Mark Schmitt, whom I hold in great esteem, has a long post up at TAPPED on the question of whether Hillary Clinton’s ace card in the 2008 presidential race is her hidden support among women, even those who don’t agree with her on major issues.Mark’s actually responding to a blogospheric exchange with one Linda Hershman, who published a Washington Post op-ed piece basically arguing that women are too apolitical, and too politically irrational, to get the job done for HRC. Mark effectively demolishes Hershman’s condescending and anectdotal take on female political engagment, but also, perhaps overcompensating, disputes the Mark Penn/James Carville hypothesis that women will go for HRC more than for any other candidate with similar policy views. Indeed, he suggests Penn and Carville are playing into the same gender stereotypes as Hershman.I just can’t agree with Mark here, and not because I think women are more inclined than anyone else to indulge, on the margins, in identity voting, but because I don’t think they, unlike everyone else, are entirely immune to it.My empirical evidence here is less about HRC’s polling numbers than about history.Anyone who’s looked at Catholic voting trends over the decades recognizes that Al Smith, and more spectacularly, John F. Kennedy, benefitted from massive and disproportiate support from Catholic voters who had no other apparent reason for voting for them. Jimmy Carter would not have been elected president in 1976 without huge southern identity support in states that went heavily Republican before and after his presidency. Bill Clinton won less overwhelming, but still crucial support in the South for the same reasons. And if you compare voting levels and margins in South Florida between 2000 and 2004, it’s pretty apparent that the Gore-Lieberman ticket got into overtime in no small part because of Lieberman’s ethnic appeal to Jews.I understand that HRC arouses intense opposition from some outspoken women who view her as a feminist archetype they reject, or inversely, in some cases, as too subordinate or forgiving towards her husband. But JFK was also controvesial among Catholics; many clergy deplored him as too secular. It didn’t much matter when it came to the ballot box.The bottom line is that you don’t have to get into invidious gender stereotypes to understand that yes, HRC, as the first really viable female candidate for president, is likely to get votes from women that aren’t just a function of policy agreements or political alignment. And since unlike JFK or Carter or Lieberman, she represents a category of Americans that is a majority, not a minority in the electorate, I wouldn’t personally be too quick to underestimate the impact of identity voting in her case.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.