Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

16 November 2007

Gleams, Boos, and Historical Inevitability

The Democratic debate two weeks ago had three headlines. Last night’s had only two: gleams and boos.

The gleams were in the eyes of women as they contemplated Hillary’s presidency. I thought I saw them in almost every female eye, from the students and moms asking questions to the sole female moderator.

Was it my imagination? It could have been, but I don’t think so.

My conviction rose when I heard the boos. How many times have you heard a rabidly Democratic audience boo two of the party’s top three contenders for the presidency? I’ve never heard that before, and I’ve watched a lot of debates and conventions.

The boos came when Obama and Edwards offered Clinton mild criticism. I agreed with the substance of their criticism. But the substance and mild tone didn’t seem to matter to the audience; only the fact of criticism did.

Toward the end of the debate, Clinton got the inevitable question about playing the gender card. She handled it beautifully. She deftly conflated her own aspirations with women’s generally.

As she wound up her reply, Clinton described women in their nineties coming to her, filled with hope. They were born before women got the vote, she reported, and didn’t want to die before seeing a woman as president.

I had no sound meter with me, but I could have sworn that line got the loudest applause of the evening. Immediately afterward, Edwards chided Clinton for her wicked Washington ways. He got the loudest boos of the evening.

What struck me most was how obtuse the men were. Obama and Edwards—two of the smartest politicians in either party—treated Clinton like just another guy. Edwards even said that was the proper thing to do. It was as if they’d never read about Mars and Venus or argued with their wives. Political correctness submerged common sense, let alone what every husband knows instinctively about gender.

If I’m right about the gleams and boos, then this election is all but over. They reflect a growing female thirst and hope for victory. Women are beginning to understand the big number—51%—that is their share of the electorate. They are starting to feel their political power.

In the primaries, Obama, Edwards and the other males will split the anti-Clinton vote. A lot of men will vote for Clinton, too. Unless Obama can close the gender gap, Clinton will win the primaries decisively. As attack-dog-in-chief, Edwards is already out of the running. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Once she’s won the primaries, can Clinton win the general election? There’s been a lot of talk about her divisiveness and entrenched opposition to her candidacy. But I now wonder how much of that opposition—let alone the commentary on it—is male wishful thinking.

That fact is that Clinton is good enough to be president, especially after the disaster she will follow. I’ve noted her flaws on this blog, and I stand by my critiques. Obama is a once-in-two-generations candidate; I’d hate to see my party settle for second best. But I’d hate even more to watch our democracy go down the toilet under a two-bit Caesar or an authoritarian pseudo-religious frat boy. (If you appreciate a good nightmare, read the latest about Mitt’s upbringing. It’s perfect for Big Brother.)

So if Hillary wins the nomination, I will vote for her without much enthusiasm but with firm conviction that I’m doing the right thing. So will most Democrats and independents, male or female.

To win the general election, she needs the votes of more than half the men and women. The polls suggest that more than half the men are now Democrats or independents and will vote for her. The growing anti-Bush, anti-Cheney backlash will only increase her share of the male vote as time goes by.

As for the female vote, won’t Rudy’s or Mitt’s attacks in the general campaign produce the same result that Obama’s and Edwards’ did last night? Gender ju-jitsu doesn’t stop at party lines. If you don’t understand why more than half of women are likely to support Hillary in a secret ballot, regardless of party, then you haven’t thought seriously about all those gleams and boos.

Maybe there was something unusual in the air of Las Vegas or the university atmosphere there. But I don’t think so. If the truth be told, testosterone has not been a recipe for good government. Not only have we suffered through seven years of testosterone-fueled Texas swagger. Lest we forget, our beloved Bill threw away three years of what could have been a stellar presidency on a fling with a White House intern. After ten years of pathetic male blunders, it’s not hard to understand why women’s time has come, even if “their” candidate is imperfect.

I hope that my impression of last night is wrong. I still believe in Obama as, if not the sole, then our most likely salvation. But if the female tide I thought I saw last night is real, there is nothing that Obama, I or any other male can do about it. We had better get used to seeing a lot of Hillary and hoping for the best.

Postscript on Comments Below

Never have I been more delighted to be criticized than on reading the comments below. I hope that readers of this post will study every one of them (and more in the same vein that I hope will come), as well as the blog that Amalia referenced.

As I said above, I fervently hope my fears are wrong. I thought long and hard before publishing the above post. My wish not to harm Obama’s campaign warred with my personal integrity: my need to call things as I saw them. In the end, my integrity won, in part out of respect for Obama. He tells us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear, and I tried to do the same.

Of course I, too, thought Obama “won” the debate on substance. If you listen to what candidates say, not how they say it, he always does.

