Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Leaving the people behind

(Palin) held a meeting as governor three days after giving birth. “I just put down the BlackBerrys and pick up the breast pump,” she said of her life as a working mother. The Times

In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment. (...) Sarah Palin is like Annie Oakley, a brash ambassador from America's pioneer past. She immediately reminded me of the frontier women of the Western states, which first granted women the right to vote after the Civil War -- long before the federal amendment guaranteeing universal woman suffrage was passed in 1919. Frontier women faced the same harsh challenges and had to tackle the same chores as men did -- which is why men could regard them as equals, unlike the genteel, corseted ladies of the Eastern seaboard, which fought granting women the vote right to the bitter end. Camille Paglia - Salon
David Seaton's News Links
I think that Camile Paglia has hit on something.

Sarah Palin seems to embody something we could call "frontier feminism" or "working class feminism" and the question that Democrats should be asking themselves is why somebody whose husband in a United Steelworker is a Republican, because the Democrats have gotten lost somewhere.

In the Rooseveltian days when Norman Rockwell painted "Rosie the Riveter" no woman like Sarah Palin would have ever been a Republican.


What is this "frontier or working class" feminism?

There is a feminist joke that outlines it pretty well; it says that Ginger Rogers danced everything that Fred Astaire did... wearing high heels and going backwards.

The great songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller got a good grip on it with Peggy Lee's classic, "WOMAN":
I got a twenty dollar gold piece says
There ain't nothin' I can't do
I can make a dress out of a feed bag
And I can make a man out of you
'Cause I'm a woman
W O M A N
Paglia quotes the 1905 obituary of a frontier woman:
Abigail Becker

Farmer and homemaker born in Frontenac County, Upper Canada, on March 14, 1830

A tall, handsome woman "who feared God greatly and the living or dead not at all," she married a widower with six children and settled in a trapper's cabin on Long Point, Lake Erie. On Nov. 23, 1854, with her husband away, she single-handedly rescued the crew of the schooner Conductor of Buffalo, which had run aground in a storm. The crew had clung to the frozen rigging all night, not daring to enter the raging surf. In the early morning, she waded chin-high into the water (she could not swim) and helped seven men reach shore. She was awarded medals for heroism and received $350 collected by the people of Buffalo, plus a handwritten letter from Queen Victoria that was accompanied by £50, all of which went toward buying a farm. She lost her husband to a storm, raised 17 children alone and died at Walsingham Centre, Ont.
My own grandmother Seaton gave birth to my two Uncles in a gold mining camp in northern California and then was a farm wife in Iowa before Roosevelt brought electricity to the farm. Three boys, a homestead, no washing machine, a coal stove... she was small very pretty with black hair and flashing black eyes and played the guitar and sang things like "Annie Laurie" and "Little Brown Jug" in a sweet voice. When she was a young thing she was so pretty and coquette that a jealous and jilted suitor took a shot at her with a pistol through the family dining room window and only thanks to the window glass, the bullet went off course and she only got a superficial wound on her arm. She loved William Jennings Bryant and FDR. Frontier women.

There is this from the Washington Post:
After just a week, Palin is as popular as either Obama or McCain. White women in particular express favorable views of the Alaska governor, according to a newly released Washington Post-ABC News poll. Positive ratings of her spike to 80 percent among white women with children at home and among white women who are evangelical Protestants.

The percentage of white women with "strongly favorable" opinions of McCain jumped 12 percentage points from before the parties' national conventions. And nearly six in 10 white women in the new poll said McCain's selection of Palin increased their confidence in the decisions he would make if elected. In the Post-ABC poll, it is white women who helped McCain erase Obama's late-August advantage and seriously cut into the Democratic nominee's lead as the one who would bring more needed change to Washington.

Republican adviser Juleanna R. Glover calls Palin "the future of the GOP," and that was certainly the consensus at this stop in Ohio on Tuesday. McCain and Palin performed a ritual of Republican politics, speaking from a stage in front of the Golden Lamb Hotel, billed as Ohio's oldest inn. More than 5,000 guests filled the streets, packing it as fully as it had been four years earlier, when President Bush made the same stop.

