March 24, 2006

"In an environment where people are disgusted with politics in general, who represents clean and change?"

"Women."

So says Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He's a male, but he's hoping to harness the power of women candidates for the sake of the "Mommy Party," to use the term chosen for the subheadline for the paper version of the linked article that appears on the front page of today's NYT. The headline, by contrast, is "Women Wage Key Campaigns for Democrats," which sounds rather warlike and unmommyish.
The seats for which Democratic women are running this year are among the 24 held by Republicans that are classified by the Cook Political Report, an independent analyst, as either "tossups" or "lean Republican" — a key measure of competitiveness....

...Democratic strategists hope to frame these midterm races as a classic change-versus-status-quo election — which, they say, makes women, running as outsiders against a "culture of corruption," the perfect messengers.

Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster working for three female House candidates this year, said, "If you want to communicate change, honesty, cleaning up Washington, not the same old good old boys in Washington, women are very good at communicating that."

Officials at the Democratic campaign committee said that along with Emily's List and other women's groups, they had made a point of encouraging and recruiting women as candidates this year.

"This didn't just happen," Mr. Emanuel said.
Do we women really have such a strong image of cleanliness and honesty? Image unavoidably plays an important role in political campaigns, but are we happy about blatant stereotyping like this? And is this another one of those places where you think it's acceptable as long as you express your stereotype about women in positive terms?

There is negative implicit in every one of your positives. You say "clean" and "honest" and "change," and I hear "naive" and "inexperienced" and "ineffectual." Spare me your patronizing blather.

43 comments:

AllenS said...

I need Hillary to tell me how she took $1000 and made the cattle futures investment into a $100,000 bonanza. It doesn't get any cleaner than that.

Jack Wayne said...

The article clearly goes off track when in a typical NYT moment, they refer to Charlie Cook as an independent analyst.

Craig Ranapia said...

Couldn't put it better myself, Professor Althouse. I must admit my first response to Emanuel's "patronising blather" was, "I've been going potty like a big boy for thirty years."

MadisonMan said...

This is an interesting topic. I do think that our representative Ms. Baldwin is likely cleaner than the other Wisconsin Reps. And the only difference is that she's a woman. If I see a candidate "running for change!", however, I don't think the gender will matter to me.

I guess I think the good ol' boys network in DC corrupts the boys a lot faster than the girls. Even though I have no real evidence to that effect.

Bruce Hayden said...

Maybe some might be sucked in by this. But realistically, it is silly to suggest that women are any cleaner than men are, and it is probably fruitless for the Democrats to be pushing this message with Hillary and Pelosi out as figure heads for the party.

As noted by another poster, Hillary has a big problem in this area, starting with the cattle futures, and extending through billing records and looting the White House on the way out the door. Add in all those last minute presidential pardons of her big campaign contributors and you don't get a very pretty picture.

Ann Althouse said...

Madisonman: "Even though I have no real evidence to that effect."

Exactly. You have your stereotypes. Which hurt women too.

And this is a case of men like Emanuel looking for ways to further their own power by harnessing the image of women that they propound for their own political advantage.

I say let go of OUR image. I don't trust them.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Balfegor said...

There is negative implicit in every one of your positives. You say "clean" and "honest" and "change," and I hear "naive" and "inexperienced" and "ineffectual."

Well, you may hear that -- and I agree with the other comments here that this is a pretty superficial way of trolling for votes. But the idea of "woman" does have positive-connotation associations along these lines; the possible negative flip-side you highlight (e.g. "naive," in particular--I'm thinking Ibsen's Dollhouse here) may also be part of that image, but there's positive associations with "naive" too -- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington type stuff. It may be a matter of:

And this is a case of men like Emanuel looking for ways to further their own power by harnessing the image of women that they propound for their own political advantage.

But it's not like they created that image. It's one that's been shaped by Victorian sensibilities, burnished by modern feminism.

Milwaukee39 said...

Dare I say, these positive stereotypes of women are unfair to men as well.

yetanotherjohn said...

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

I think the same can be said about the chromosones and charachter.

Pogo said...

If he is so convinced of this truth, why doesn't Rep. Emanuel step down, and allow a woman to succeed him?

Maybe Martha Stewart could better advise him on choosing a replacement, but I hear Debra Lafave is looking for work.

bill said...

Another translation: "Sure, we'll let the women into politics, but they'll still have to clean up after the men."

bearbee said...

"Maybe Martha Stewart..."

Ah yes, Martha and how 'bout Imelda and Leona.