I particularly liked his succinct reply to Clinton’s blatant tax pandering on social security. While she decried a “trillion dollar tax increase”—taking a page right out of the Bush/Rove Book of Demagoguery—Obama dryly noted that raising the earnings cap on the social-security tax would hurt only the top six percent of earners. I’m in that six percent, and I certainly don’t want janitors and single moms making $20,000 a year carrying my water for me. That’s not just bad policy; it’s immoral.

As usual, Obama made several other wise and thoughtful remarks, including observations on the loaded question of human rights trumping national security. But to me, his superior analysis and honesty were an old story. The new story was the gleams, applause and boos. Unless Campbell Brown is an undiscovered Meryl Streep, I don’t think she could could fake the look on her face as she served Hillary her softball question on gender.

Those looks and the sound effects surprised me and disturbed me deeply. That’s why I thought they—not Obama’s usual victory on substance—were the headline. The ire and indignation of thinking women that my post provoked is music to my ears.

Two final points are worth mentioning. The thought that the audience and sound effects might have been manipulated occurred to me, but I had no evidence, only suspicion. If the Clinton campaign manipulated the audience or the sound effects, it should be investigated and exposed. The thought that Hillary’s campaign might do something so Bush-like—and so slickly—is truly frightening. Who would suspect that Big Brother might be a woman?

If, as is more likely, CNN’s own bias and complete lack of professionalism were responsible, there is little that anyone can do about that. Will the last professional and objective television news organization (other than PBS) please stand up?

Finally, to the extent my post stereotyped or underestimated women, I apologize. That certainly wasn’t my intent. But the whole nation inexplicably voted George W. Bush into office a second time, having had nearly four years to study his stupidity and bad character. Someone (I think it was P.T. Barnum) said that you never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. I don’t think there are any notable gender differences there.

In fact, there are good reasons to excuse women (and men) for supporting Hillary. It is past time for a female president; she’s a lot smarter than Bush; her heart is closer to the right place; she’s likely to appoint far better people; and she’s a Democrat. We might all have to swallow our distaste and support her in the general election, to avoid the far greater disaster of Rudy or Mitt in the White House.

There should be no gender differences in voting for the lesser of two evils. That’s no fun, but it’s a vital duty. If more people had done it in 1968, Nixon would have been an historical footnote, not our second-worst president. If more people had voted for Gore, rather than Nader, in 2000, so would George W. Bush. Then the War in Iraq would be historical speculation, not dismal fact.

We all have to be circumspect in pointing out Hillary’s deficiencies because we may have to support her next year. It’s hard to walk that fine line, but it’s necessary.

So the quest for an Obama presidency is a bit quixotic. It always has been. That doesn’t mean the fight is not worth while, or that Obama might not win. If my post provokes women to fight harder for him, it will have done its job.

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  • At Friday, November 16, 2007 at 1:22:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The boos from her supporters and the one side favor of CNN (Clinton News Network) shows that she is just like Bush's camp which is "my way or highway", "agree with me or shut-up", media manipulating styles. General people are just too stupid to realize that some questions can not be answer simply by yes or no. The world is not just black and white. I don't see why people think that Obama is loosing just because he refused to say yes or no to the driver license question. It seems that nowaday people tend to forget that smooth talkers are generally not telling the truth and the image driven performance is usually phony, pretentious.

  • At Friday, November 16, 2007 at 4:22:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I didn't think I'd ever say this, but you are dead wrong here. It was a pro-Hillary crowd, not some universal gang up from womanhood. Whether there were some shenanigans in who was let in, as many suspect, or the fact that Nevada polls high for Hillary, you saw a glimpse of a rude, distracting crowd allowed to turn a debate into a sporting-event-like spectacle. The after-debate analysis with Gergen and Carville (now that's real balance) made this yet one more example of the reason why so many call CNN the Clinton News Network.

    As a 56 year old woman and lifelong Democrat, I can tell you there are plenty of us out here who are seriously contemplating sitting this vote out for the first time in our lives if she is the nominee. I probably won't do it, but I think you are calling this WAY too early. And there are actually a lot of people saying that Obama did very well in this debate.

    The event was not a debate at all, actually. It was a circus. As far as I'm concerned there was only a loser last night and that was the American people.

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 12:53:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Jay, I have had incredible support for you since I found your site months ago! You are so smart and so articulate and most of the time when I read your blogs it seems that you have read my mind.

    But this time you are completely off base. I am a woman over 40 and I must tell you that there is no gleam in my eye for Hillary and that not a single woman I know supports Hillary.

    There is a gleam in my eye and in my heart - for Barack Obama, a man I greatly respect and admire, a breath of fresh air and a statesman. I am disgusted when Hillary plays the gender card. I don't feel she represents me in the campaign, and I would not feel represented by her if she were in the white house. The old political games are over; she just doesn't know it yet.

    When there is a woman president, I want her to be someone we can all be proud of. Hillary Clinton is not that person.

