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“Why I Want It All”: Gloria, Madeleine And We

The last time I stood in front of Gloria Steinem, in the fall of 2012, she spent little time talking to me.

Instead, she trained her laser-focus on the 24-year-old woman next to me. This was my daughter, whose favorite doll in early childhood was a blonde Cabbage Patch girl named Gloria Steinem.

We were in Hartford for a sold-out panel discussion for the Connecticut Forum — featuring Ashley Judd, Michelle Bernard, Gloria and me — on “The State of Women.” When Cait heard that I would be less than two hours from her home in Providence, she considered driving up. When I told her Gloria Steinem was also on the panel, I closed the deal.

What I remember most about that evening was the glow on my daughter’s face as Gloria leaned in and asked her about her life. I couldn’t recount a word of their exchange, but I will never forget the full-circle joy that blurred my vision.

I share this story not to excuse what Gloria said on Bill Maher’s show last week but to explain why I won’t let one clumsy comment diminish who I know her to be.

Maher asked her why so many young women are supporting Bernie Sanders. She has since apologized for this response: “Women get more radical as we get older. Men tend to get more conservative because they gain power as they age, and women get more radical because they lose power as they age. … When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”

I understand the angry response of many young women, but when the outrage turns to rancor and declarations of her irrelevance, I bristle. Gloria Steinem has been a steadfast champion of this millennial generation of women, many of whom have likely never said her name aloud before this week. At 81, she has earned our benefit of the doubt.

It didn’t help that, in the same weekend, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stood next to Hillary Clinton and warned younger women, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” She has said the same thing countless times, often to rapturous cheers, but her timing was off.

At 58, I’m young enough to have found Steinem and Albright inspiring for many years. I even admire their impatience in this presidential year. It is comforting to see a small part of me in my heroes.

How to explain this? I think about that a lot. It’s not that I believe young women have to support Hillary Clinton. I just want them to understand why it’s so personal for many of us who do. We can rattle off all Clinton’s qualifications as the reasons to elect her, and we mean it. But there’s also the woman-ness of it all. Why are we still such a tough sell, even to one another?

In our family, three daughters and a daughter-in-law have careers and young children and a sense of self that triggers a deep longing in me. Sometimes I watch them and wonder, “Who are you?” It is a question of awe, not envy, and a reflection of my own what-ifs. Who might I be now had I been like them in my 20s? It took me so much longer to turn up the dimmer on my own ambition.

Not this generation. Everywhere I go, it seems, I meet young women who leave me breathless. They are teaching and preaching and delivering babies. Once a year, one of them calms my nerves before she walks behind the wall and tells me to hold my breath for the mammogram.

Sometimes, I am at my clumsiest with them, feeing a rush of unearned pride. Who am I, a stranger, to take glory in these young women’s lives? I feel so silly, so full of this song in my heart.

Finally, it seems, I understand how my own mother felt as she watched her daughters leave her behind to navigate a world she had never imagined for herself. Days before she died, she told me she wished she had stuck up for herself more in her marriage.

I braced myself and said, “What would you have done differently, Mom?”

She lifted her weak, manicured hand and pointed to her head. “I would have dyed my hair red,” she said. “And I would have had cats.”

They used to ask for so little, the women in my family.

Maybe that, too, is why I want it all.


By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist and Professional in Residence at Kent State University’s School of Journalism; The National Memo, February 11, 2016

February 12, 2016 Posted by | Gloria Steinem, Madeleine Albright, Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Electability May Be Hillary Clinton’s Secret Weapon”: “Can Win In November” Is Top Candidate Quality Voters Are Looking For

It’s a bit early in the presidential nominating process for “electability” arguments to become prominent. Voters are just now hearing candidates’ messages, which do not typically revolve around the ability to win a general election (though that may be a component in the message). Some of the more ideological voters may sense that caring more about electability than about core values or policy goals is unprincipled. But in polarized times like our own, the closer we get to the final choice of presidential standard-bearers, the more we’ll hear discussions of their strengths and weaknesses as general-election candidates.

Interestingly enough, entrance polls from Iowa and exit polls from New Hampshire show almost identical percentages of Democratic and Republican participants saying “Can win in November” is the top candidate quality they are looking for (as compared to perceptions of candidates’ empathy, honesty, and experience). But how these premature general-election worrywarts distribute their support differs considerably.

Among the 21 percent of Iowa Republicans placing a premium on electability, 44 percent caucused for Marco Rubio, 24 percent for Donald Trump, and 22 percent for Ted Cruz. As it happens, all three of these candidates stand for different theories of how a general-election campaign would be waged.

