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Women Against Christine O'Donnell

Monmouth University has a new poll on the Delaware Senate and Congressional races, and it's painful for the Republicans, especially for Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell. The top line: Chris Coons is leading O'Donnell 57% to 38%. O'Donnell has a grisly 58% disapproval rating with only 31% favorable, and Delaware voters consider her unqualified for the Senate by a margin of 57% to 35%. That's pretty painful.

Meanwhile, Coons is considered qualified (64% to 25%)and has a 50% approval rating with 33% disapproving. Those numbers aren't eye-poppingly good, and suggest that Coons may still be a relatively unknown commodity with voters, but O'Donnell's higher visibility is obviously not helping her.

What's most surprising though is the cross-tabs. Because for all the talk about the new wave of conservative Republican women, O'Donnell's numbers with female voters are abominably weak. She's not just losing women; she's losing because of women.

Only 22% of women polled view O'Donnell favorably. A landslide 68% view her unfavorably. Only 25% of women voters in Delaware consider O'Donnell qualified, and 67% do not. (Among men, O'Donnell has a -10% approval rating, and men come closer to an even split on her qualifications, with 44% calling her qualified and 48% not. Bad numbers, but not the horror show that the rest of O'Donnell's polling is.)

In fact, if only men held the franchise, this poll would give Christine O'Donnell a tiny, statistically meaningless lead: she's winning men 48% to 46%. It's women, splitting 68% for Coons and only 27% for O'Donnell, who turn the race into a 19-point blowout.

Some of this, of course, is about the fact that women skew Democratic and men Republican. But it also raises the question, again, of which voters the new crop of Palinite female characters candidates are designed to appeal to.

The Palin model, of which O'Donnell is only this year's most prominent update, is young, conservative, and attractive, but also typically weak on credentials and experience, openly anti-intellectual, and conspicuously reliant on faith and emotion in decision making. What's amazing about such candidates is that they so clearly fit misogynist stereotypes: strong hearts and weak heads, poor in book learning and logic but apt to be overwhelmed by the strong tides of their feminine feelings. I find the attempt to turn such a negative stereotype into a positive qualification for high office absolutely bizarre.

What's even more bizarre, but perhaps illuminating, is that men, or at least a plurality of men registered to vote, tend to view such female candidates as qualified, while other women do not. But it makes sense. If you take women seriously, it's obvious that most of these specific women are not serious in the least. Everybody knows dozens of women, just in their own zip code, who would make better senators than Christine O'Donnell would. It's only if you expect nothing of women that such women could meet your expectations.

If think of women as adult members of the human race, these candidacies are not simply jokes, but insults. But if you prefer to imagine women as passionate, feisty, emotional, and not terribly smart, Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell are just the gals for you.

I suspect that a lot of these "Made In Palin, Alaska" candidates exist as cannon fodder or future favor givers.  O'Donnell runs and loses but she riles up a minority of useful idiots that Palin can sell books and action figures to later.  Everybody thinks Palin is building a political movement but she's not.  She's building an audience because she's a celebrity, not a politician.  Whether or not she runs for president in 2012 will be about whether or not such a run serves her celebrity.

I've been kicking this horse for a while, but there is a political purpose behind nominating right-wing candidates even when they're unelectable--knocking out the moderate Republicans. The tactic may seem counterproductive, but conservative hardliners have been doing the same thing every election since the 1970s, starting with Paul Weyrich and Richard Viguerie. Look at how much money the Club for Growth spends in the primaries.

In short, it's about control of the GOP. And it has been working. Conservatives used to be a minority in the party, which was controlled by moderates. After a series of purges, conservative leaders finally wrested control in the early 1990s, starting with Gingrich and Lott. Now moderates are all but instinct. And O'Donnell is a bit player in another round of purges.

PS Sorry Doctor, this is slightly off-topic, I know.

I think it's right that part of the discrepancy is that more conservatives are men. I tried to acknowledge that in the origina post. On the other hand, 38% is a huge swing. There's a big difference between 44 to 48 among men and 25 to 67 among women ... the correlation between gender and conservatism would have to be enormous to explain such a big swing by itself.

I also think that the fact that conservatives are mostly men explains a lot about the appeal of the conservative female candidates, and the conservative female pundits before them. They serve important psychological roles for conservative male voters, not least by serving as validators. They are valuable as public figures precisely because conservative women are relatively rare in the general population.