On the other hand Golda and Margaret, regardless of their politics, were strong, tough and outstanding.

Interesting article Women speak up -- big names go down

"Women may like to think they're more honest and ethical than their male counterparts, but the answer is more complicated --..."

tiggeril said...

Mommy party? For Christ's sake, I don't want politicos to wipe my nose and make sure I'm wearing a jacket when I go outside. I want them to get stuff done. My actual mother is overbearing enough.

Jonathan said...

Corruption! Yes, that's the big issue of the day. Ex-Clintonite Emanuel ought to know.

I await the mommy party's proposal for dealing with fundamentalist Islam.

Freeman Hunt said...

Do we women really have such a strong image of cleanliness and honesty?

BWAHAHA

Cleanliness. . . maybe. Not really though. But honesty? There is a stereotype that women are particularly honest, moreso than men? I must have missed that one.

I am a woman, and it's been my experience that anyone trying to cater to me by my gender is only going to disgust me and piss me off. I hate being patronized to. I heard the same things Ann did in what he said.

Tom C said...

The "Mommy Party" thing made me cringe when I read it. I actually wondered if there were Republicans behind the label. Talk about the last damn thing we need. NO ONE likes to be told what to do by their "mommy", at least no one old enough to vote. Sheesh.

But the other issue is complex. Stereotyping always seems to come down to this: the variance among individuals is larger than the variance between groups. Highlighting a few "bad girls" doesn't negate the hypothesis that there are group differences; show me some facts that disprove that elected women (as a group) are less corrupt than men (as a group). You might have some trouble on that score.

SteveR said...

Why does the need for "clean and honest" only apply to a a few republicans. If that is a worthy virture, than ther are several hundred of both parties he should be lining up for.

You mean its not really about clean and honest, just a political tactic?

This is 2006, shouldn't we be about the best person by now?

I wonder who he learned from?

Goesh said...

Gun molls, basic crooks and con artists, bootleggers, madams, drug dealers and crooked card dealers - they have 'em all the women do. I have never seen the men having a monopoly these many years of my life. Women tend not to molest children as often as men do - I'll give them credit for that much. Only a jackass would try to pander to women in this manner. It will backfire.

L. Ron Halfelven said...

In an environment where people are disgusted with grammatical parallelism in general, who represents (adjective) and (noun)?

James R Ament said...

Tiggeril said: "Mommy party? For Christ's sake, I don't want politicos to wipe my nose and make sure I'm wearing a jacket when I go outside. I want them to get stuff done. My actual mother is overbearing enough."

Good point about the "mommy" bit; but I'd like it if the politicos would actually STOP doing stuff - Dump a few departments, reduce the reach a few agencies (where our fourth branch of government resides).

CB said...

Paul Zrimsek,
"Clean" and "change" are also both verbs. An unconscious--or subliminal--reference to houses and diapers?

Patrick Martin said...

That's a very old idea. Check out this picture of some old suffragette signs I saw on display at the Newseum in Washington. One banner says: "Objection: Women are TOO PURE for the DIRTY POOL of politics." Its companion says: "Answer: If the Pool is dirty THE TIME HAS COME TO CLEAN IT. Women have had Long Experience Cleaning up after Men."

David said...

On a local level I find that women usually are better elected officials. I have worked with over 200 Wisconsin communities, so I have some experience with mayors, chairs and presidents. At the state level, generally they are even with the men. Equally bad or good.

AJ Lynch said...

I have heard Rahm Emanuel was paid more than $10 Million on Wall Street in less than the two years he was out of government.

And notice I wrote "was paid" as opposed to "earned" which is what most of the rest of do.

Does anyone know how the actual amount can be verified?

jinnmabe said...

Sometimes I'm amazed by the continued stereotyping. I mean, if someone has a negative view of blacks or Jews, it's possible that they don't know any blacks or Jews, and this allows the stereotype and prejudice to be their only source of information. But women? I know too many women to think these types of broad generalization have any merit. Women are as different and varied as men are (and thank goodness for that).

Elizabeth said...

They're running on the Victorian ticket, only the Angel is moving to the Houses of Congress. That madonna on a pedastal thing is as harmful to women as gangsta rap's "ho" complex.

I am happy to see more women run; the percentage of women representatives is away too low. But this is a shallow appeal. But it's politics. Katherine Harris is running on a "widow's mite" platform, so I'm not surprised by anything in that world.

LarryK said...

The Democrats are throwing everything they can find at the wall and seeing if it will stick. This one won't stick - female politicians aren't exactly exotic anymore - and may even backfire.