But among the 20 percent of Iowa Democrats prioritizing electability, 77 percent caucused for Hillary Clinton and only 17 percent for Bernie Sanders.

In New Hampshire, 12 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats ranked electability first among candidate characteristics.

Again, the Republicans so inclined were scattered, with 33 percent voting for Trump, 29 percent for Rubio (far above his overall percentage), and 16 percent for Kasich (New Hampshire Republicans were not, it appears, as impressed with Cruz’s “54 million missing evangelicals” electability argument, since only 6 percent of electability-first voters went in his direction).

But again, electability-first Democrats went 79-20 for Clinton.

Now it’s possible there’s some extrinsic reason for this finding other than Clinton having a superior perception of electability; maybe voters already inclined to vote for her simply find it easier to call her electable rather than “honest and trustworthy,” another choice. It’s more likely, though, that voters simply figure this well-known candidate running for president a second time is a better bet than a septuagenarian democratic socialist with a hybrid Brooklyn/Vermont accent and a strident tone. There’s really no reliable evidence for that; Sanders does as well as or better than Clinton in early general-election trial heats, but even if he didn’t, such polls aren’t terribly useful given the inclusion of many voters who aren’t yet paying attention to politics at all.

Later in the process, however, electability will begin to matter a lot to Democrats, especially if Republicans seem poised to nominate Rubio, who creates troubling generational comparisons to both Clinton and Sanders, or Donald Trump, whose character and conduct could create many millions of swing voters.

As I noted when listening to her in Iowa, Clinton does spend a good amount of time warning Democrats of the long-term damage Republicans could do if they controlled both Congress and the White House in 2017. That certainly gets people thinking about electability, and also thinking about liberal policies that need to be defended as opposed to less-immediate goals like amending the Constitution to ban unlimited corporate-campaign spending or building a majority to impose a single-payer health-care system on a balky Congress.

In any event, Clinton would be smart to explore these themes more often, and see what happens. It’s one thing to accuse Sanders of promoting “pie in the sky” policy ideas. It’s another altogether to describe him as a high-risk candidate who’ll invite catastrophe if he loses and won’t accomplish much if he wins. And Sanders would be smart to spend more time talking about the unconventional alliances he put together in and out of office in Vermont. Electability will eventually matter a lot.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 11, 2016

February 12, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Electability, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“What’s The Deal With Cruz And Kids?”: Twas The Night Before The Shutdown And All Through The House

Is there any limit to Senator Ted Cruz’s willingness to exploit small children – his own and now others – in embarrassing and peculiar ways to further his bid for the Republican presidential nomination? Based on his latest TV ad, “Playing Trump,” which features three kids playing with a Donald Trump doll and robotically mouthing Cruz campaign talking points, the answer is clearly “No.”

“Look, I got the Trump action figure,” says one adorable child, holding the doll. “What does he do?” asks another. “He pretends to be a Republican,” says the first.

The child goes on to pretend that the Trump doll is saying that he gave money to Nancy Pelosi and Anthony Weiner. Then, when one of the others calls attention to a dollhouse, the first child says in his Trump voice: “That’s a lousy house. I’m going to take your house through eminent domain.”

The three children demolish the dollhouse with the “aid” of the Trump doll, and at the end, two adults, presumably playing parents, peek in the door, shocked. Shocked! “We wouldn’t tolerate these values in our children,” the narrator says. “Why would we want them in a president.”

Well, the obvious answer is, none of those children actually have those values. They are just pretending to. And no one under the age of 10 is running for president, even though the campaign is enough to make you think so.

The kids in this ad are, I fervently hope, professional actors. But Mr. Cruz is not above using his own children in equally chilling ways to advance his candidacy.

Last year, the Cruz campaign posted a lot of “b roll” footage of the candidate and his family, intended for use by super PACs. The point was to help the groups make ads on behalf of Mr. Cruz but act as if they were not coordinating with the campaign, to avoid running afoul of the very few campaign finance laws still in effect.

In that footage, we are all privileged to watch Mr. Cruz try, with increasing impatience, to get his older daughter to say grace at a dinner table, with minimal success, until he finally does it himself.

Then, the brains of American voters were violated with an ad in which Mr. Cruz cuddled up with his wife and daughters on a couch and read them a twisted version of a Christmas favorite.

“Twas the night before the shutdown and all through the House,” Mr. Cruz says in a very creepy tone of awe. “Not a bill was stirring, not even to fund a mouse.”

