Two op eds in today’s Boston Globe provide two fascinating points of view on the Democratic nomination race.
In one, Ellen Goodman writes that Hillary Clinton is disadvantaged by being a woman:
Women of Hillary’s generation were taught to don power suits and use their shoulder pads to push open corporate doors. In the 1970s, the lessons on making it in a man’s world were essentially primers on how to behave like men. As University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political scientist Kathleen Dolan says, “They had to figure out a way to go undercover. They could only be taken seriously if they filled the male model with XX chromosomes.”
But the next generation of advice books urged women to do it their own way. The old stereotypes that defined women as more compassionate and collaborative were given a positive spin. They were framed and praised as women’s ways of leading.
Today’s shelves are still full of titles – from “Seducing the Boys Club” to “The Girl’s Guide to Being a Boss (Without Being a Bitch)” to “Enlightened Power” – that tell us to act like a man or act like a woman. But in many ways, the transformative inspirational, collaborative, “female” style has become more attractive. Especially to a younger generation. And – here’s the rub – especially when it is modeled by a man.
Dolan sees Obama as “the embodiment of the gentle, collaborative style without threatening his masculine side.” But she adds, “He’s being more feminine than she can be. She is in a much tighter box.” …
…This too is a bit like what’s happened in business. Whatever advice they follow, women are still only 3 percent of the CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. Meanwhile, it’s become more acceptable for a man to take an afternoon off to watch his kids play ball than for a woman.
Ilene Lang heads Catalyst, which surveyed more than 1,200 senior executives in the United States and Europe. This research calculated the tenacity of double binds and double standards. It showed how hard it still is for a woman to be seen as both competent and likable. And it led her to the conclusion that “What defines leadership to most people is one thing. It’s male.”
As for the Obama style? “Both men and women are much more likely to accept a collaborative style of leadership from men than from women. From women it seems too soft,” she adds ruefully.
I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I’ve seen social-psychological studies that show, for example, that when a man displays anger he’s seen as “strong” but when a woman displays the same anger she’s seen as shrewish or bitchy.
On the other hand, it might be telling that Senator Clinton’s most successful moments in the campaign are when she is most “feminine.” I’m thinking of the famous weepy episode in New Hampshire, and also of last night’s debate closing statement, which justifiably is being touted as her finest moment so far. The 1970s model may have passed its shelf-life date.
Derrick Jackson points out that Barack Obama also has a built-in disadvantage that turns out to be an advantage:
It was not just Hillary Clinton’s welling up in New Hampshire, and Bill Clinton’s racial put-down of Obama in South Carolina. Hillary Clinton has displayed a periodic reliance on white women as her safety net in town halls, saying things like “being the first woman president is a very big change.”
That would be no big thing, except that the nation’s demographics and racial history dictate that Obama dare not employ a parallel tactic by saying “being the first black president is a very big change.” Obama has automatically had to run as a more universal representative of the people, with one fruit being his current 10-state streak.
Further — y’know what I said above about angry women? I believe a whole lot of white America doesn’t take well to angry black Americans, either. Note that Obama is relentlessly cool and positive.
And, with respect to Ellen Goodman, let’s not forget that we’re not talking about Generic Woman. We’re talking about Hillary Clinton, who for many is baggage personified.
Eugene Robinson points out another distinction:
Humor me while we conduct a little thought experiment. Imagine that Barack Obama had lost 10 contests in a row. Imagine that he now trailed Hillary Clinton substantially in the number of Democratic primaries and caucuses won, in total votes cast, in pledged convention delegates, in the overall delegate count, in fundraising and in the ineffable attribute called mojo. Imagine that Obama was struggling, at this late hour, to come up with the right message. What would the conventional wisdom say?
That it was over, of course. That Obama was toast. That staking everything on the March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas was a starry-eyed hope, not a plan, and that it was time to smell the coffee.
Today, however, I’m seeing a lot of pundits advising Clinton to smell the coffee. The Associated Press gives Clinton a small lead in Ohio, and in Texas they’re dead even. Conventional wisdom says Clinton must win both Ohio and Texas decisively to remain a credible candidate. She might do it, but at the moment it looks doubtful.
McClatchy is running a Clinton campaign postmortem. Steven Thomma writes,
Democrats say that Clinton, whose central theme is her readiness to be president, also made blunder after blunder. She chose an inexperienced campaign manager, crafted a message that didn’t match the moment, fielded poor organizations in key states and built a budget that ran dry just when she needed money most.
Michael Luo, Jo Becker and Patrick Healy write in today’s New York Times that the Clinton campaign mismanaged money rather badly. In particular, she’s been overpaying consultants who have given her bad advice.
Nearly $100,000 went for party platters and groceries before the Iowa caucuses, even though the partying mood evaporated quickly. Rooms at the Bellagio luxury hotel in Las Vegas consumed more than $25,000; the Four Seasons, another $5,000. And top consultants collected about $5 million in January, a month of crucial expenses and tough fund-raising.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s latest campaign finance report, published Wednesday night, appeared even to her most stalwart supporters and donors to be a road map of her political and management failings. Several of them, echoing political analysts, expressed concerns that Mrs. Clinton’s spending priorities amounted to costly errors in judgment that have hamstrung her competitiveness against Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.
“We didn’t raise all of this money to keep paying consultants who have pursued basically the wrong strategy for a year now,” said a prominent New York donor. “So much about her campaign needs to change — but it may be too late.”
The high-priced senior consultants to Mrs. Clinton, of New York, have emerged as particular targets of complaints, given that they conceived and executed a political strategy that has thus far proved unsuccessful.
The firm that includes Mark Penn, Mrs. Clinton’s chief strategist and pollster, and his team collected $3.8 million for fees and expenses in January; in total, including what the campaign still owes, the firm has billed more than $10 million for consulting, direct mail and other services, an amount other Democratic strategists who are not affiliated with either campaign called stunning.
See also Richard Adams, “Death by Xerox.”
Update: Also see Pam’s House Blend.