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 1:16:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You obviously do not read other blogs and such. If you did you would have read that the audience was stacked with clinton's political cronies in nevada. they were there to keep her from having to deal with any challenges from the guys.
    that whole debate was a sham put on to promote her and people are investigating this.
    As a democratic woman, the more I see clinton the more I am appalled by her and the fact that she is suppose to represent me?!? as a woman. hardly. She is a corporatist. And opportunist and an embarrassment to real democrats.
    Not all democratic women like her. Actually they abhor her and her tactics and what she stands for.
    I would be thrilled if a real democratic woman like Pelosi was running. But not the republican lite clinton with the hankering to imitate Karl Rove with her advisor Mark Penn ( I suggest you google him and read about his adventures and his clients)
    I will be thrilled in Jan. 2009 to see Barack Obama take the oath of office. this is a real progressive who actually stands for something and is the real deal.

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 1:19:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm sorry, Jay, but I am a woman and you are definitely NOT speaking for me.

    It embarasses me as a woman when I hear this. I agree that there are women out there who choose to ignore Hillary's corruption because they want to see a female president at any cost! That embarasses me and saddens me.

    But the good news is, not every woman has been seduced by her gender-heavy platform. There are plenty of intelligent, informed women who see through Hillary's facade.

    I want a female president, but not at any cost.

    I agree that Obama is our hope.
    Guess what, his support is solid.

    OBAMA '08

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 1:29:00 AM EST, Blogger Unknown said…

    Jay, while I am struck by what I've heard as the "emotional appeal of voting for the first woman President", the reality is that I won't be doing that for HRC.
    She may be a woman, but she is so much a part of the establishment that I feel disenfranchises all of us who have views that aren't currently represented inside of the Beltway.

    Here's a link to a blog that I wrote on this topic about two weeks ago. It resonates with many of my female friends and family, if that helps give your hope back.

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 3:55:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    uhhhh Jay....normally I'm with ya. On this one, I don't THINK so!!! NOT SO for this 43 year old Now and Planned Parenthood card carrying member who happens to also be one of the Iowa voters. While after doing some major research I've settled on my candidate, I've also found some major reasons NOT to choose Hillary; all of them based in facts. Even those who have not researched her know her issues and baggage. and LITERALLY, electability is what those I talk to cite as a reason for not supporting her; her lack of wisdom, her lack of understanding and empathy are also cited. Her frequent...shall we say questionable policies and inability to state one is also an issue.

    Did it occur to you (as was the case) that there was something wrong with the debate? Moved on the last day to a hall 1/10th the size it was scheduled to be in, half the tickets going to 'old school' Dems, hand selected by the Dem Committee, and half going to school administrators, with a sliver of them going to students AT A UNIVERSITY? Let me play cards with you, and let me stack the deck, and we'll see who wins the game and who feels better about how they played!

    Maybe the fact that she waffled even here on a number of issues, and that everyone pointed up this issue except Richardson, would have been pointed out if this would have had a moderator. Whoever that guy with the white beard and microphone who doesn't know what triangulating is was cool, but someone with some training would have helped.

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 9:51:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's very well known that the Nevada Democratic Party is pro-Clinton (Bill or Hillary). That so-called debate was staged for her from the moment it started to the second it ended with that planted question: Senator Clinton, diamonds or pearls? PUH-LEEZE! What happened in LV was hardly a debate, it was a dog and pony show with Wolf and Hillary as the key participants.
    I'm a 40-year-old woman, so please generalize when talking about all women supporting Hillary. Barack Obama is the only candidate for this woman!

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 10:45:00 AM EST, Blogger Daniel McKernan said…

    Jay, normally I agree with your posts. They are written very well with good sound judgements. This one however I feel you have totally missed the boat. I as a Democratic male would NEVER vote for Hillary. My wife, a Republican female says the same thing.

    I'm a little surprised that you seem to be taken in by the CNN circus that masqueraded as a presidential debate Thursday night.

    Do you really think that "booing" was a real reflection of how the audience felt? I for one found it much too scripted.

    Diamonds or Pearls? In my book it would have to be Opals for Obama!

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 11:02:00 AM EST, Blogger Jay Dratler, Jr., Ph.D., J.D. said…

    These comments are so important, and so encouraging, that I wrote a postcript to the blog about them. I hope I get more.


  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 11:24:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Jay,

    I am a women over 40 and an Obama supporter. I have yet to meet anyone, woman or otherwise, that supports HRC. In fact, at a recent family gathering, there were 3 generations of women in my family, ranging in age from 20's to 80's. The conversation turned towards the presidential candidates and my great aunt said she would never vote for her. And right on down the line, the other women in the room agreed.

    I was even taken aback at how strongly they felt about not voting for her.

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 11:39:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Many of my professional female friends have the same fears; if we elect the wrong female as 'first' it may hamper our chances of it happening again. The first female president is going to be a role model, if she screws up people are going to say that women aren't capable.

