamentalist Christian beliefs are highly motivating to the strongly conservative in our country, and one of those beliefs is that women shouldn’t work outside the home or outrank their husbands in any way. Abandoning such a rock-solid belief for political expedience is clearly easy for many of these believers, especially when candidates such as Sharron Angle rationalize their choices by pointing out that they have no children at home. Still, for many fundamentalist Christians, a woman who displays ambitions is, by definition, not conservative enough…
This contradiction exposed why it’s so critical to the fundamentalist worldview that women stay at home and abandon ambition. In this world, women are supposed to be the light, the caretakers, the homemakers, those who smooth feathers and wipe brows. Aggression, meanness, ambition, and even lustiness are considered more masculine traits, even by the public at large… The longer the public stares at a Mama Grizzly, the more painful the contradiction between her ideals of femininity and her actual behavior.
As for the part about “sweeping up some more left-leaning women by simply being female:” not long before the election, molly told me she wished she could support Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, because she wanted to see more women running for office, and winning. “But I really, really hate both of them,” she said. “They’re both really awful.” Yes, they are. And they’re losers, too.