Tuesday, January 29, 2008

NY NOW, Reminding Me What I Hate About The Left

So the New York chapter of NOW has concluded--if, indeed, we should dignify this inchoate emotive spasm by calling it a conclusion--that Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Obama shows that he hates women.

I suppose there's no need to explain why this is a butt-ass stupid thing to say, so I won't bother. But pay special attention to the vicious vituperative tone of the statement. Christ, these people are loons.

But, for those of you who have never had any sustained contact with hard-core feminists, let me just note that there's a sense in which none of this should come as any surprise. Hard-core radical feminists are among the most irrational people I've ever met...and that includes racists, creationists, fundamentalists, postmodernist literary critics and suchlike. Really hate-filled and strident, too...and as sexist as the most sexist male rednecks I've ever met...and I've met a ton of 'em.

What surprises me is that I've always thought of NOW as a fairly sensible, centrist, mainstream organization. They give themselves a real black eye with this ridiculous screed. I'd like to see the national organization repudiate it.

So it didn't take long for the race and sex cards to get played, did it? Rove's "lazy trash-talker" op-ed seemed to get the ball rolling, then came Bill Clinton's various questionable utterances, and now this. Nice work, folks! What a bunch of morons. I hope no one was under the impression that ignorant dumbassery was limited to the right.

So I suppose that the principle guiding NY NOW's inference is this one: if a person of disadvantaged group G is running for office, and you endorse that person's opponent, then you are bigoted against group G. By a straightforward application of this principle (plus some fairly obvious empirical premises) we get: NY NOW is racist. Bastards!

And, look: this is the kind of patently idiotic lefty dumbassery that really seems to stick in the mind. Sure, it pales in importance when compared to some of the BS we've gotten from the right of late...but it makes up for it in sheer, unadulterated irrationality. And it's got some kind of stomach-turning je ne sais quoi... If your brain could barf, this kind of thing would be like ipecac.

O.k., that's it. I'm going to try to get this turbo-charged stupidity out of my head.

(Oh, and just for the record: many folks in my grad school cohort would have asserted--with great passion and total seriousness that I'm evil for having written this. Let's see, a quick perusal reveals that I called some women irrational and said their claim was emotional...so that's conclusive evidence that I hate all women and have the whole retinue of anti-female attitudes possessed by the most reactionary sexists. Oooh, and then we see that I characterize them as having a "black eye," thus showing my desire to do violence against all women... See how easy this game is to play! The illusion of thought, but requiring no thought! All it takes is a certain knack for spinning every utterance in the worst conceivable direction, and a certain hatred and suspicion of one's fellow man (specifically: man) and voila!--a certain illusion of depth and erudition. Er, well, in the eyes of really, really dumb people and other true believers, anyway.

Perhaps I've regaled you before with my fascinating theories of the role of the PC movement in stoking the fires of the viciously anti-liberal conservatism of the past several years? No? Well, another time then...)


Anonymous Anonymous said...


That'll get a big *ditto* from me. And I'm a hardcore Democrat, longtime supporter of the ERA, and husband of a feminist. The logic, for lack of a better word, is just so embarrassingly stupid the mind reels.

A thought experiment: suppose Kennedy had endorsed Clinton instead of Obama, and the NAACP put out the following statement regarding that endorsement:

"This latest move by Kennedy is so telling about the status of and respect for [African-Americans'] rights, [African-Americans'] voices, [African-Americans'] equality, [African-Americans'] authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation — to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a[n] [African-American] that is the first [African-American] after centuries of [whites] who ‘know what’s best for us.’”

Those very same NOW people would be squealing like stuck pigs that there was nothing racist or hypocritical about Kennedy failing to endorse the historic candidacy of an African-American politician for President.

And your hope that the national organization would repudiate this idiocy from one of its chapters seems to have already begun to occur with this passage from the article to which you linked:

"Meanwhile, the national chapter of NOW sought to distance itself from the state chapter’s comments, issuing a statement Monday evening that praised Kennedy's record with respect to women's rights."

12:57 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

In fairness, pretty much all of the big feminist blogs and a huge number of blogs that tangentially discuss feminist issues have denounced NOW-NY for this. Fairly so, because it's completely insane.

