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June 13, 2013

Glass Houses and "The Party of Stupid"

In a post dripping with deliciously unintentional irony, Ta-Nehisi Coates brings the funny. One has to hand it to Mr. Coates - it can't be easy, crafting post titles that subtly establish the author's obvious moral and intellectual superiority while delicately (was that a nuance?) suggesting that people who don't share your political beliefs are - how shall we say this without stooping to the base ad hominid tactics of our opponents - "not too bright"?

To Stop Being the Party of Stupid You Must Stop Being Stupid

Good advice, that is. If only more people would take it. Consistency being the hobgoblin of great as well as little minds, Mr. Coates continues in much the same vein:

My label-mate David Graham finds the GOP saying dumb things about women, pregnancy, and rape again:
"Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject -- because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low," Franks said.

Franks continued: "But when you make that exception, there's usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours. And in this case that's impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation. And that's what completely negates and vitiates the purpose of such an amendment."

This got us thinking: do political parties really "talk"? Perhaps more to the point, who is empowered to speak for a party composed (as most parties are) of people whose beliefs, intelligence, and backgrounds cover a wide spectrum?

Under normal circumstances, the obvious answer would be, "A party spokesman or official, of course!". You know, someone who is authorized to speak on behalf of the organization as a whole. Statements from official spokesmen (or women, for that matter) are generally not sourced in their personal opinions. After all, they're getting paid to represent the party's official positions.

Yet for some strange reason, progressives like Mr. Coates feel entitled to elevate a never-ending procession of random nitwits to the august position of Official Spokesman for the GOP. First, there was an inflammatory talk radio host well known for slamming the GOP establishment. At first glance, a loose cannon who openly criticizes the GOP Establishment might seem an odd choice for an official party spokesperson. But you see, when someone with no actual role or power within the Republican Party says something deplorable, it's downright useful to be able to smear that organization with a broad brush held by one of its fiercest critics.

Mr. Limbaugh was soon replaced as official spokesman of the GOP by another public figure whose authority to speak for the party is similarly unclear: one Todd Akin, a representative for Missouri's 2nd Congressional district who was running for re-election. Republicans Stupid people who lack Mr. Coates' obvious brainpower might be forgiven for wondering how a relatively minor Congressman from a fairly obscure state came to be The Voice of the GOP, but Akin's bona fides are self-evidently self evident to the intellectual elite: he said something that was useful both stupid and sexist. And he was roundly criticized for it by his fellow Republicans.

Which seems an odd thing for "the GOP" to do to their own spokesman, doesn't it? Oh well, maybe Akin's Republican critics didn't get the official memo.

But let's ignore this insignificant fly in the rhetorical ointment for now. In his turn, Mr. Akin was duly replaced by yet another obscure Republican we had never heard of before he opened his mouth just wide enough to fit both feet inside it. Once again, stupid people and conservatives (but we repeat ourselves!) may be excused for not immediately flashing on what more nimble minds grasped immediately: the "Stupid Party" (as it is affectionately known by far more tolerant and enlightened souls) really need to find better official spokesmen.

In a way, though, we are oddly comforted by the knowledge that it is now considered fair game to smear the opposing party with the most embarrassingly sexist utterances and deeds of any one of its members. Because if we adopt the same standard Mr. Coates so willingly applies to the GOP, it would appear that the Democratic Party is The Party of Sexism:

As the Democratic nomination contest slouches toward a close, it's time to take stock of what I will not miss.

I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan "Bros before Hos." The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet.

I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty item.

...Political discourse will at last be free of jokes like this one, told last week by magician Penn Jillette on MSNBC: "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?" Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski rebuked Jillette.

I won't miss political commentators (including National Public Radio political editor Ken Rudin and Andrew Sullivan, the columnist and blogger) who compare Clinton to the Glenn Close character in the movie "Fatal Attraction."

Usefully (for those who can't wait to apply Mr. Coates' strategy to the DNC) the 2008 Democratic primary offered up a veritable gold mine of hate-filled, sexist invective:

Hillary Clinton is a bitch. A big ol’ bitchy bitch. And a c**t. A “big f**king whore.” Fortunately, you can “call a woman anything.” She’s “Nurse Ratched.” She’ll castrate you if she gets a chance. She would like that. She’s a “She-Devil.” She’s a madam, and her daughter’s a whore. She’s frigid, and she can’t give head. She’s a “She-Devil.” A lesbian. A nag. When things get tough, she cries like a big dumb GIRL. In fact, she’s just that — a “little girl.” In FACT, she wants to “cry her way to the White House.” To be, ahem, “Crybaby-in-Chief.” That proves that she’s not tough enough. But she’s also not feminine enough. She’s “screechy.” She’s an “aging, resentful female.” She’s “Sister Frigidaire.” She really ought to quit running for President and stick to housework. She basically spent her entire times as First Lady going to tea parties. She’s a monster who just won’t die. In fact, she really should just die. You can buy a urinal target with her face on it to express what you really think of her. OMG she’s got claws! She’s crazy. In fact, she’s a lunatic. She’s petty and vindictive and entitled. She’s a washed-up old hag. She’s “everybody’s first wife standing outside probate court.” She’s a “scolding mother.” She’s shrill… shrill… shrill. She can’t take it when people are mean to her. She’s a “hellish housewife.” She’s Tanya Harding. She CAN’T be President, what with the mood swings and the menses. Any woman who votes for her is voting with her vagina, not her brain. Women only like Hillary because she’s a fellow Vagina-American. And because they vote with their feelings. Frankly, anyone who still thinks we need “feminine role models” should get over it and move on, already. Oh, and men who supporters are castratos in the eunuch chorus. You shouldn’t make her President because she wants it too much. She’s totally just banking on support from ugly old feminists. And she looooves to “play the victim.” She cackles! And cackles. And cackles. It’s like she’s a witch or something! She’s definitely“witchy.” And now you can buy her cackle as your ring tone. Her voice, too, is “grating”–like “fingernails on a blackboard” to “some men.” She’s hiding behind her gender. She isn’t a “convincing mom” because she’s too strident. She never did anything on her own. Her husband keeps her on a leash. She hates men. Her campaign is a “catfight.” She makes people want to kill themselves, is like a “domineering mo ther,” and is cold. And OMG she has boobies! All of which are reasons to hate her. (And boy, could I go on.)

This is exactly the kind of talk that, had it been pointed at his fellow blacks, would have had Mr. Coates in high dudgeon. Fortunately, the targets - women - are "people" (we use the term loosely, of course) who don't really rate the white-hot outrage normally reserved for coded racist dog whistles. We apologize for posting such crude, ugly fare but we're simply passing along stupid/sexist things "the DNC has said". Be sure to click through to the original post, which is full of links to all those deliciously sexist bon mots, straight from the mouth of the Democratic Party! Or you could just ask EJ Dionne. Or Kirsten Powers.

Or John Walsh:

Or Julia Gillard, who is having her own problems with the Liberal Party in her country:

The Australian prime minister has again been forced to confront sexism in the country's politics after it emerged that the menu at an opposition fundraising dinner offered "Julia Gillard quail … with small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box."

Gillard, who has repeated attacked misogyny among her political rivals, called on the Liberal National party to drop Mal Brough, the candidate responsible for organising the dinner.

She implicated opposition leader Tony Abbott in a pattern of behaviour culminating in a "grossly offensive and sexist menu" being produced for the fundraiser in Brisbane in late March.

Does Mr. Coates seriously believe that smearing an entire party with the embarrassingly sexist quotes of a few members is a legitimate debate tactic? If so, he may wish to consider another old maxim: those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

There are a lot of stones out there.

Posted by Cassandra at June 13, 2013 06:02 AM

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How 'bout one a little closer to home for Mr. Coates:

A journalism professor (what's more authoritative for the journalism profession than a guy who *teaches* them?) claims the NRA advocates for gun ownership because they fear Obama is going to take away their rights and they want to be able to fight back. For this criminal opinion, this professor advocates for NRA members to be declared traitors and shot.

Yep, nothing says "we don't want to take away your rights you have no reason to fear" like an M-1 tank and an F-22 Raptor sent after you.

May we ascribe this to all journalists now?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 13, 2013 11:49 AM

May we ascribe this to all journalists now?

Apparently so, by The Coates Rule :p

Here's what I want to know. If the statements of any member of "the GOP" can be accurately or truly (he makes a big point of using those words) attributed to "the GOP", then aren't the Republican criticisms of Akin, Limbaugh, et al equally valid examples of the GOP "talking"?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 13, 2013 12:34 PM

Of course not. Those don't represent our *true* thoughts. Just the platitudes that we know must be uttered publicly.

If we could say them openly there would be no need for dog whistles.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 13, 2013 12:43 PM

And what Franks said wasn't really bad. He was talking about abortion after 20 weeks gestation:

“Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject- because you know the, the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low, but when you make that exception, there’s usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours.”

“And in this case, that’s impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation, and that’s what completely negates and vitiates the purpose of such an amendment,” he added.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 13, 2013 01:56 PM

Miss Ladybug!!!

Are you trying to suggest that Mr. Coates may not even have his facts straight? :)

I'm shocked that he would make such a .... dare I say stupid? mistake in a post about the importance of accuracy and truthfulness!

Posted by: Cassandra at June 13, 2013 02:03 PM

I was just curious as to when 5% became a really big number. I'm just trying to imagine a system where you consider 5% confidence bounds as significant.

Imagine buying products designed and built by someone who used the ole]d 5 percent, close enough rule.

Posted by: Allen at June 13, 2013 04:58 PM

I'm trying to figure out why I should take seriously the comments of a man(?) named Ta-Nehisi in the first place -- especially when they're this inane.

Posted by: DL Sly at June 14, 2013 01:10 PM

I'm wondering if he has a nickname... "Ta", perhaps?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 17, 2013 08:58 AM