But this event was more reminiscent of the Clinton campaign earlier this year: Mothers held their young daughters on their shoulders to catch a glimpse of Palin. Women held up pro-Palin signs and wore "I Love Sarah" stickers. One sign read "Working Mom 4 Palin." Another: "Strike Oil with Sarah." And another: "Outspoken Conservative Moms for Palin."Like other women in the crowd, Baron, the home-schooler from Maineville, Ohio, expressed frustration that feminism and women's issues have seemingly been owned by Democrats whose values she does not share.

Julia Burns, 72, a Republican from Lebanon, cut in: "Men had better jump back. Women are going to take over. We're sick and tired of playing by men's rules. We're coming out of the ground, and they had better move out of the way."
The Democrats have gotten lost. How can you have a "people's party" without the people and without their values? DS

9 comments:

forensic economist said...

David --

You make some good points.

My mother worked at a defense plant during WWII. She tells me she was an expediter, meaning she carried a clipboard and not a rivet gun. I recently read David Kennedy's history, who says that the posters didn't reflect reality - riveting jobs were higher skilled and higher paid and mainly kept to the men. My mother has voted Democratic for the last 50 years.

So why is the Democratic party no longer the party of the working class, men or women, like it was under Roosevelt?

As you said, Palin helps McCain with WHITE women. You can't discuss politics in America without discussing race - lower income whites voted democratic from the '30s until the '60s, when blacks were finally allowed to vote. The spin wasn't that whites were voting for racial supremacy, they were voting against the "elites". Now we are getting McCain's most recent ad saying a black man wants to teach sex to your kindergarteners. White women are now protecting their children against a black man (and to me, Hilary's 3AM phone call ad had the same message).

Krugman has a good column on the politics of resentment:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/05/opinion/05krugman.html?pagewanted=pri

Anonymous said...

You can only feel sorry for the Americans - a fundamentalist anti-abortion cavewoman masquerading as "feminist". How very sad.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Forensic,
What you are saying really, is that if the Democrats hadn't led the civil rights movement back in the 60s, then today's Americans, black and white, would have health care.

Bailey said...

Paglia as provocateur; her stance on abortion, like many issues, is inconsistent. She's interesting, always, but so angry and reactionary. I'm sorry, I'm not going to listen to a lesbian or a man argue the the cruel dilemma that is abortion. It's my body, my right, period the end.
If she were a man, she'd more clearly resemble the wingnut she is.
Really enjoy your writing and thoughtful approach, but Palin is exactly what we've earned and deserve, she illustrates the pathological strains that have killed the creativity of N. America; litigiousness, evangelicalism and victim hood like behavior.

Inevitable, imminent.

I understand Obama's limitations, they're so obvious...it's called schadenfreude, they shoulda chose Hillary...

RC said...