Genghis is also right about the general strategy of running fringe conservatives against moderate Republicans. That's certainly the dynamic in the O'Donnell-Castle primary. But I think something is going on with the female conservative fringe candidates that isn't going on with people like Carl Paladino (another deeply self-destructive fringe candidate who should never have been nominated). The gender perceptions work differently.

And destor, I think you're right that Palin is looking for brand extenders more than viable political candidates. I'd tweak your formulation slightly by saying that Palin is not running for President, but is a celebrity in the business of marketing herself as a Presidential candidate. I blogged about a year ago that as soon as Palin can't market herself as a potential national candidate (because she doesn't run or because she comes in fourth in New Hampshire) her media profile and her money-making opportunities will go sharply downhill.

 

Even a conservative man should recognize that these women are ill prepared to run the country.  I suspect that in addition to letting their libidos run wild,  the men who prefer these women figure that a) they're better than the "librul" alternative and b) the women can be controlled by their male colleagues so it doesn't really matter what their qualifications are.

So you think it's another sort of sexism at play?

You might be right, Ami, but I have an alternate theory. The conservative officeholders who are men probably think that they can control these women if and when they achieve office, but I don't think the average voter thinks that deeply about the ins and outs of congressional horse trading. Instead, I think the average conservative voter sees an attractive, young, somewhat charismatic woman who is a member of their party. I think that the President's detractors would say the same thing of the average liberal voter and their might be something to it. But at least our guy isn't a lunatic who can't think his way out of a paper bag.  

Doc:

I guess I'm not too sure that Christine O'Donnell and Sarah Palin and their ilk really matter too much right now (although I do think they could be more of a meaningful story to the detriment of the GOP once the presidential campaign begins to get going next year).  We seem to be spending quite a bit of time on O'Donnell and wacky congressional candidates wearing Waffen SS uniforms, all at the same time that the Democratic sky could be falling something fierce. Seems like a bit of fiddlin' as the coalition (such as it is) burns.  I like a good laugh as much as anyone.  But I think that the more salient issues now center on how an incredibly decent guy like Russ Feingold can't get elected, or how an economically distressed state like Pennsylvania is on the verge of rejecting someone like Joe Sestak and electing someone like  a Toomey.  Isn't the focus on Christine O'Donnell et al. kind of missing the forest through the trees?

Bruce

 

Great comment, Bruce.  Recc'd.  We need some coherent messages from the Dems.

But really, Bruce, isn't the most important thing to criticize other people's blog posts? How will progressives ever win if we don't make sure that other people blog about what's on our minds, rather than what's on their minds?

If you feel that blogging about Palin and O'Donnell is a waste of time, by all means: don't blog about them. We've provided you with blogging capacity here, and I look forward to reading what you write.

I blog about different things on different days. Sometimes that's long-term think pieces. Sometimes it's questions apart from partisan politics. Sometimes it's a response to the things happening in the news that day. Today it was about a recently-released poll. I blogged about this particular poll today because it was released today and because I found some of the data in it striking. If this news item hadn't caught my eye, I would have blogged about the way higher education works in America at the moment, as part of a series of posts on that issue.

I have occasionally written posts about what the Democrats or the Administration need to do, and at least one will be coming up in the next few weeks. (I tend not to write "What the Democrats Are Doing Wrong and Why They Suck" posts, because I don't find them especially helpful, but I don't object when others blog about that.) But again, that Whither the Dems? piece is still queued up behind at least one or two posts about academia.

It's quite possible that I'll blog about O'Donnell again, and all but certain that I'll blog about Palin. Most of what I do as a blogger is try to think analytically about things, and the Palin phenomenon is one that I think hasn't been fully understood yet. So from time to time, I'm going to think about what the hell is going on there. Moreover, the Palin/O'Donnell/Bachmann axis does involve other questions I'm interested in blogging about, such as the way gender politics and discrimination intersects with partisan politics.

If your objection is to the overall amount of blog or news coverage about right-wing crazies these days, all I can say is that (1) I decline to take responsibility for other people's blogging and reporting choices and (2) the bizarre behavior by candidates for important political office is inherently newsworthy. I'm sorry if you're tired reading about how many Republicans are behaving like lunatics, but I'm more sorry that so many of them are, in fact, behaving like lunatics. And when Republicans dress up like Nazis, e-mail pictures of women having sex with animals, or buy television ads to deny that they are witches, that behavior does demand public comment.