The national NOW org has also disowned the release, although their criticism is naturally milder than the blog treatment.

But, generally speaking... Yeah, you're right. This is one of the things that annoys me as a member of The Left as well. These idiots and the alt med people both drive me up a wall.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Glad to hear that most folks are being sane about this. Too bad NY NOW didn't think about it for two nanoseconds before spewing out that press release.

Seriously, this is the kind of thing that will stick in people's heads--esp. indies and folks on the right--and nudge them toward thinking that all of us on this side of the fence are kooks. The denunciations, almost no matter how numerous and vociferous, will have a hard time undoing the harm.

It ain't fair and it ain't rational, but (or so I think) that's the way it is.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Colin said...

Has anyone been keeping an eye on the crazy shit Gloria Steinem wrote in that op-ed in defense of Clinton? It's like she's been elevated as the last chance second wave feminists have to see a woman president in their lifetime.

I know Democracy Now is kind of on the ridiculous side, but here's a snippet from that:

GLORIA STEINEM: Well, I was just—I think one learns a lot from parallels, and so it would be interesting to try to project what would have happened to Barack Obama in his life if he had been a female human being. I mean, I really think that we have seen historically that women of color, African American women, have understood—have been just in a better position, you know, to understand the roles of both sex and race, and it made me nostalgic for the days of Shirley Chisholm and campaigning for Shirley Chisholm.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

GLORIA STEINEM: Well, you know, it was so clear that, you know, because one didn’t have to choose between race and gender. And indeed, I am still trying not to choose between race and gender, because the basis of my choice was not that, but that, in fact, Hillary Clinton will arrive in Washington knowing how Washington works, because she’s had it written on her skin like Kafka in The Prisoner—wasn’t it?—when—and I think we can’t afford really—we’re in such dire circumstances that to have the first couple of years of Carter or even the first couple of years of Clinton again, who arrived in Washington not understanding how Washington worked. But if Barack Obama is the candidate, I will work for him with a whole heart. And I wish we had preferential voting, you know, so we can go one, two and three, at least, rather than having to choose only one.


Kind of ridiculous. Anyway, to me, this just seems like the NY NOW echoing Steinem's recent bullshit.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Wow...that's all I've got on that one, Colin...


9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NY NOW, Reminding Me What I Hate About The Left

I can understand why you hate the statement by NY NOW or NY NOW in general, but how is this indicative of "the left"? How many people on "the left" have stood up and applauded this action by NY NOW?

4:35 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Identity politics.

Valid? There have unquestionably been groups excluded---indeed, kicked around---by whatever Powers That Be, those powers in human history tending to be Europeanish males, with mebbe exceptions like the Huns and Mongols and Aztecs and Bantus, who were still males.

Accruing to his everlasting credit, the great Rush Limbaugh immediately slammed Mike Huckabee's touting his credentials as a Christian minister in his Iowa ads as "identity politics," which are by definition divisive, no?

Once you got an Us, that means We ain't Them, and you got divisiveness.

I won't deny that the "power" thing is a legitimate historical criticism, and perhaps a legitimate way to look at the world. Females and non-whites have seldom if ever enjoyed unquestioned first-class status.

But the unintended consequences of pursuing that line and using that prism include this essay.

Now, the essay elides the facts on the ground---that Hispanics and African Americans, each of which vote heavily Democratic, are often in competition more than cooperation when it comes to political power.

And here in Los Angeles, in competition across the board, neighborhood by neighborhood.

Still, the authors are stuck with identity politics---their contention is that Hillary will win the Hispanic vote not particularly because Hispanics won't vote for Barack Obama---who happens to be black---but because HRC had the sensitivity to reach out to major Hispanic political figures from the first and secured their support.

OK, fine. But it's still identity politics, something every good American should recoil from.

Unless someone has a counterargument for identity politics here in the not-quite-totally-Enlightened-yet US and A. I'm willing to listen...

12:05 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Exactamundo, Tom.

Although the left in the U.S. isn't really that lefty, what trickles down from the hard-core left still infects them. And a weakish, but still strong and loathsome enough, version of identity politics is one of those things.

