Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Big, Swaggering , Rascally He-Men. Or A Few Presidential Election Thoughts.

Some Echidne thoughts about the 2016 US presidential primaries:

1.  Ted Cruz, the forced-birth fundamentalist has aborted his run, and Donald Trump is now the winner in the Republican field,  even in the eyes of others than himself.

His run reminds me of the time when my sainted pointer, Henrietta the Hound, was chasing a squirrel in the woods (yes, I yelled various commands at her to stop) and realized that she was actually going to catch the critter, which she didn't want to do.  So she started running in place, to give the squirrel time to climb up a tree.  It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

I don't see how Trump could run in place that way, which means that we are in for a very interesting and vicious election campaign season.

2.  George Will, a Republican columnist, urges his party to do its utmost to keep Trump out of the White House.  Just think of that!  He opposes the winning candidate of his own party.

The roots of this fiasco can be found in the history of the Republican Party.   It has struggled with the problem of getting enough people to vote for the goals of the wealthy elite without being admitted into that elite.

One solution has been to fan the flames of the culture wars by pointing accusing fingers at  all sorts of other groups except the wealthy elite.  It's the fault of those people!  Get them!

And it has worked.  But it has also been a bit like riding a hungry tiger which is fed only promises.  One day the rider will fall off the back of the tiger, and the tiger is very hungry.

You can figure out what might happen then, because that day has arrived.

3.  Maureen Dowd, a Democratic columnist, argues that Donald Trump might be less hawkish than Hillary Clinton, based on Trump's own assertion that he had always been against the Iraq war.  It turns out that Trump probably wasn't against the Iraq war earlier, but never mind.  And never mind all his blustering about what he would do to the terrorists' family members and so on.

Dowd's recent column isn't about that, not really.  It's about the same thing all her columns are when Hillary Clinton appears in them:  That compared to any male politician you might name it is Hillary Clinton who is the more macho one, the more masculine one, the manlier one, the more ambitious one, the more hawkish one*.  And so even The Donald becomes almost feminine in Dowd's eyes, almost a little white dove.

Dowd has used this trick in the past to "shame" Democratic male politicians. But its main use, in my opinion, is a schoolyard bullying move.  Dowd bullies Clinton, because the victims of girls who bully tend to be other girls.

Her recent column on the supposed greater hawkishness of Hillary Clinton is a hilarious mess of various terms and definitions relating to gender and biological sex and even what might be a kind of sexual preference.

She begins with a nod to the idea of gender fluidity (using the concept of gender identity), then denies any of that in the juxtaposition of Hillary and Donald ("the most stark X versus Y battle since Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs").  Those two, Dowd argues, are battling each other as the ur-masculine Donald vs. the pseudo-feminine Hillary.  Poor Hillary, she can't even do femininity quite right in this chromosome-defined definition of gender and sex.

What comes next?  A shift to something quite different:  "Trump’s most ardent supporters, white men, are facing off against Hillary’s most loyal supporters, black women."

Notice the odd jump to statistical data about sex and race? 

But that's not the only odd jump.  Later in the column Dowd partly flips those rigid and essentialist sex roles upside down:  Donald is now the more dovish one,  Hillary the more hawkish one:

On some foreign policy issues, the roles are reversed for the candidates and their parties. It’s Hillary the Hawk against Donald the Quasi-Dove.
Just as Barack Obama seemed the more feminized candidate in 2008 because of his talk-it-out management style, his antiwar platform and his delicate eating habits, always watching his figure, so now, in some ways, Trump seems less macho than Hillary.
He has a tender ego, pouty tweets, needy temperament and obsession with hand sanitizer, whereas she is so tough and combat-hardened, she’s known by her staff as “the Warrior.”

This isn't about gender identity, and it isn't about essentialist views on men and women.  It's about shaming someone for not behaving according to traditional gender role scripts.

But Dowd doesn't stop there.  She adds a weird speculation about what kind of men  Hillary Clinton might find appealing:

As secretary of state, she hit it off with Gen. Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus. And she loved to have a stiff drink with Bob Gates and John McCain.
She has a weakness for big, swaggering, rascally he-men.
That was such fun!  Either Clinton is a big, swaggering, rascally he-man or she adores them, and if the latter, what then?

The column may have begun with an argument against gender fluidity in this "battle of the sexes," but Dowd's definitions of "gender" certainly have an odd fluidity.  "Gender" is everything from a dessert topping to a floor polish.  Where she shows no fluidity at all is in her premise that there is a certain traditional way men should behave and a certain traditional way women should behave.


* Dowd defines certain characteristics as feminine and others as masculine.  Men are not allowed to show any of the former without losing face,  and women are not allowed to show any of the latter without losing face.  If power is seen as a masculine characteristics, then all female politicians are going to face the wrath of Maureen Dowd.

That smells of schoolyard thinking, too, the kind of policing pre-teens and teens aim at their peers.