Gaius Arbo said...

Well, what a surprise. A really, really, really dumb idea from a Democratic strategist.
This will backfire very, very badly. It is transparent pandering and I rather doubt women in general are going to be at all pleased with it.
My own personal sanity checker (my wife) says it is the stupidest idea yet.

bearbee said...

First time I recall having heard of Rahm Emanuel but USA Today has the following:

Emanuel, in his first congressional financial disclosure filing, reported earning $9,678,775 in deferred and other compensation alone in 2002 from Wasserstein Perella and Co., an investment banking firm.

Google brings up some pretty off the wall gossip....

AJ Lynch said...

Bearbee:
You Da Man! Is that OK to say here? I was pretty darn close with my $10 Million estimate.

So, maybe Emanual is really not the guy to be recruiting woman to act as his surrogate stone-throwers.

And I doubt Rahnm is happy that his Wall Street paycheck is being discussed here!

tiggeril said...

JRAment:Good point about the "mommy" bit; but I'd like it if the politicos would actually STOP doing stuff - Dump a few departments, reduce the reach a few agencies (where our fourth branch of government resides).

That's stuff that needs to be done, no? I'm still right. ;)

bearbee said...

This interesting site Open Secrets provides data including personal finance info on members of Congress

hoosthere said...

Indeed, tiggeril, it very much needs to be done. The problem is the "mommy" party is typically not inclined to do so.

This is not to tar "Mommy"'s...but am I alone that when I heard "The Mommy Party" I heard a Fruedian admission of nanny-statism?

It's an almost priceless example of how some liberals (but not all) see the world: "we (the parents, i.e. the 'Mommy', know better than you do, so let us just be the adults, and take care of all you little children, and give you your allowance and make sure you do everything right."

I mean, conservatives everywhere just have to be laughing at this guy!

SippicanCottage said...
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L. Ron Halfelven said...

"Clean" and "change" are also both verbs.

True-- though as such, they're no more capable of being represented than any other infinitive. Good point about the babies; if Emanuel wants to represent cleaning and changing, that's his lookout. Perhaps he could make a high-sounding speech about Manifest Desitin.

Eli Blake said...

I wonder,

How is this different from the efforts by the Republican party to recruit African-American candidates for this election cycle?

Oh yeah, I forgot. When Democrats do it, it's 'patronizing.' When Republicans do it, it's a 'big tent.'

Balfegor said...

I may be wrong about this, but isn't the "mommy" party "daddy" party thing originally PJ O'Rourke? I think it is.

Berkeley Linguist George Lakoff has also used the characterisation though, no? And people (well, Democrats) are turning to him for strategy now about how to frame their arguments to persuade people.

How is this different from the efforts by the Republican party to recruit African-American candidates for this election cycle?

Oh yeah, I forgot. When Democrats do it, it's 'patronizing.' When Republicans do it, it's a 'big tent.'


I don't know, I don't think this is really a pitch for women here. Democrats already have (or used to have) a slight edge on female votes, no?

That said, though, if Republicans went after Black voters by appealing to crude stereotypes about Blacks, I think we would say it was ham-handed and patronising. It's not the fact that Democrats may be appealing to female voters that gets it under "patronising." It's the reliance on antique Victorian stereotypes that does.

Elizabeth said...

Eli and Balfegor,

Your discussion sums up the core of this nicely. It would be a glass-house thing for Republicans to crow about this as if they don't have their own patronizing politics, and what's patronizing here isn't the decision to get more women on the ticket, but the whole Mommy Party godawfulness.

I'm a grown up. I'm sick of Mommy AND Daddy. Where is the political party for adults hiding? Or is that a contradiction in terms? Must government be parental, from one perspective or another?

Balfegor said...

what's patronizing here isn't the decision to get more women on the ticket, but the whole Mommy Party godawfulness.

Aha -- I have thought of the proper Republican parallel. If Republicans were relying on the trope of the Magic Negro in recruiting Black candidates, that would be a full-on analogue.

reader_iam said...

Contemplating the prospect of having to listen to cringe-inducing tripe like this throughout the election season makes me want to, well, cry for my mommy.

I don't wanna go that party! I wanna stay home!

David said...

The SECRET is Victoria's and it is a HOT FLASH.

My vote is for Condi!

Elizabeth said...

Allen, while you're looking into that Hillary deal, maybe you can find out how Babs Bush gets to make a tax-deductable donation to the Katrina relief, and direct that it be spent on a product made by a company in which she invests. Nice work! Now we know who those Bush boys get their business ethics from.