Now, one might reasonably respond that the all-time champeen purveyors of identity politics around these parts have been Europeanish males (to use Tom's phrase). And that's true. They elevated it to the central plank in their platform for most of our history. So, one might proceed, there's really no way to get around a kind of corrective IP that tries to raise up non-Europeanish males to something like a reasonable status before evaporating and leaving behind egalitarianism.

I'm totally down with that, but I worry that what passes for the American left (a) embraces IP a little too readily, passionately, and non-provisionally, and (b) that they don't understand the kinds of theories that have ensconced IP almost immovably in the intellectual left. So I worry that they're gonna get stuck like that.

But Anonymous is right: the fact that so many have slammed NY NOW seems to pretty clearly indicate that I'm over-reacting.

Though, in my defense, to say that this kind of thing is what I hate about the left is not to say that it's dominant on the (American) left. What I hate about my car is that the clock is not illuminated, but it's still a damn fine car.

And just as a footnote: I'm not sure how much credit the awesomely evil R. Limbaugh gets for that little bit of business. I'm not even sure that really counts as IP, really. But that's beside the point.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I'm not sure the essay you link to supports your point, Tom. Almost the opposite, it seems...

8:37 AM  
Blogger Colin said...

Of all people, Wendy Brown (Judith Butler's partner) wrote a great essay called Wounded Attachments on the dangers of identity politics. The short of it (if I remember right) is that organizing by identity alone has the danger of reversing but reproducing existing inequalities, blah blah blah. Or, if the Black Panthers took over the government tomorrow, odds are bad that they would be benevolent towards white folk.

Huckabee's form of identity politics, near as I can tell, seems to stem from CHristianity being the counter to secularism or moral decadence or whatever. Which leads to a spooky place.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, Colin, which is why, even as a Republican, I'd vote Obama over Huckabee. There's a school of bad scholarship out there that seeks to prove America was founded as a Christian Nation, and Huckabee plays into that.

In fact, such sectarianism and divisiveness was exactly what the Founders explicitly wanted to avoid. In actual fact, the Founding was very theistic, but Jesus Christ Hisself is scarcely to be found in the writings and speeches of the era. [In the surviving documents, G. Washington mentions Him exactly once.]

WS, the article was cited to show that even as the authors try to ignore the fact that there's enmity between blacks and Hispanics, Obama is still left without a way to compete for the Hispanic vote because Hillary done sewed it up by playing identity politics. Although Obama now enjoys 80% of the black vote, identity politics comes back to bite him if the polls hold in California and nationally, where Hillary has 2/3 to 3/4 of the Hispanic vote, which is as large as the black vote.

Identity politics is a zero-sum game, one you can't have both ways.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

But I thought the point of the article was that HRC had won the hispanic vote b/c of old fashioned politicking--making connections etc.--not b/c of some identity thing?

One way or 'tother, doesn't matter. The article isn't really needed to support your point, or so I'd say.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

above Tom says: Identity politics.

what does that have to do with NY NOW being the embodiment of "the left"? And I agree with Winston, I'm not sure the article you link to supports your point at all.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

You don't see how Sen. Clinton courted the Hispanic vote by going after their leaders? OK, fine. To me it was old-fashioned identity politics.

And I didn't assert identity politics as practiced by NYNOW and the black and Hispanic blocs "embodies" the left, although it's hard to make the case by looking at the voting demographics that it doesn't represent a bigger hunk than on the right. Basically, if the Democratic Party doesn't win a decisive majority of the black and Hispanic votes, it loses the election. And it must win the female vote. You could look it up.

I don't think WS was being unfair here.

There is certainly an identity politics in the GOP as well, though, which is why I brought up Huckabee. And the "southern strategy" was clearly an identity politics. [Although Nixon did quite a lot to further affirmative action, as it turns out.]

So, please, I try to play it straight.

"The Hispanic voter -- and I want to say this very carefully -- has not shown a lot of willingness to support black candidates.---Sergio Bendixen, HRC campaign adviser

"In any campaign I have been involved in, Bendixen would have been gone."---Unnamed "prominent Democrat"


So I don't know who to believe. Reuters says "experts say" what Bendixen describes is a myth. TNR says there may be something to it.

9:51 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

You don't see how Sen. Clinton courted the Hispanic vote by going after their leaders? OK, fine. To me it was old-fashioned identity politics.

