Reading the newspaper the last few days I couldn't help being reminded of that Seinfeld episode with Raquel Welch, the one where the men on the show take every opportunity to shout "catfight." The joke of course is that men are so titillated by the prospect of a catfight between women that if two females so much as sneeze near each other it's likely to elicit mock hissing noises and clichéd "claws are out" references. So when there actually is a real battle between women -- whether in the form of mud wrestling, pillow fighting or campaigning -- it's enough to make men -- and the media -- go ga-ga. I was of course reminded of this while reading the recent news coverage of Sarah Palin versus Hillary Clinton.
For a split second I almost thought I'd missed something, like the fact that maybe unbeknownst to me the two women were actually running against each other, but nope they're not (at least not yet.) But that hasn't stopped the media from going bananas over the fact that one day they might. While one New York Times headline simply asked "The Real '08 Fight: Clinton v. Palin?"
The New York Post went with the more understated cover, "LADY KILLER: Hill to Check Hockey Mom."
(The Post simply couldn't resist and also slipped in a "Dem-Fatale" reference for good measure.)
While the coverage makes clear that part of the fascination with the Clinton v. Palin narrative comes from the contest for female voters -- specifically so-called "Hillary voters," the reality is that no true Hillary voter is even a McCain/Palin prospect, something on which Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez and I found a rare moment of agreement during our recent appearance on CNN. And in fact since the selection of Palin, Obama has actually widened his lead among female voters, according to polls.
But this need to pit Palin against Clinton is in many ways to be expected. Any minority candidate (yes I know women are now technically the majority but as far as candidates go they are not) finds themselves being compared to other minorities a lot more than they are compared to candidates they actually have more politically in common with, but happen not to look like. (Consider this: How many articles have you read about the true head to head matchup between Palin and Biden compared to Palin versus Clinton)? And just think about the endless stream of articles about how Barack Obama is not like other black candidates. But why would he be like Jesse Jackson when he has practically nothing in common with the man except skin color and living in the same state?
While I admit to participating in some of this analysis, if you really think about it the idea that we still compare candidates along racial and gender lines is fundamentally stupid, particularly in instances where there is absolutely no comparison.
Besides sharing the same anatomical equipment Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have little in common. Aside from their policy differences, on practically every conceivable issue (abortion, gun control -- you name it and they probably don't agree on it) their resumes are laughably incomparable: Mom and mayor of Wasilla, Alaska versus mom, lawyer and United States Senator. I know very little about sports but I do know this much: Trying to compare Sarah Palin to Hillary Clinton is like comparing a captain of a high school softball team to Derek Jeter.
So let the media craft their imaginary catfight -- that's all it is, a figment of the imagination.
And for the record: I'm just waiting for Saturday Night Live (which finally made itself politically relevant again with its parodies of the recent Democratic primaries), to set up a sketch depicting Clinton and Palin battling it out as catfighting captains of opposing roller derby teams. Palin (portrayed by Maya Rudolph perhaps?), will be the captain of the Lady Pitbulls and will warn Clinton in a charming Alaskan accent that she is "a pitbull in lipstick." Just then Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton rolls up on Palin and says "Oh yeah pitbull -- well bite me" knocking Palin to the ground. Hill then skates off. Everyone has a good laugh.
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