The Gender Card, Part II

Hillary isn’t playing the gender card. No, not at all:

“John Edwards, specifically, as well as the press, would never attack Barack Obama for two hours they way they attacked her,” said Geraldine A. Ferraro, the 1984 vice presidential candidate who supports Mrs. Clinton. “It’s O.K. in this country to be sexist,” Ms. Ferraro said.
“It’s certainly not O.K. to be racist. I think if Barack Obama had been attacked for two hours — well, I don’t think Barack Obama would have been attacked for two hours.”

First off, did she see the AFL-CIO debate? That had everyone attacking Obama about Pakistan. Secondly, since when is attacking the national frontrunner sexist just because she’s a woman? Was attacking Gore in 2000 anti-Southern? Was attacking Mondale in 1984 anti-Lutheran? Hillary got this much right: they’re attacking her because the common perception is that she’s ahead, not because of her gender. If the places were switched with her and Obama, he’d be getting attacked the way she has been.
It’s important to note that this isn’t just Ferraro mouthing off. She said this in her capacity as a Hillary surrogate. It’s hard not to conclude, as Jason Zengerle does, that this is a conscious strategy on the part of the Hillary campaign to silence all opposition. It’s dumb, and if the electorate is half as smart as I think it is it’ll backfire immensely.

11 thoughts on “The Gender Card, Part II

  1. Obviously Hillary Clinton is playing the gender card. In any case it would be played for her even if she didn’t play it herself. And the latter is true of Barack Obama and the race card — a strong majority of black men support Obama.
    The truth is that a fraction of the voters are less likely to vote for Clinton because of her gender. And a fraction are less likely to vote for Obama because of his race. That’s still so in America; if it weren’t the Senate would have 50 women and 10 blacks. I don’t want to say that this means therefore that people should vote for them. What I can say is that America would be a better place if not all of its presidents were white men. But this also means that the race card and the gender will be played no matter what, even if the candidates say nothing about it directly. Women want to be heard, and so do blacks. They trust their own kind more on average, just as the country as a whole (regrettably) trusts their kind less on average.
    That said, I don’t think that it’s quite fair to call Geraldine Ferraro a surrogate for Hillary Clinton. She wants Hillary to succeed where Ferraro failed. Can you really fault her for that? Is Jesse Jackson, Jr., a surrogate for Obama?

  2. But this also means that the race card and the gender will be played no matter what, even if the candidates say nothing about it directly.
    That doesn’t make it acceptable for candidates to come right out and say that voters should choose them on account of their race or gender. Which is what Ferraro did for Clinton.
    That said, I don’t think that it’s quite fair to call Geraldine Ferraro a surrogate for Hillary Clinton. She wants Hillary to succeed where Ferraro failed. Can you really fault her for that? Is Jesse Jackson, Jr., a surrogate for Obama?
    “Surrogate” is a technical term, for when a high-profile supporter is hired by a campaign to campaign in place of the candidate. Ferraro is one of Hillary’s surrogates. It’s not an insult; we use surrogates all the time (Larry Tribe’s coming up to New Hampshire as one soon). It’s just a statement of fact.

  3. They don’t pay her, of course; most campaigns don’t pay surrogates. But she does travel and speak at campaign events on the campaign dime. I’d count that as working for Hillary.

  4. They don’t pay her, of course; most campaigns don’t pay surrogates. But she does travel and speak at campaign events on the campaign dime. I’d count that as working for Hillary.
    I looked through Google News, the New York Times, and Clinton’s web site. Ferraro has (a) endorsed Clinton for president, (b) bundled some campaign contributions, and (c) appeared at two or three campaign events in the Northeast and spoke to the media about Clinton a few times. So clearly she is lending Clinton a hand, but there are hundreds of people who have given Clinton more of their time than that. And, significantly, Ferraro is also showing up at many other events that are not connected to Hillary Clinton.
    To be fair, one of the media references that I found, published in March, did call Ferraro a “surrogate” for Clinton. But this is plainly a loose use of the word. This is not like a surrogate mother giving birth to someone else’s child. By this standard, Obama certainly does have surrogates who play the race card. He just finished his “Embrace the Change!” Gospel Concert Series in South Carolina. It’s obvious to the audiences of this tour what kind of change he means. In fact, not only is he playing the race card, he’s playing the God card. I’m not exactly offended by that, but I cannot consider it an attraction.
    The only possible difference is that generally these race and gender tactics are used for positive campaigning. You could argue that Ferraro et al got into new territory by using the gender card to criticize the other candidates. Sure, that doesn’t impress me and it could have been a mistake.
    Even so, I am just not all that caught up in the campaigns, especially not at the primary level. I mainly hope that the Democrats can get their act together and win the White House and Congress, and not sink the ship with fighting captains. The voters need to tell Washington loud and clear that they are fed up with military defeat.

  5. My problem with Ferraro is very specific: she made it very clear that she considers criticism of her candidate by male opponents sexist, regardless of content. Obama has done nothing like that.

  6. I agree: despite what Ferraro implied, I don’t see that Clinton’s opponents are sexist. But still, it wasn’t Hillary who said it, it was one of her supporters — someone rather more independent than a loyal henchwoman.
    Also, one side of what Ferraro said could be valid. It’s not so much that Edwards or Obama are sexist themselves, but that the Democratic primary could be more race-conscious than gender-conscious. In other words, it is possible that Edwards and Clinton have to be careful to tone down their criticisms of Obama for fear of infuriating black primary voters, but Obama and Edwards don’t have to be as careful with Clinton. Personally I think that there is too much politically correct sensitization of this sort and not enough real help for women or minorities. But in any case it could be true.

  7. I agree: despite what Ferraro implied, I don’t see that Clinton’s opponents are sexist. But still, it wasn’t Hillary who said it, it was one of her supporters — someone rather more independent than a loyal henchwoman.
    The role of a surrogate on the campaign is to speak for and in place of the candidate. That’s their job. That’s why the campaign uses them. When Ferraro says something like this, it’s not unreasonable to say that she’s speaking for the campaign.

  8. When Ferraro says something like this, it’s not unreasonable to say that she’s speaking for the campaign.
    Maybe you are right. But still, this is about Clinton the campaign, not Clinton the president or Clinton the person. Which is not to say that she bears no responsibility for this, but that the whole thing is far afield of what I really care about.

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