So, courting Pat Robertson is identity politics, too, right? Or pandering to neo-Confederates in S.C. over their treasonous flag? How about appealing for military votes?

There's always an identity component. Sometimes it's larger than other times. It matters to some voters that Hillary's a woman, pro and con. Likewise Obama's race. John Kerry ran on his Vietnam service. Mitt Romney raises money and volunteers out of LDS. Mike Dukakis did from the Greek community. Mike Huckabee is sooo about evangelical identity. John Edwards counterbalanced his liberal platform with his Southern identity.

In the end, all modern American candidates brand themselves, do the up close and personal crap, whether it's real or not. This started in the media age with JFK, but the Bush family has pursued it very effectively, despite not having much to work with in terms of charisma.

Where's the line? Is there a line? I'm too tired at the moment to propose an answer!

12:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

So, courting Pat Robertson is identity politics, too, right? Or pandering to neo-Confederates in S.C. over their treasonous flag? How about appealing for military votes?

You are correct about the first two, sir. I could not agree more, and in fact am googlable already agreeing with your positions about Rev Robertson and the Confederate flag.

You seem to be arguing with someone who is not me. As usual, I'm just not feeling the love, "Lovable."

Appealing for military votes? Hardly seems worth the trouble for either side. It's quite clear where everyone stands.

2:27 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, I'm not seeing this, Tom. Seems like a radically expansive conception of "identity politics."

7:43 AM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

So many points, so little time...

Sorry you're sensitive, TVD, but I wasn't arguing with you. I was looking for a useful delineation of identity politics from affinity politics (just made that last up, though others may have come before me). Glad you agree that pandering to Christians is identity politics. It is, after all, the most consistently displayed bit of identity politics in America.

And just to get the real arguing out of the way (heh), let me address the logic of my nickname. If you assume that it's more than a handle, that unlike the now-severed relation of 'Smith' to metalwork it still connotes a claim of lovability, it still makes no statement whatsoever about loving, about which I certainly reserve the right to pick and choose. So, switching to your name, even if a tom yowls outside the window for a female cat in heat, I won't attribute that behavior to you. Not necessarily. But you really ought to shave that vandyke; they are so passé.

On to more general topics...

The meme that middle-aged white men won't support a woman has been part of the conversation for a while, even if the media didn't notice. My sister-in-law tried it on me at Christmastime. Still hasn't worked to sway me, though it does annoy.

On the other hand, there are older men who still won't support a woman because she's a woman. I had coffee last week with a woman who is running for office, and we ran into a member of the local Democratic committee. He wanted to know what her husband thought about her being out of the house! (The further irony is that he's been retired for years, and his wife has been working.)

Really, it's the because part that matters. I think a history of underrepresentation mitigates some of the negatives of minority identity politics, but there's still a line there that shouldn't be crossed - somewhere in the neighborhood of Tawana Brawley.

Courting ethnic, religious, social, etc. leaders may be identity politics, but it's certainly not the objectionable form of identity politics. Of course, there are examples where the courting crosses the line into pandering to identity rather than recognizing identity and according it equal status. Do speaking at BJU or conferring with Al Sharpton qualify? You be the judge.

Appealing for military votes? Hardly seems worth the trouble for either side. It's quite clear where everyone stands.

This of course is disingenuous nonsense. The officer corps especially is more conservative than the nation as a whole, but the military is for example fed up with Duhbya. It's not all white country boys eager to potshot the enemy du jour. Even they are not all Republicans. Sorry, I've gotten back to arguing...

Identity politics an interesting topic, but I'm out of time for now. Might have to revisit it at home.

9:48 AM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

Just googled "affinity politics". Only 584 hits, so I'm pretty early to the party but by no means first.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, we're not in complete disagreement, however I think exploiting the racial divide is the most demagogic, harmful, and divisive feature of American politics. Kaus nails Obama definitively on the problem.

But speaking at BJU is definitely the other side of the coin.

I'm sort of stuck with the Van Dyke, as it yields a certain necessary devilishness. I'm just too lovable without it.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Given the panderfest under way, it's suspiciously uncharitable to pick this out for special consideration.

7:56 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Take it up with the Washington Post.


And here I was, hoping you'd thank me for yet again giving your readers the news a week in advance.

6:32 PM  

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