There ought to be a rule against taking beloved children’s stories and ruining them for your own children and the rest of America. What did he do when the camera was turned off? Tell his daughters there was no such thing as Santa Claus?


By: Andrew Rosenthal, Taking Note, The Editorial Page Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, February 10, 2016

February 12, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Advertising, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Live By The Media’s Favor, Die By The Media’s Disfavor”: After Pumping Him Up For Months, The Press Turns On Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio is in serious trouble, so he’s now attacking Donald Trump, something he hasn’t been as eager to do before. While it may produce a return slap from the Republican front-runner, it probably won’t be enough to shift the discussion around Rubio, who is now learning a very hard lesson: Live by the media’s favor, die by the media’s disfavor.

Rubio’s rapidly shifting fortunes demonstrate how capricious those ups and downs in coverage can be. As much as we might like to believe that we’re nothing more than observers, chronicling the events that take place in as fair a way as we can, the media inevitably shape events too. As Walter Lippman wrote in 1922, news coverage “is like the beam of a searchlight that moves restlessly about, bringing one episode and then another out of darkness into vision.” For a long time, the light shining on Rubio illuminated the things that people thought made him a formidable general election candidate. But when the light’s focus shifted, things got very bad very fast.

A lot of Republicans fail to understand media dynamics because they’ve bought in so fully to their own propaganda about how the liberal media are biased against conservatives. Here’s how Sen. Orrin Hatch explains Rubio’s fall:

“Democrats can run a younger person like John F. Kennedy because the media is with them. Republicans will have a more difficult time because if somebody’s young, they’re going to get beaten up like never before by this biased media.”

Putting aside the utility of Kennedy’s experience running for president 56 years ago in explaining what’s going on today, the notion that the media were biased against Marco Rubio is ludicrous. In truth, no other Republican candidate got more glowing coverage for months than Rubio did; as I and others have pointed out, there have periodically been waves of stories about how Rubio was about to have his moment and rocket to the front of the race, since those in the know understood just what a formidable general election candidate he would make.

The trouble was that Republican voters never seemed to clue in to what the insiders were telling them. And even though after the Iowa caucuses media outlets everywhere declared Rubio the real winner despite his third-place finish, the Rubio explosion never happened. So when last Saturday’s debate came, the stage was set for a new story about Rubio. Chris Christie mercilessly attacked him for repeating a line about how “Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing” was the hook for the new narrative.

Why was Rubio’s performance in that debate such a big deal? It wasn’t because there’s something objectively horrifying about a candidate repeating a talking point a bunch of times, even after getting called out on it by an opponent. The real problem was the substance of what he was saying: that Barack Obama is intentionally trying to destroy America, a rancid idea that is no less vile for being common on the right. The repetition got so much attention in part because reporters approach debates by looking for some supposedly revealing moment or exchange that can be replayed over and over again. All the better if it involves confrontation (as this one did, between Rubio and Christie) and all the better if if makes somebody look foolish (as this one also did).

It also created a new story to write about — Is Rubio too robotic? — that reporters may have been primed for by watching Rubio’s message discipline on the campaign trail. That’s critical to understand, too: among the media’s most important biases is a bias toward the new. A new event, a new story, a new narrative will always be more interesting than another iteration of a story you’ve written ten times before. After writing “Rubio Poised to Break Out” for months, the media was ready for the dramatic shift to “Rubio Crashes and Burns.”

And then, just two days after the debate, Rubio had a brain fart during a town hall meeting, repeating twice the same line about pop culture getting rammed down our kids’ throats — saying it, then immediately saying it in almost exactly the same words again. That was too good for the press corps to pass up, since it reinforced the emerging storyline. (This narrative has also been pushed forward by his opponents.) Then when Rubio came in fifth in New Hampshire, the cascade of negative stories continued, leaving him where he is today.

Though he has taken responsibility for his own poor performance in the debate, if he’s like most candidates (both Democrat and Republican), Rubio probably thinks he’s not being treated fairly by the media. But nobody gets to have it both ways. You can’t say that it’s entirely appropriate to characterize a third-place finish in Iowa as a grand victory, then say it’s unfair to characterize a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire as a crushing defeat. You can’t say that everyone should pay attention to all the things that on paper make you a strong candidate, but object when too much attention is paid to your real-life flaws. And you can’t bask in your positive coverage, then object when you screw up and that winds up on the front page, too.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, February 11, 2016

February 12, 2016 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Primary Debates, Marco Rubio, Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Would He Govern?”: Why Liberals Should Be Very Worried About The GOP Nominating Donald Trump

Be careful what you wish for.

