Monday, March 27, 2017

Where Have All The Women Gone? The US Politics Media After The Women's Marches.

I have an almost irresistible desire to headline this post "Go, Horsey, Go."  Why would this be the case (other than my usual unusual sense of humor)?

Thomas Groome, a professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, has written an opinion column for the New York Times on what the Democratic Party should do next.  The headline writers chose to label it "To Win Again, Democrats Must Stop Being the Abortion Party."

Groome himself argues that the Democrats could win if only they acknowledged the moral ambiguity of abortion, that wretched business, the complexity of the decision to abort a pregnancy and if they paid more attention to the feelings devout Catholics have about abortion, what with their church telling them to have those feelings, and, finally, if they began expressing greater support for adoption as an alternative to abortion.

That's not the same as the trumpeting in the headline, but of course calling the Democratic Party the abortion party will get many more readers for Groome's column.

Let's set aside that none of the moves Groome proposes will work as long as the Republican Party is for forced-birth in almost all circumstances.  Let's, instead, focus on a wider question which greatly interests me (heh) after the 2016 elections:

Why do certain opinions, certain stances and certain voters get such enormous attention when our media cover politics and others do not?  

Remember Mark Lilla's earlier NYT opinion piece which told us that the Democratic Party must drop its identity politics (= must stop promoting equal rights for women and/or minorities) if it ever wants to attract white men?

Go, horsey, go.

And you certainly remember the myriad stories covering the forgotten white working class voters* who joyously pressed the button for Trump, thus guaranteeing a dismal future for themselves but perhaps an even more dismal future for those "others?"

But you are unlikely to remember stories about African-American women voting for Hillary Clinton in enormous numbers and you are unlikely to read about the work that group is doing to keep the Democratic Party going, because those are not the stories that are published.

Well, we knew all about that already and in any case it's the shock of the white working class Trump voters that requires an explanation.

And that's true.  But note that Trump really won because he got almost all the usual Republican votes.  If those Republicans, or some sizable group of them, had abstained from voting or had voted for Clinton, then the behavior of relatively small groups of white working class voters in trigger states would have gone utterly unreported.

Still, I think something deeper is operating in what gets attention in the media, including the social online media.  Consider the attention that was given to the Women's Marches, with an estimated attendance of three million.  

That attention was respectable, but fleeting, and I don't see much follow-up about what those women are doing now, what organizations they are building, how they are using their great power of large numbers.

Compare that to this article on the "new left media," as an example.  Note the references to the numbers these new media sites attract:  Two thousand subscribers of a magazine, 11 000 subscribers to a podcast.  Then note that the Chapo Trap House (which jokes, among other things, about fail-sons and success-daughters**), say,  is described as "a darkly funny roundtable podcast made up of mostly Brooklynite, mostly male 20- and 30-somethings."

Go, horsey, go.

I finally understand my sick subconsciousness!  What all the examples share, in a somewhat ambivalent way, is the view that the New Alternative must look like the Old Alternative, that we must invent better buggy whips, that we must prioritize the same groups for leadership who have always done the leading in the past.  

No, cars will not be invented, no,  women's reproductive choice or equal rights do not matter, no, black female Democrats, the real base of the party, shall remain mostly invisible but shall still do a lot of the grunt work.  

Or we assume that they will do that grunt work, just as Groome in his opinion piece assumes that if only the Democratic Party spoke about abortion as the wretched business it is and put less effort into reproductive rights then lots of religious Catholics would vote Democratic and not a single woman of any religious stripe would leave the party or abstain from voting.

That is the odd smell in our political air. 


*  Even those stories tend to slightly tilt toward male concerns:  The plot often begins with the factories leaving, factories which allowed white working-class men to have good, family-supporting jobs, and then moves to how the lives of those men were later destroyed by divorce, addiction and hopelessness.  It's not that women aren't mentioned, but the stories I have read (and I have read many) never start with that story from a female angle.

** This so reminds me of one of the birthing nests from which Alt Right men come from:  The misogynistic Internet sites.  Those men openly call themselves beta males, the ones who can't get the women ranked ten by Trump, the women they believe they deserve to get, and the cause for that failure is feminism which allows women not to barter sex for food and lodgings but lets them succeed on their own hard work.

I am NOT equating Alt Right and some created concept of Alt Left, and I am not stating that I wouldn't agree with many of the messages in the new left media.

All I want to do in this piece is to point out how we (and that includes men and women) turn certain groups invisible by what we see as important developments and whose interests and leadership might drive those developments.