Democratic Men and Comments “Unbecoming”

It’s been a bad week for Attorney General candidate Warren Tolman. It’s been a bad 226 years for women in politics here in the Commonwealth as the Bay State has sent a nearly exclusively male delegation to Washington since its founding.

Warren Tolman has a real problem with that abysmal record and can accurately boast a strong record on women’s issues – especially reproductive choice.  So as the September 9th Democratic primary for Attorney General headed into its final two weeks, and voters began to redirect sun drenched summers to fall politics, the fact that a male and female are running against each other for Attorney General received little play among regular voters. Both Tolman and current Assistant Attorney General Maura Healey are strong candidates. Both are good on women’s issues. If anything, Tolman was more actively courting the female vote (if not women’s interest groups like Emily’s List) with a series of campaign commercials vowing to protect the safety of those accessing healthcare at women’s clinics. Many progressives felt privately torn – while they liked the idea of electing the first openly gay female AG with Healey, they like Tolman’s activist vision for the AG’s office better.  The polls showed a statistical deadheat with plenty of room for movement.

And then Tolman called Maura Healey’s behavior “unbecoming” in an August 26th Boston Globe OpDebate in response to a direct and pressing questions from Healey about his role in a hedge fund and lobbyist credentials. Let’s be clear here:  more people in Massachusetts watched QVC from 3-4am than actually sought out the on-line AG debate. But the “unbecoming” remark has reach far beyond the viewing audience.

Tough men get elected in politics. Tough women have their “likeability” questioned. And the research shows this quandary for female candidates time-and-time again. Thus, for many women and feminist men, “unbecoming” conjures forth the tightrope female candidates walk and is a synonym of common verbal jabs thrown female candidates way like bitch, unladylike, harsh, cold, and brash.

I have no doubt Warren Tolman did not intend these synonyms when he called Maura Healy “unbecoming.” He is on the correct side of feminist issues for Democratic primary voters and apologized “if anyone was offended.” But Warren Tolman, like all of us, is socialized in a culture where women are expected to be simultaneously talented, competent, physically attractive, and appealing. And apologizing “if anyone was offended” is not the same as Tolman apologizing because it was wrong. A tough line of questions is nothing new in a debate from an opposing candidate. But a tough line of questions from an unapologetically (and equally) ambitious female candidate is not the norm. Rather than respond first to the charges Healey leaved, Tolman’s gut response was that she was “unbecoming.”

As is the case in the Governor’s race, many Democratic men in Massachusetts cannot understand how they can be on the “correct” side of women’s issues and still exhibit sexism. How, goes this logic, can one advocate for pay equity and/or reproductive course if he is not “all good” with women? The answer is simple: one can be genuinely committed to women’s issues while still exhibiting and acting on subtle sexism. A recent article where Senator Kirsten Gillibrand talks of Democratic (and Republican) Senators appraising her body and sharing these appraisals make this point in the starkest terms.

Blue Massachusetts has a terrible record of electing women – one of the worst in the 50 states. And Democratic men run this state. So, yes, men can be cognitively for women’s rights while affectively holding sexist attitudes and voicing sexist comments. One does not preclude the other – though male Democratic party elites and their apologists often like (choose?) think so.

 

 

 

 

 

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From the Archives: Lincoln and Religion

Even on vacation I think of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. It beats the latest polling news, which I don’t get anyway.

Religion in Politics: It’s Not the Certainty, It’s the Doubt

One of the most fascinating columns I’ve read in some time is from the Boston Globe’s Scot Lehigh, his Gay Marriage: A Look Back After 10 Years.  He vividly recalls the turmoil at the State House as conservatives fought to overturn the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision. Lehigh especially decried “fanatics and fundamentalists” “who believed they had a direct line to God.” It’s enough to make many of us wish religion would just go away from American politics.

It never will. Besides the more interesting thing about religion isn’t the certainty; it’s the doubt.

I just finished reading Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address with my students. Of north and south, Lincoln stated:

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged.

The language stands as a rebuke through history of those who claim to conduct war under some heavenly grant. The “wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces” is language Lincoln employed several times throughout his life. It is from Genesis 3:19, which recounts the fall of man due to original sin; a parallel with the nation’s original sin of slavery.

“Let us judge not that we be not judged” is from Matthew 7:1. Lincoln is warning us all (especially the soon-to-be-victorious north) that we must be conscious of our own sins and offer judgment only with great humility. A recent application occurred when Pope Francis was asked about gay priests and responded “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Lincoln went to great lengths in the Second Inaugural to uncover the mystery of a war neither side seemed to want and which lasted beyond what anyone expected, beyond even the existence of the cause of the war. Yet, “The Almighty has his own purposes.”

As I like to point out to my students, there was no “Mission Accomplished” banner hanging up at the Second Inaugural. Far from it. Instead, drawing on Psalm 19:9, Lincoln offers the most chilling words a president has ever addressed to the American people, about the duration of the war:

Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Man does have a role to play in the great task, however:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

As Ronald C. White explains in Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural, by “charity” Lincoln means the word as it is used in 1 Corinthians 13: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” What Lincoln means, argues White, is charity as love, specifically agape, to love one another, even an enemy, as oneself. This recalls another biblical passage I remember Dr. Martin Luther King reciting from Matthew 5:43: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

I’m glad there are so few “fanatics and fundamentalists” in Massachusetts. I wouldn’t give a nickel for them. But to have the moral lessons of religion in the hands of someone like Lincoln is a priceless treasure.