Doctor Cleveland:

 

Huh?  I don't think we've ever corresponded but my your reply to me is pretty gosh darn defensive for someone who is a principal blogger here.

For what it's worth, let me clarify.  I was responding to your blogpost in particular, but the point I was trying to make was more global.  It's not the fact that you choose to write about O'Donnel per se that prompted my reply; it's my perception that there is an extraordinary time being spent in the blogosphere and in the MSM on the O'Donnell's of the world.  And I think it is missing the forest through the trees.

I honestly did not mean to offend you or to be offensive.  But, respectfully, I think your response reflects some pretty thin skin.  If you want me to refrain from commenting, say the word.

 

 

Don't play innocent, Bruce. We know that you're trouble, and we're watching you like people who watch people who they know are trouble.

(I think the good doctor is just gun-shy due to some recent undaglike activity that we're not used to round these parts.)

Bslev aka Bruce meet Dr. Cleveland aka Dr. Cleveland. Dr. Cleveland meet Bruce.  I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Bruce, to clarify:

I look forward to reading what you write.

And that is where I should have left it.

I felt that I've been drowning in O'Donnell, and have worried that we do pay her and the likes of her too much attention, assuring that they ARE media stars.  I think of that old axiom that 'there is no such thing as bad advertising', and of course you're free to blog what you like.  It was that so many are blogging and running videos of her that was the larger issue.

If the Democrats' big problem next month is shaping up as the enthusiasm gap, then how is focusing attention on such poster children for the crazy as O'Donnell, Angle, Paladino or that would-be Nazi guy NOT a good thing? I hate it that the Dems' only campaign slogan is "The Pepublicans would be worse," but when there's so much evidence that it's true, lying there for the picking, hell, run with it. If candidates like this don't motivate Dems to GOTV, nothing can.

What exactly are bloggers missing by not covering Feingold's apparently losing campaign?  What  goal would be achieved by doctor Cleveland writing about it?  Does the good doctor have enough influence to sway that election?  If so, then I agree with you, that that blog should indeed be written.  I would like to see Feingold remain in the Senate.  

If DC does not wield that level of influence, then your comment is just another in a far-too-long list of random blog commenters trying to dictate what others should write, when the means to get their preferred message out there is literally at their fingertips.  

No comment.

My control over Wisconsin politics is actually extensive, especially my profound influence over GOTV efforts, but if I ever reveal that power on my blog I will lose it forever.

Oh. Whoops.

It's troubling that a fairly large segment, 35% or more, of voters do not apparently believe either that the problems this country faces are serious problems that require serious candidates to address, or that government action is essential to meet the challenges facing our families, communities and nation in the future.

It may also be true that large numbers of voters do not have the time, the interest or the ability to pick smart, honest political representatives and national leaders, which may also explain why so few effective, proven executives ever enter politics.

True enough. But Herbert Hoover still carried between 39 and 40 percent of the vote in 1932. And that was a landslide stomping after three years of not fixing the Great Depression.

In electoral politics, as in baseball, just about everyone wins somewhere between one-third and two-thirds. The thing is to win as much of the middle third as you can.

"It's only if you expect nothing of women that such women could meet your expectations."

This is a point that I wish were true because then I could get all righteously indignant about how men are still so completely oppressive! But, as I commented somewhere up above, I think conservative voters who count these candidates not just as qualified but as vastly preferable to the (hopefully) smarter and more well informed alternative aren't making those decisions because they devalue women. They are voting for men who are equally idiotic. Boehner and Cantor are their leaders, for goodness sake. Mike Pence and Louis Gohmert are two more that have already made the cut. Ben Quayle will likely soon be joining them. 

It's true that it is insulting to women that these women should rise to the top. But so it is also insulting for men. Your gender's representatives at the conservative table are just as pretty and just as dumb. :)

I suppose if you're looking for change, then all you have to go on is presentation because electing someone with a long record of political achievement isn't change. So we get Survivor: Government in which most of the contestants are eventually revealed to be models, actors and screwups that never made a mark anywhere else.

This Delaware brat reminds me of some Reese Witherspoon movie.

Only this one never even went to Law School.

 

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