By Felicia Cravens, Contributor, US Daily Review.
In recent weeks the Barack Obama campaign rolled out the latest attempt to solidify the support of women voters in the person of Julia. Julia isn’t a real person; instead, Julia’s slideshow tale highlights government dependency throughout her life, from Head Start to Senior Centers and everything in between.
The Julia campaign was mercilessly mocked almost as soon as it had hit the campaign website:
Julia demonstrates how once again, conservatives have taken the narrative away from the progressive left. But there’s something else behind the entire Julia episode that has been bothering me.
Courting women’s votes is nothing new. Candidates have been doing it since women had their right to vote codified, and have been messaging to women far longer than that. But Julia reminds me of other characters in other campaigns.
During Bill Clinton’s campaign for president in 1992, there was a deliberate effort to portray him as the starkest of contrasts with staid, boring old George H W Bush. Clinton was the relatable guy, one you could imagine on the next barstool, whether you were a man or a woman (though an encounter with the one would certainly end differently than with the other). Hence the “I didn’t inhale” moment, the Arsenio Hall appearance and saxophone gig.
None of this had anything to do with actual qualifications for office, but that didn’t seem to matter.
Clinton continued to court women overtly throughout his presidency; recall that the term “soccer mom” emerged during his presidency. His concerned refrain of “I feel your pain” tossed out at opportune moments allowed women, and voters in general, to see Clinton cast as the Great Empathizer.
And it had its effect. Unmarried women voted for Clinton 53-31 over Bush in 1992. Monica Lewinsky spent quality time with Clinton inside the White House. Even a White House correspondent swooned over him: Nina Burleigh famously declared: “I’d be happy to give him [oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal,”
On the one hand, I keep wondering whether THIS is what women fought for a hundred years ago; whether this is the Suffragettes’ repayment.
But now I think I see what’s going on. Employing empathy is effective. Decades of derision and marginalization of men have changed cultural expectations, made relationships more difficult between men and women, and flipped the “desirable male” model on its head. Women are often characterized as complaining that their own man “doesn’t understand me” and “doesn’t listen to me.” That may be valid in the relationship arena, but when applied to politics it’s a ridiculous basis for policy.
And after sowing so much discord between women and their partners, progressives offer their version of a Real Man: a president who provides what he tells them their own men cannot. Health care, subsidized education, job assistance and pay mandates – Obama promises it all. The progressive wedges driven between the sexes have created the space for the Seducer-in-Chief. With Clinton it was a little more literal, obviously, but Obama fills the role as well.
And understanding IS seductive. Any woman who feels misunderstood and isolated can become more receptive to the voice of someone whispering in her ear “I know how you feel… I want to do something to make it better… it’s not your fault… I’ll take care of you.” If that works in personal relationships, how much more seductive when the man whispers that he’ll take all her civic burdens and most of her familial burdens onto his own back? Even if he’s shunting them off onto her neighbors, she’ll still respond as though he personally assumed them.
The main difference is that rather than inviting them to engage in an extramarital affair, the president is merely asking women to betray their independence, their belief in hard work and merit, and their intrinsic conservative family values.
(crossposted at Own The Narrative)
Felicia Cravens walked away from her accounting degree over a decade ago to become a stay-at-home mom. Since then, she has filled her “spare time” teaching drama in an after-school program and working in conservative politics. She founded the Houston Tea Party Society in 2009, serves as a frequent media contact, and trains and equips people new to the political process, on topics such as Convention 101 and Twitter Basics. She also serves as Vice-President of the organization that planned January’s Saddle Up Texas Straw Poll. Her passion for social, media in politics has led her to launch Dialect Social Media this spring, a consulting firm for candidates, and she can be found on Facebook and Google+, and on Twitter as @somethingfishie and at LinkedIn. She is a contributor at Own The Narrative and The Texas Conservative as well as a blogger in her own right at Something Fishie.