I suppose that Charlotte Allen's treatise on the essential stupidity of women represented the Washington Post's "beer track" misogyny. This morning, Linda Hirshman offers up the "wine track" equivalent with her article, "For Hillary's Campaign, It's Been a Class Struggle." It's a long lamentation on the inability of women to reach across the class divide and just evince the good sense necessary to vote for Hillary Clinton, already. Upper-class women seem to favor Obama - except when they don't! Meanwhile, less educated women break for Clinton - unless they're black (or from Virginia, it seems).
There's no doubt that an exploration on how each campaign works to appeal to voters on all levels of the income spectrum would be a fascinating, even necessary, piece of analysis, but Hirshman is mainly just apalled and confused. And it's no wonder, seeing as her whole piece is centered on the accusation that "women are fickle."
And there we have one of the most puzzling conundrums of the 2008 Democratic contests. Black voters of all socioeconomic classes are voting for the black candidate. Men are voting for the male candidate regardless of race or class. But even though this is also a year with the first major female presidential candidate, women are split every way they can be. They're the only voting bloc not voting their bloc.
For the Clinton campaign, this is devastating. A year ago, chief strategist Mark Penn proclaimed that the double-X factor was going to catapult his candidate all the way to the White House. Instead, the women's vote has fragmented. The only conclusion: American women still aren't strategic enough to form a meaningful political movement directed at taking power. Will they ever be?
You'll forgive me if I fail to find the notion that women voters would be better off voting in a bloc as sensible strategy. Black voters are often dismissed and denigrated for their own lockstep tendencies, with critics alleging that being a sure thing for the Democratic party only allows their elected leaders to take them for granted once the election is over. And the male tendency to vote "for the male candidate regardless of race or class" is a "meaningful political movement?" That seems to reduce the whole process to crotch-sniffing.
That women seem resistant to shallow appeals to uphold the sisterhood seems to only reinforce the idea that theirs is a demographic with real political savvy. The elusivity of their vote is actually a strategic strength. Candidates cannot approach women with superficial platitudes - they actually have to offer up some substance to gain their hard-won vote. And surmounting this class divide between affluent and working class women seems to be a good challenge for Democratic candidates to have - it requires them to be responsive to all classes of voters when they formulate policy positions.
If women voted as a bloc, without regard for their unique interests, as Hirshman suggests they should, it seems to me that would pave the way for the rise of a shallower candidate. Hirshman may see it as "fickle," but if female voters are letting the candidates know that their vote doesn't come easy while other demographics are simply offering up their support with lockstep ease, then women seem to have the most meaningful political movement going.
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