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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Need Stronger Candidates — Women and Men

Gadflyer Sarah Posner’s post “Why, oh Y?” criticizes the notion that the Dems need more macho candidates, recently addressed in Ryan Lizza’s New York Times piece “The Invasion of the Alpha Male Democrat.” Posner says:

I had a creepy feeling reading Lizza’s piece, in part because I hate that silly macho pissing contest, where the Democrats feel they have to work so hard not to look French or worry about their hair (unless they’re a woman, in which case they should worry very much about it) and drink Bud instead of latte. But also because I know that if success in Democratic politics depends on a macho test, female politicians will always face the eternal tug between flaunting their toughness while constantly tempering it with a prominent display of estrogen.

While Lizza’s article was more reporting on a perceived trend than advocating a candidate recruitment strategy, Posner makes a good point: “Before they go too far down that path, Democrats should avoid overplaying the macho hand.”
Who knows? Some candidates may win votes as a result of their macho vibes. But there is no feasable way to accurately evaluate what portion of a victory margin is due to perceived “manliness.” In some elections, too much macho could be a liability. Either way, it’s guesswork talking, not rigorous poll analysis.
Better Dems should focus on recruiting energetic, articulate and competitive candidates, and last time we checked they came in all genders. We can be fairly confident that Schumer, Van Hollen and Dean, who likely watched MN Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar shred her GOP adversary in Meet the Press and C-SPAN2 debates, get that.
Democrats can be proud of Speaker Pelosi, and that Senator Boxer and other Democratic women in Congress are now taking over the chairs of key Senate and House committees. And newly-elected Dem women are an equally impressive group. However, women are still substantially underrepresented at every level of representative government in the U.S. (See TDM’s Nov. 24 post here for the latest percentages). Correcting this shortfall is the more worthy challenge for the party of the people.

One comment on “Dems Need Stronger Candidates — Women and Men

  1. BarbNDC on

    Regarding “Dems Need Macho Candidates”: Think about it this way — “macho” means they speak up, stand for issues they believe in, and aren’t afraid to argue with the President. With this definition, Claire McCaskill should be judged as just as “macho” as Jim Webb or Jon Tester. So when it comes to recruiting candidates, it’s not that “macho” candidates have to be men, but rather that the abilities to speak up, be real, talk about what one believes … are all more important skills/attributes than where one went to college or how much money and/or stardom a potential candidate has.

    Reply

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