11/03/2010 02:21 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Men Up, Grizzlies Down

Of all the many lessons we can draw from this election, the one that looms out for me is that wanton attacks on another candidate's gender don't win votes. In this case the attackers were the so-called "mama grizzlies." But, frankly, the gender of the bear isn't as important as the fact that you just want it to get as far away from you as possible.

The most famous man slap was Republican Sharron Angle's headline-grabbing debate line, "Man up, Harry Reid." She lost the hotly contested race to Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, by a 6-point margin in heavily Republican Nevada.

Proving that neither party has a lock on gender slurs, Democratic Missouri Senate candidate Robin Carnahan used the same "man up" line on her Republican opponent, Roy Blunt. Blunt won the Senate seat by a landslide.

Karen Handel in the Georgia governor primary told her fellow Republican Nathan Deal that it was "time to put his big-boy pants on." She lost in to Deal in a run-off and he won the governor's seat.

Christine O'Donnell called her Delaware Senate primary opponent Mike Castle "unmanly" with the infamous line "This is not a bake-off. Get your man pants on." She won the primary but got trounced in the general election.

Our last contender for the female bully of the election season (Sarah Palin having been disqualified for not actually running for anything) is Jane Norton, who was defeated for the Colorado Senate Republican nomination by Ken Buck after questioning whether he was "man enough."

There will be those who insist that this is about the double-bind women face in having to be assertive yet demure. I don't think that's the issue here. After all, what man could get away with attacking women candidates for not having the cojones to do the job? In fact, what member of any group would respond warmly to an out-group member rating his or her legitimacy?

The bottom line is that it's just not very smart to demean a group whose votes you're courting -- especially when that group makes up half the voting population. After all, what man hasn't secretly worried at some time or other that he might not be man-enough? The bully may think it's cute and tough; victims just feel the sting.