gender, language, politics

How to Watch the Debates

 

 

It is useful to see the presidential debates as, above all, auditions for a role, and to see the debaters as actively auditioning for a desired role, and the other participants (moderator, commentators, and audience) as using debate performance to determine the performers’ suitability for the role they seek. Debating, like any other human communicative activity, has its rules and expectations, violations of which can and should be judged as evidence of a candidate’s suitability for the job. If you can’t manage to obey the relatively simple rules of the debate structure for a mere 90-odd minutes, there is reason to doubt whether you are ready or able to play the much harder role for which you are auditioning, for a whole four years. Continue reading

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gender, language, other topics, politics

PRESTO CHANGE-O

 

 

The pundits have spoken, and spoken, and spoken: 2016 is an “unconventional” election: it is about “change” vs. the “status quo.” One candidate is the “change,” agent, and the other the representative of the “status quo.”

 

Thus far, I am in agreement.

 

But when they sort out which candidate is which, we part company. For the analysts, Trump is the “change” candidate, Clinton the “status quo.” But that’s backwards and upside down. If we correctly interpret “change” and “status quo,” Trump stands for the former, Clinton the latter. Continue reading

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gender, language, other topics, politics

MAKING ME SICK

 

 

Look at the front page of today’s (September 13) New York Times. On the upper right, you will find two articles about Clinton’s health problems. On the inner pages where these articles are continued are three additional articles on the same topic.

 

Ordinarily, the placement of the first two articles, and the fact that there are five in all, might be occasioned by, say, the start of World War III or an authenticated Elvis sighting. But no: all are about one presidential candidate’s not especially serious health problem. Continue reading

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gender, language, politics

The “Scandal” Scandal

 

OK, the results are in and the word is out: Clinton, while not “guilty” of a “crime” for which she could be prosecuted, nevertheless is deserving of, and has received, a “stinging rebuke” or a “severe scolding” from James Comey, head of the FBI, for her use of a personal e-mail server rather than the State Department’s server. The Republicans have weighed in, predictably, in turn castigating Comey for not castigating Clinton enough; the Donald has tweeted at length of her “crookedness”; a bit less predictably (maybe), the media is also weighing in to the same effect. Just consider the full-frontal headline in the hard-copy edition of the Paper of Record:

 

STERN REBUKE, BUT NO CHARGES, FOR CLINTON

 

The headline presupposes that “charges” would have been normal, and that the “rebuke” was deserved and appropriate, if minimal. The article, by Patrick Healy, begins:

 

Hillary Clinton may not be indicted on criminal charges over her handling of classified email, but the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, all but indicted her judgment and competence on Tuesday – two vital pillars of her presidential candidacy – and in the kinds of terms that would be politically devastating in a normal election year.

 

The silver lining for Mrs. Clinton is that this is not a normal election year.

 

The implication here is that Comey “all but indicted” all her judgment and competence, about everything, which his statement did not. (There is an issue, too, over the conflation of two senses of “indictment.”) But the overall point of this article, and the Times’s lead editorial, is that Clinton is guilty of severe malfeasance and lucky to have escaped the punishment she deserved; that the use of a personal email server by a Secretary of State is seriously bad behavior. But are either or both of these accusations true? And really, what is the whole “scandal” about? Continue reading

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language, other topics, politics

Cold Comforts, or None at All

 

It is comforting to think that Donald Trump is a nutcase who has given his mouth over to his egomania and just opens it up and lets whatever come out, without concern for the fact that he is destroying the Republican Party’s hopes for success in this year’s Presidential election, and perhaps forever. After all, he’s not a real Republican.

 

It is comforting to think that Bernie Sanders is a nutcase who has let egomania triumph over reason, refusing to get out of the race for the Democratic nomination and show some support for his rival, without concern for the fact that he is destroying the Democratic Party’s hopes for success in this year’s Presidential election, and perhaps forever. After all, he’s not a real Democrat.

 

Those are the comforting scenarios. But they might not reflect reality. Continue reading

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gender, language, other topics, politics

Going Negative

 

The media savants love numbers – it makes their work look like science. Among their favorites, often repeated, are the “negatives” of the leading presidential candidates. Commentators love to point out that this year, the two front-runners score higher negatives than their equivalents at any time in the past. For Trump, the stats are: positive 24%, negative 57%, for a total score of -33; for Clinton, positive 31%, negative 52%, overall -21.

 

Because the stats are reported side by side, it is easy to get the impression that the negative scores for the two candidates mean the same thing and were in response to the same kinds of behavior. Curiously, the media analysts never address that question – the negs simply are what they are: they show how unlikeable Trump and Clinton are, period.

 

But the two negativities are in fact very different in origin and meaning, and should be differently understood. Continue reading

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gender, language, other topics, politics

Who’s Gotta Narrative?

 

One of the reasons repeatedly offered for Hillary Clinton’s loss to Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic nomination, was this: Obama had a compelling “narrative,” which Clinton lacked. This explanation had the virtue of allowing us to believe that America didn’t have a problem with sexism or misogyny, just as Obama’s victory proved that we were now “post-racial.” The explanation felt good, but didn’t answer, or even address, a few relevant questions:

 

  • What is a “narrative”?
  • Do presidents have to have one?
  • Since when?

 

And now eight years later, the pundits are trying to explain Clinton’s rhetorical difficulties in the unexpected battle with Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination. Their task is exacerbated by their determination to avoid any explanation using words like “sexism” or “misogyny,” since America is a non-sexist and non-misogynist society. That makes it hard, but they’re trying. Continue reading

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gender, language, other topics, politics

Oof!

 

That is exactly how I am feeling – not so much because of the New Hampshire Democratic results themselves (which were what might have been expected), but because of the interesting responses to them from the media and other savants.

 

I feel as if I have been punched hard in the solar plexus, and I am not happy.

 

I feel that way because of many responses to both Clinton’s loss, Clinton herself, and a couple of remarks made by her female supporters and surrogates, responses that, in a rational universe, would make no sense at all. Actually, even in the universe we currently inhabit, they make no sense at all. Unless.

 

Unless what? Unless they are coping (none too well) with the threatened advent of powerful women. Continue reading

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gender, language, politics

Feminist, Shmeminist

 

In a front-page article in the New York Times on January 21, Amy Chozick offers the thesis that “feminists” are becoming disaffected with Clinton because of her hostility to Bill’s women while she was first lady. Who exactly are these “feminists” Chozick quotes, and what exactly are they complaining about? And are the criticisms legitimate, or just another way to allow women, especially certain self-styled feminists, to justify not supporting HRC?

 

This is just one of three Clinton stories in the January 21 paper of record. The second, also a hit piece, is about the “disaffection” of Democratic voters in Iowa. And the third, in the “Thursday Styles” section, is a longish disquisition on how Clinton should dress more interestingly. (I can find no such pieces on the Donald or Sanders.) I am not sure how to think about all this attention.

 

On second thought, yes I am, especially in light of the first article.  Continue reading

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