    In academia there are females who get positions because their husbands get offered a position at the University and he negotiates positions for both of them. Many times people receive tenure-track positions they are not really qualified for, because their spouse is real good (seen this for males and females, btw). They also get their name on papers and other perks that has more to do with proximity than ability.

    Hillary Clinton would not be running for president if she had married someone else. She was not at the top of her class at Yale. She would not get tenure on her own.

    I do not know any females who plan to vote for Hillary in the primaries. But most people I know are voting for Obama. He graduated Magna Cum Laude.

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 12:55:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    YEAHHH Jay! Addendum, the THIRD CNN consultant said that Obama won; Right there, big as life, on the website. He wasn't part of the post-debate discussion; why not? The booing audience was clearly intimidation and highly unprofessional.

    And I have to agree, that thus far Guiliani appears to be MUCH MORE (now what was my new word?) disingenuous than HRC.

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 1:03:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am a 60 year old woman and staunch Barack Obama supporter who was determined to help elect a democrat in 2008, even if the nominee was Hillary. I've changed my mind.

    Hillary is the wrong woman to represent me and be a roll model to my daughters and grandaughter. Her campaign filled with audience plants, questionable contributors, strong arm tactics to GQ and governors to block stories and change positions etc, etc. has confirmed my opinion that her presidency would bring more of the same in Washingotn once more, and clearly restore more of the "Clinton years."

    Last night my husband and I and another couple (all Bush supporters in 04, both husbands die-hard republicans)had dinner and to my GREAT suprise, the other couple both said they might vote for Barack; my husband has already said he will vote for him. I know none of them will vote for Hillary, and netiher will I. Hillary's presidency will set women back as the wrong woman president is much worse tham no woman president

    I am voting for the RIGHT PERSON to lead this country at this critcial junctue in our history, and that is Barack Obama!

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 4:32:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was an undecided voter before the Democratic debate in Las Vegas, but now I know I will not support Hillary Clinton. She planted questions at the debate, she intimidated the moderator beforehand, she stacked the audience with her stalwarts, and now she is covering up her so-so performance at the sham debate with a whisper campaign against Barack Obama. How hypocritical! Would she like it if the press dug into Bill Clinton’s post presidential sex life? How about using presidential pardons to raise funds? How about the illegal bundling by Norman Hsu? And she has the nerve to accuse John Edwards of throwing mud for talking about fixing health care? God, what is wrong with the news media? Clinton News Network indeed.

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 10:41:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hillary thinks she has the African American Women vote too. Wrong

    She has done nothing to support us or our issues even when in the House.

    Happy Birthday African Americans, Here's a NAFTA for you low on the totem pole earners. How about some more illegals with licenses to run in and out of our country when they commit violent crimes?

    Nope, the only thing the Clintons did was put them to work in the House.

    When she was asked to call in when the Jena 6 trial was in the news, this heiffer wouldn't even pick up the phone.

    Barack stayed on the issue for an hour and this is the ignoring or issues that is important to AA after 40 years of marching for equality and still recieving nooses to terrorise our elderly.

    I don't feel like having a Jerry Springer election cycle with Billary as the topic instead of America's issues that have been neglected by this government for far too long, Even the Clinton Years.
    I see they are great at counting money though, they are always wondering how much they can lay their hands on. If it means saying and doing anything to get Hillary in there, they will do it.

    Not on this AA's watch.
    I'm woman and she doesn't represent me.

  • At Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 11:59:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hillary most certainly does NOT inspire me. She's proven to be a deft politician, but Barack Obama is a once in a lifetime candidate, and much tougher than any of us realize. You don't get to where he's gotten, with a name like his, without being smart and tough. How he's managed to keep his integrity is a testament to his character. I'm over 40, female, and working in a profession with a "glass ceiling". I have never used my husband's career to advance my own. It's been all hard work, overcoming my own insecurity and learning in the school of hard knocks, but now I'm respected among my (male) peers. And I'm a mother of 3. That's feminism. And Hillary's no feminist.

  • At Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 1:42:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Seriously, I know it's BAD to let another Republican into the White House, but with Clinton on the ticket, you get to choose between two Republicans...both of them trying to out-neocon the other. I'm a 55-year-old woman who cut her teeth on the second wave of feminism and I agree with earlier posters...the wrong woman is worse than no woman for President.

    Clinton can't even handle a little heat from her Democratic opponents, how on earth could she handle the heat from the Republicans? She doesn't stand on her own two legs. When she gets in trouble, Bill has to come to her rescue. Not a role model I'd recommend for any gender.

    I read a wonderful comment by Athena on another blog that said Clinton wants the American people to fight her battle with the Republicans for her. What kind of leadership is that?

    This woman will be voting for Barack in the General Election, one way or another.


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