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Washashores enter a local district race on Cape Cod

First term Democratic Representative Brian Mannal has had better weeks.  The question is whether Cape Codders direct their ire at him or his washashore opponents.

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From the Archives: The Coakley Media Narrative

Prof. Cunningham is on vacation but has left behind some favorite posts from the archives. Read on to consider that Martha Coakley’s 2010 mistakes did not cost her that race but could cost her this one.

The Stumbling and Bumbling Martha Coakley

coakleyMartha Coakley, this time you’ve gone too far. When the Boston Globe ran an article in which Democrats fretted that you are a political bumbler and fumbler, my colleague Professor Ubertaccio rose to your defense.  I made fun of the Democratic knee-knockers too. Then in The Myth of Martha Coakley’s Mistakes I argued that the AG’s fumbles and bumbles didn’t really impact the 2010 special election loss to Scott Brown.

So how does the AG thank us? With this, from Frank Phillips of the Globe: Martha Coakley’s Campaign Funds in Disarray.

I’ll continue to maintain that Coakley’s fumbles and bumbles didn’t cost her the election in 2010. But they might cost her the election of 2014.

That is because the media frame established on Coakley from 2010 is one of an inept politician who commits serial unforced errors. A frame is a window through which we perceive reality.

Coakley seemed to recognize the stark force of the Globe story depicting Democratic insiders as anxious that she could fall apart in a gubernatorial contest.   Even though those experts were wrong that her miscues cost the party the special senate election, the story is strong enough that it had to be addressed. So she set about to combat the notion that she isn’t a hard working campaigner by getting all around the state. She did her mea culpas. She even campaigned outside of Fenway Park, adding to the list of miracles occurring at the lyrical bandbox this year. Her announcement video didn’t offer any reason to vote for her but still, some polls showed her beating the Democratic field and Republican Charlie Baker.

But then along comes the Phillips story in the Sunday Globe revealing that Coakley has so mismanaged her leftover federal campaign account from the senate race that she may have committed “a violation of campaign finance law.” It’s hard to tell if the account is flush or in deficit because the records are so inaccurate. Oh, and one of the individuals paid to oversee the accuracy of the account is Coakley’s sister.

Plus as AG, Coakley has pursued state political figures including former Lt. Governor Tim Murray for campaign finance violations. Naughty naughty Tim.

So in other words, she has completely blown the effort to alter the media frame.

Let’s also remember this bit of inside information from a September 5 Globe story by Phillips and Jim Sullivan, Baker Enters Governor’s Race, Coakley Weighs Bid:

Coakley insiders say she has yet to make a final decision about whether to run, but confirm that much of her decision depends on whether she can assemble a highly talented group of organizers, media consultants, and pollsters.

Organizers, consultants, and pollsters; that ought to do it.

In one piece of good news for the Coakley campaign, Massachusetts has no statewide version of Saturday Night Live. Tina Fey would have a field day.

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Globe Poll: So Much Data, So Little Context

Conflict and controversy are marketable media commodities and stability is just plain boooooorrrring. Thus we have Sunday’s Boston Globe story based on the newspaper’s poll showing that if Martha Coakley loses to Charlie Baker in November it might be attributed to disloyal Democratic followers of Steve Grossman. Continue reading

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Pols against politics don’t win primaries

There is a pretty standard theme in most “outsider” political campaigns that was evident last night in the Democratic gubernatorial debate. Don Berwick says he’s not a politician and that government should be run like a business. The only other major party candidate for governor hitting this theme as hard as Berwick is Mark Fisher, the Tea Party Republican challenging Charlie Baker. Continue reading

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Massachusetts Madisonianism

Recently in thinking about the Massachusetts legislature I’ve come across some academic arguments that the power of the legislature has deteriorated significantly over the years. These arguments take the long view – legislative dominance from the time of the 1780 Constitution, a draining of power while the executive’s power increased from the early twentieth century onward. Then there is my colleague Professor Duquette’s argument that there is no need for business interests to support Republicans because the Democratic legislature already acts like it is Republican.

The work of these scholars is important in understanding how our legislature conducts the public business. I tend to agree that the legislature’s power has receded some through history, but that it retains enormous power that only a legislature can properly exercise. Moreover in the differences the legislature has had with both Republican governors and the progressive Democrat Deval Patrick a sort of Massachusetts Madisonianism may be at work. Continue reading

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Politics by other means in Texas

In Texas, the stars at night are big and bright, shining a light on another attempt to criminalize politics.

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Has the Globe’s weekly poll impacted the Guv’s race?

The Globe’s Frank Phillips recently called the ongoing race for the corner office in Massachusetts “one of the least-energized statewide races in years.” His Globe colleague Jim O’Sullivan speculates that this might have something to do with “a candidate lineup that has not, to put it politely, exactly set the electorate on fire.” While I agree that there have been few fireworks to date, I wonder if the Globe’s own coverage of the race hasn’t played a role. Continue reading

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MassForward’s “Mother’s Ad” Disappears and Social Science Suggests Why: Race

All the talk this week in the Massachusetts Governor’s race is on the ad Martha Coakley is running that paints her as a political outsider who has never been embraced by the old boy’s club. She’s right …and I’ll get to that in a forthcoming post. But the ad story going under the radar is the one we’re no longer seeing: The Mother’s Ad. Continue reading

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