Sunday, March 20, 2016

The New York Review of Books has a couple of notable articles on the Presidential race.

Zoë Heller writes on Hillary & Women (04/07/2016 issue; accessed 03/19/2016):
The notion that Clinton’s campaign style in 2008 was an imitation of maleness—a shrouding of her authentic womanly self—is testament not only to a strong streak of essentialism that persists in modern feminism, but also to some rather wishful thinking about who Clinton “really” is. A more accurate summation of her strategy that year (and of why young female Democrats didn’t vote for her) is that she ran as a conservative woman.2 And given her history of hawkish foreign policy positions both before and since—her votes for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, her enthusiasm for sending “the hard men with guns” into Syria, and so on—there is no reason to believe that this tough, “military” Clinton was any less authentic than the one who became briefly misty-eyed in a New Hampshire coffee shop.

At any rate, Clinton has now seen the error of her ways. The first clear indication that she would be playing up her femaleness and its putative attendant virtues in this election came two years ago with the publication of her memoir Hard Choices. The book opens with an account of Clinton taking Obama to task for the sexism she endured during the 2008 primaries3 and ends with a chapter on her efforts at the State Department to “knit gender into every corner of US foreign policy.” In between, it fairly brims with “aren’t women amazing?” sentiments of the sort one finds cross-stitched on decorative cushions. ...

That Clinton will be a necessarily more effective champion of gender equity than Sanders, that she has a stronger track record on women’s rights than him, is a crucial part of the feminist argument for her candidacy and also its weakest. Clinton has certainly been pushed during this campaign to take what are, for her, unusually bold, feminist positions on women’s issues and, if elected, she may well feel obliged to carry some of that boldness with her into her administration. But it is dishonest to pretend that her prior record offers any sort of guarantee of a “pro-women” presidency.

Elizabeth Drew, a respected reporter but one who usually doesn't stray far from the Beltway media scripts, writes in 2016: What We Now Know 03/17/2016:

Hillary Clinton’s solid victories in Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina on Tuesday all but assured her of having enough delegates to win the nomination. While the races were much tighter in Illinois and Missouri—in each case Clinton beat Sanders by only two points—Sanders simply couldn’t replicate his victory in Michigan on March 8. The surprisingly large turnout of young voters for Sanders in Michigan just didn’t materialize in the next industrial states. But Sanders will continue to challenge Clinton—and he clearly wants a prominent part at the convention: thrillingly for him and unexpected by just about everyone else, he has started a movement. Following Sanders’s upset of her in Michigan, Clinton amped up her talk about trade and protections needed for workers. Clinton didn’t do particularly well with independents in the March 15 contests, and this is a subject of worry within her campaign.

Clinton’s victory speech that night displayed her strengths and her weaknesses as a candidate. Obviously very well informed, she has so many things to say that she still lacks a message. One could hear her trying out this one and that one, but they competed with each other so that no underlying theme came through. Not long before the March 15 primaries, in a moment of candor, Clinton confessed that she’d been advised to stop yelling her speeches; the yelling is new or at least far more prominent in this campaign than before, and despite some of her aides’ attempts to label criticism of it as sexist, in my experience women are at least as bothered by it as men are.
This Hillary-yells-too-much meme is one that the press is fond of at the moment. There was a whole segment on Meet the Press today about it. It's basically silly, a rerun of the Howard-Dean-yells-too-much version in 2004.

She has this to say about the appeal of Storm Trumper politics:

It had been clear for weeks that violence would come to Trump events. It’s not just that Trump had made numerous statements that encouraged the violence but that he clearly sees it as an important instrument of his candidacy. And unless he undergoes a transformation, there has been nothing to reassure us that should he win the presidency he would drop this as a stratagem for ginning up support. Those Republicans and others who professed shock at the violence that erupted outside the venue for a planned Trump rally in Chicago last week hadn’t been paying attention. Trump had been making a much bigger deal about the presence of even peaceful demonstrators than was called for. If he spots one he interrupts his talk and calls great attention to that person rather than, as many politicians do, just keep talking.

As I watched the scenes of physical clashes in Chicago play over and over on the cable channels, I couldn’t help thinking of the Munich beer hall putsch. With his keen understanding of how management of cable news think, Trump had to know how the violence would play on television, and, having cancelled the rally in Chicago, he made himself available to the news hosts. “A lot of people say this is a plus in terms of voters,” he told Fox News. (There’s evidence that this was true in the voting on March 15.) Disorder? Trump, the hero, would restore order. The populist authoritarian would defend the powerless.
The following is also conventional wisdom of the moment. But it's a coherent and not-silly version of it:

For all the attention being paid them, polls purporting to show how Hillary Clinton (or even Sanders) would do against various possible Republican nominees are meaningless at this point in the campaign. (After the two parties’ conventions in 1988 Michael Dukakis was running eighteen points ahead of George H. W. Bush.) And no one should be under the illusion that the nomination could be denied Trump without causing a civil war within the Republican party. Trump commented on Wednesday of this week that if the nomination is taken from him, “You’d have riots.” If he’s the nominee there remains that possibility of a third party formed, among other things to give Republican politicians a place to go until the storm blows over. But whatever ultimately becomes of their candidacies, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are atop movements that won’t go away. And whoever ends up in the Oval Office will have a devil of a time trying to govern.

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