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November 23, 2009

Fiorina: I Can Beat Barbara Boxer Because I'm a Woman, and Chuck DeVore Isn't

I depart from Michelle Malkin on this particular point.

I think it's perfectly acceptable to play the "gender card" as regards electability. Whether or not electability matters all that much, and whether someone's gender really has a big influence on electability, is a side question, which people can figure out for themselves.

But to merely make mention of it? That's dirty pool?

I don't think it is. Fiorina isn't exactly playing identity politics. She's not saying, as Sotomayor did, that she's better qualified due to her sex. Instead, she's saying that her sex might make her more appealing to female voters. That's not claiming superiority in the way we usually speak of it. She's saying that people vote for candidates for all sorts of reasons -- being "just like me" being one of them -- and that this will be helpful.

Reality check: When Lynn Swann was running in Pennsylvania, I wasn't merely excited about his candidacy because he had a high name recognition and ability to scoop up donations. Or because I liked his platform. I didn't know what his platform was at the time and I still don't know. Part of the reason for excitement -- which I think most will admit, if only under duress -- was that he was black.

Yup. Because he was black. I certainly don't think his race would make him a superior governor than a white man. But certainly I thought that it would make him a better candidate than a white man, in the sense of having an advantage in getting some votes that most Republicans just don't. Not to mention -- be real, here -- any elected black Republican official is a huge PR point in the eternal Democratic advertising campaign to brand Republicans racist.

Republicans, I have to say, do this sort of thing all the time... they just don't like admitting it. J.C. Watts? Fine Representative. I like 'im. But, still and all, he sure seemed embraced by the base with an enthusiasm beyond what his record or abilities would demand. He was a good spokesman, but he was a particularly good spokesman... because he was black.

Alan Keyes? Well, no one talks too much about him anymore, because frankly he seems off his nut, but there was a time when conservatives endlessly praised him for how perfectly he articulated his message. I notice he was black, too, and I'm sure that many of his fans noticed that too.

Michael Steele, Ken Blackwell... good men, certainly, but let's be real, here: Part of the attraction of these candidates is their race.

So I don't get the upset over Fiorina. I am not closely following the DeVore-Fiorina contest. From what little I know of it, I presume DeVore is the more conservative candidate, and Fiorina the more moderate one. And that right there is certainly ample reason for conservatives to favor DeVore.

But it's certainly not dirty pool for Fiorina to note the conventional wisdom, that for some women voters, or for some moderates, a female candidate is more appealing. Maybe it shouldn't be that way, but it does, indeed, seem to be that way. (If you buy the conventional wisdom -- which you don't have to. But I don't see the sin in noting that conventional wisdom.)

And let me note: When Sarah Palin was attracting large swaths of previously-Obama-leaning women, no one objected and jumped up and down shouting "It's not right that women are now inclined to vote Republican just because Sarah Palin is a woman! I renounce these votes!"

If I remember right: We were all more than eager to accept those votes, even if they were cast for supposedly-bad reasons. In fact, I remember being positively giddy about that myself.

And this seems to me to very gentle play of the electability card, anyway.

"He is an honorable man," Fiorina said of DeVore. "He has every right to run. But he cannot beat Barbara Boxer."

She continued, "With all due respect and deep affection for white men -- I'm married to one -- but [Boxer] knows how to beat them. She's done it over and over and over."

Diana DeVore, Chuck's wife, responded on Twitter that, "Carly, I'm married to that 'white guy' & I can tell u he can win against mods and libs. Has record to prove it!"

I find it instructive that DeVore's wife enters the sexual-politics arena, too. It's not bad on her. But let's be real: Sexual politics is a part of politics. I see nothing that can be gained by pretending it isn't, and pretending that none of these superficial considerations matter in the voting booth.

They do. I allow that they probably shouldn't: And yet they do. Most people are superficial and especially so when it comes to voting.

Vote against Fiorina if you like (but note, per that last link, she sure doesn't talk in an egregiously moderate fashion -- I don't know if she walks the walk, but she talks the talk okay. I mean: She supports prop 8 and calls herself "pro-life," both positions being radioactive to the left.)

But beating her up over the gentle reminder that some people cast their votes based on goofy criteria? It just seems awfully contrived to me. It seems like the sort of thing you get annoyed at when you've already decided you disapprove of someone.

We're going to have a lot of heated primary fights. I personally think that is a good thing. As steel sharpens steel and all that.

But I want to see a genuine fight. I want these people to duke it out. As they say in sports, especially in big games, especially when it's a close contest: Let them play.

The refs -- us -- shouldn't blow the whistle on ticky-tack "fouls." Let them play, give them a bit of wiggle room, don't litter the playing field with flags over minor infractions.

Let them make their cases, and let's decide. And then let's unite afterwards.

There is a danger in claiming that a candidate is playing dirty pool: If that candidate should win a primary, it becomes harder for her one-time opponents to rally to her, because the idea that an election was stolen by unfair means is a really big thing to get past. Look at the Hillbuzz folks -- they hated how Obama won the primary against Hillary, and they're basically now conservative bloggers. They were so incensed by Obama's legitimately dirty-pool they are effectively Republicans for all intents and purposes.

There is real dirty pool and there is, well, ticky-tack stuff. Our primaries will be too bruising, too destructive, if ticky-tack stuff becomes the source of grievance.

By the Way: If anyone wants to instruct me about how DeVore is more conservative, and Fiorina less so, please do. To be honest -- I already pretty much accept that. That is the fuzzy idea I've gotten about this race: that Fiorina is the moderate, or even the RINO, and DeVore is the true conservative. (Or at least is more conservative.)

I buy that. I don't really have the facts to back that up, but that seems to me to be the thumbnail-sketch of the decision. And if that's why people support DeVore: That's fine, that's terrific.

My objection is solely about making a big deal out of this innocuous statement.

We can't both say "Sarah Palin has a strong appeal to blue-collar women voters!" like it's a good thing and then get all up in Fiorina's business for suggesting something similar about herself. It can't be that candidates we like are permitted to make mention of such things, and people we don't like are forbidden to mention them. Just because we like one and not the other.

Rules are rules and they apply to everyone. If it's okay for one candidate to make this sort of appeal, I think it's okay for another candidate to do so.


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posted by Ace at 03:02 PM

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