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait hopes his fellow liberals will cheer on the possibility of Republicans nominating Donald Trump for president. Chait’s preference will make no difference at all to the result of the GOP race. But still, Chait’s essay is important for what it tells us about how at least one smart liberal is thinking about 2016 and the stakes involved in who becomes the Republican standard-bearer.

And what it tells us isn’t good.

The GOP is an unstable (but electorally very successful) amalgam of an ethno-nationalist base with a wealthy anti-government and pro-immigration donor class. Republican presidential candidates normally work very hard to smooth over the tensions between these very different constituencies. Trump refuses to do this. Chait argues that by explicitly rejecting the outlook of the donors and siding unambiguously with the base, Trump’s campaign has already begun to make mischief within the Republican electoral coalition.

If he won the nomination, the chaos would increase enormously. And that is an appealing prospect for a liberal. As Chait puts it, “A Trump nomination might not actually cleave the GOP in two, but it could wreak havoc. If, like me, you think the Republican Party in its current incarnation needs to be burned to the ground and rebuilt anew, Trump is the only one holding a match.”

Let’s leave aside the possibility that burning down the current incarnation of the GOP would also destabilize the Democratic Party’s own incoherent electoral coalition. If we could be close to certain that Republican nominee Trump would lose the general election, I could see accepting the risks and even cheering him on as a catalyst for fundamental change in the Republican Party.

But can we be so certain? Chait seems to think so. His first reason why liberals should support a Trump nomination is that the billionaire “would almost certainly lose.” I’m not so sure. Yes, it’s true that Trump is “massively — indeed, historically — unpopular, with unfavorable ratings now hovering around 60 percent.” But Trump’s most likely general election opponent — Hillary Clinton — doesn’t do much better, with an average unfavorable rating in the low 50s and two recent polls showing her as high as 55 and 56 percent. That’s not a big difference.

Chait argues that the only thing that could enable the wildly unpopular Trump to overcome this obstacle and eke out a victory would be a “landscape-altering event.” Like what? Chait names a recession. But recessions aren’t once-in-a-century catastrophes. They happen on average at least once in a decade — and the last one (the Great Recession that hit in the run-up to the 2008 election) ended nearly six years ago.

But maybe even a Trump win in November isn’t something to be overly concerned about. That is Chait’s surprising third reason why liberals should cheer him on in the GOP nomination contest: Not only would a President Trump “probably end up doing less harm to the country than a Marco Rubio or a [Ted] Cruz presidency,” but a Trump presidency “might even, possibly, do some good.”

Here I think the normally sharp and sensible Chait careens off the rails, basing his entire argument on a presumed (and fanciful) parallel with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s two terms as governor of California: The grossly unqualified non-politician with few ties to the Republican Party at first acted like an imbecile but then became a flexible and highly effective governor. Might not Trump do the same?

Never mind that Schwarzenegger left office with a 23 percent approval rating and a massive hole in the state budget. The ominous fact is that a president is exponentially (and when it comes to nuclear weapons, infinitely) more powerful than any state’s executive officeholder. Which means that the stakes in a race for the presidency are exponentially higher as well.

Though he doesn’t make the case explicitly, Chait presumably thinks that Trump would do less harm than a President Rubio or Cruz because he has distanced himself from the ideology that dominates the Republican Party — and because his wealth places him beyond the reach of manipulation by the party’s big-money donors. But that independence — the same independence that led him to blow off the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses — makes Trump more dangerous than standard-issue Republicans, not less.

A President Rubio or Cruz governing with congressional majorities would do lots of things that Chait and I think are bad for the country. But they would be quite predictable things: tax cuts for high-income earners, big increases in defense spending, massive deficits, the repeal of ObamaCare, and so on.

What would a President Trump do? Aside from rounding up and deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, building a massive wall along the southern border, (somehow) making Mexico pay for it, and forbidding Muslims from entering the country — each one of which would be quite bad — it’s impossible to say. Untethered from the constraints that traditions, parties, donors, and other establishment institutions normally impose on politicians, Trump really would be his own boss, relying solely on his own temperament and judgment to determine which policies to pursue.

Even if Trump hadn’t already demonstrated in a thousand ways that he possesses the temperament and judgment of a childish, vindictive bully, this would be an alarming prospect.

As it is, we simply have no way to know how Trump would govern. And that should be more than enough reason to stand against him with everything we’ve got.


By: Damon Linker, The Week, February 9, 2016

February 12, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Donald Trump, Liberals | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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