I don't drink anyway. Maybe it's time to move to Libya. Puerto Rico and the Republica Dominicana just don't seem far enough away from the US now, and the Cuba situation remains twisted.
I have to disagree with your outlook David, as much as I enjoy reading your opinions.
McCain-Palin is not a ticket to be impressed by, although I realize you are not exactly claiming that.
As I have stated before, and I think you have regularly, there isn't any economy left in the US to talk about after the events of this week particularly. If these zany political races are the circuses that the Empire offers the citizenry, and thus distracts them from armed bloodshed, which is the status I would expect any sane nation to be at by now, then I guess the whole construct is a rousing success for Democrats and Republicans both. My maternal grandmother was a tough lady, but not a professional and not a frontierswoman. My mother was a mother of seven, a professional and heavily involved in politics.
But I would not have voted for either one of them for VP of the US.
I guess the new game in national politics is "How low can they go?"
I came of age in the sixties {I am 56} and none of the political scene on the national level there ever made any sense to me.
Presently it defies a label because I feel it has moved well beyond the ridiculous and the absurd.
What I say and what I think are of no consequence in all of this of course. I don't live there, can't understand the mindset at all, never did, I can't vote, even as an absent citizen {Puerto Rico residents cannot vote for President of the US} and whereas I think that the McCain ticket is the worst of the evils, the majority will pick him or Obama by a slim margin on November 4 and that will be just another pothole on the road to redemption for the US. The country will go into its absolute worst 20 year period in the last 80 years very divided, very confused {is there any real message out there at all?} and very broke with enemies ready to take advantage of all of that.
Lincoln, if we are to believe our history books at all, was a rustic too. But that wasn't why he managed to save the union. The guy had smarts, as they say in the sticks. Does Palin?
Exactly what are the residency requirements for Libya, I have to look that up. Dubai has some serious inflationary concerns and I won't be going there. Maybe as a contrarian Bolivia or Zimbabwe might be nice. They only have problems in certain towns, generally the governments are not organized enough to cause trouble everywhere.
I get no sense whatsoever that the US power structure has any path or paths it is deciding to pursue. Facts show that it has robbed the taxpayer and the retiree-to-be blind in the last eighteen months, but somehow, no one seems to care.
When will the bomb of realization go off, and what will the fallout be like?
I'm not really expecting much from the US public. These are the same people that elected Bush twice {or about that much} and still think for the most part that Ronald Reagan was a great guy as well as being a stupendous President. He was better, far better than Bush Junior, I grant them that.
Maybe Myanmar is set for a comeback. I will look it up.

Stephanie said...

Krugman seems to be puzzled as to why people think that Democrats look down on ordinary people, but I’m not sure it’s such a big mystery when you have otherwise nice liberal people putting down the Palins as Tobacco Road characters in parkas.

I’m no Clintonista, but one of Bill Clinton’s talents was being able to talk to people who ‘work hard and play by the rules,’ which was his phrase alluding to these white working people. Hillary appealed to this group, also. Obama doesn’t have the knack, not yet at any rate. Michelle Obama used to try to depict the two of them as just folks by talking about how long it took for them to pay off their student loans. But people who don’t necessarily aspire to go to college and become lawyers - but still want to make a decent living -- aren’t going to respond to that.

Race would be a factor in the campaign with any African-American running, but in Obama’s case the issue intersects with his lack of resume and his relative youth. I don’t think a Colin Powell figure would be vulnerable to the sex-ed commercial kind of attack.

anonymous, there are many different kinds of feminism. A few lefty feminists have a bad habit of assuming the role of gatekeepers: You’re not a feminist if we don’t say you are and we think your politics are Bad for Women. I think Palin is a feminist whether she describes herself as one or not.

Anonymous said...

Hmm.. a breast pump and a blackberry now define the frontier woman's experience. How interesting. I was not aware that Palin's life has been anything but comfortable.. If you want to see what faces the modern frontier woman, I recommend a newly released movie called Frozen River. I find it amusing that people think soccer mom's are working class. Working class women are holding two jobs these days. Their children are latch key children, many of whom don't play sports because they don't have health insurance. There are plenty of women in the frontier that is Alaska who face real challenges.. Blackberries and breast pumps.. give me a break.

kalsang said...

As a white woman and a life-long left wing feminist, I am already sick and tired of hearing about how white women love Palin. White RIGHT WING women love Palin. What an irony that our greatest gains in the last decades will be reversed by a woman, when McCain dies in office and Palin becomes president. When I watched her acceptance speech I cried real tears, surprising myself, as I saw the writing go up on the wall.

Anonymous said...

You will have to go a long way to convince me that the Katrina disaster would have happened under a Democratic government.. The point is not that republicans respect working class and dems do not. The point is that middle and upper class people look down on the working class.. and most in power are from these groups. Ditto for the so called US media.

I think this blog is repeating the media talking point about the dems Thank you Krugman for being the light in the dark once again