02 July 2008

The ID politickers' Dolchstosslegende

The Mahablog links to this article at the Guardian's Comment is Free blog by two American bloggers dragging out the argument that traitorously sexist liberals cost Clinton the Dem nomination. (This is a favorite saw of McEwan in particular; Stalinist purging of 'faux-gressives' insufficiently loyal to her brand of feminism is pretty much all she does these days.)

Sometime in the last decade, her liberal foes evidently decided that whole "malevolent, power-mad shrew" thing sounded pretty good, too.

Throughout the course of the Democratic primary, it was neatly repackaged as "wildly ambitious person who will do anything in her voracious quest to win including destroying the Democratic Party while cackling monstrously and whose womanness totally doesn't matter we swear." The classic misogynist charge once used against Clinton by the vast right-wing conspiracy became the rallying cry of large swaths of the erstwhile reality-based community.

I try not to be one of those people who think feminists will recast any and all criticism of a woman as being somehow sexist, but this is stretching it. If it looked to you like Clinton ran a disorganized, entitled campaign that became increasingly destructive and desperate for ideas the further behind she fell, it's evidently because you were just thinking with your penis. Sexist tropes can still be true in individual cases, otherwise the descriptions become meaningless. To suggest a woman can never be power-mad is itself a curious perversion of feminism; claiming women aren't vulnerable to the same vices as men.

The rest of the article is a hodgepodge of accusations that liberals supposedly defended Bill for certain things they then used to attack Hillary, thus proving we are OMG Teh Sexist! This is a gross oversimplification of the way many liberals felt about the Clinton presidency. While many may have defended him from the more extreme wild goose chases of the right, a sizable portion was tepid about it, and felt that their enormous influence in dragging the Democrats rightward ought to be stopped. I felt at the start of the campaign that anyone who could manage to emerge as a serious alternative to Clinton would get a major boost from liberals looking to exorcise the Clinton stranglehold on the party, and that's precisely what happened.

Obviously, there was a great mass of sexist slop dumped on Clinton by the mainstream press, far more than would be directed at any other female politician, which I've never really understood. And women candidates in general have to deal with frequent double-standards in press coverage (I have to groan every time I hear some journo go on and on about what a female politician is wearing; as if they'd have the same enthusiasm for clothes on a man). But none of that is really germane to what's being argued here; that pernicious liberal sexism did Clinton in.

All of this posturing ignores the staggering fact that Clinton lost to an African-American man. Named Barack Obama. In America. Whatever votes she may have lost to sexism, there's compelling reason to believe she gained scores more from racism. But people neck-deep in identity politics have a history of getting caught in the snare of the Oppression Olympics; competing with like-minded factions to see whose narrow theodicy will win out.