Monday, June 05, 2023

Rambling, Strategically

A couple of months ago, Bethany Mandel, conservative commentator and co-author of "Stolen Youth: How Radicals are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation," appeared on the podcast co-hosted by Brianha Joy Gray and was asked to define "woke." Apparently and incomprehensibly taken by  surprise, Mandel replied in part

Woke is something that's very hard to define and we've spent an entire chapter defining it. It's sort of the understanding that we need to totally re-imagine and redefine society in order to create hierarchies of oppression. Um-sorry, it's hard to explain in a 15-second sound bite.

Ouch. That must have hurt. The only thing worse than being unable to define a concept you've written about and criticized is describing it, haltingly, in terms which undermine your position. One of the precepts of "woke" is not to recognize differences among ethnic minorities, to "create hierarchies of oppression," but to lump blacks, Latinos, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, tribal members, and anyone else not of strictly white European heritage into the category of "people of color."  Presumably, they are all equally oppressed.

When Mandel pled "it's hard to explain in a 15-second sound bite," Gray told her to take all the time she wanted but the co-host broke in to bail Mandel out, sort of. 

Privileged to run for President and thus not to be led into a sound bit but to spend one minute and 34 seconds to get her talking points out to a nationwide audience, Haley faced no such limitation.  The perspective of one journalist and MSNBC host:


I'm not sure this doesn't happen, though not as directly as telling a 5-year-old that she's "bad." However, Hasan did recognize that the ex-governor and ex-UN ambassador did choose not to define "woke," which both underscores the horrid nature of the "town hall" and the strategic brilliance of the response. Given more than a minute-and-a-half to blather on, Haley remarked

There's a lot of things, I mean, you want to start with- biological boys playing girls' sports. That's one thing. the fact that we have gender pronouns in classes in the military now. I mean, all of those things that are pushing what a small minority want on the majority of Americans. It's too much; it's too much. I mean the idea that we have biological boys playing girls' sports- it is the women's issue of our time.

I'll leave it to others to explain why keeping boys out of women's sports is not what the women's movement was meant to be or is. Nonetheless, referring not once, but twice, to girls having to compete against boys is a strong tactical move when vying for votes from conservatives. And appealing to the conservative sense of victimhood- "it's too much, it's too much"- works with the many conservatives who complain about liberals claiming victimhood while they themselves frequently do so.

"The majority" cited brings to mind the notion Richard M. Nixon's "silent minority" of an (alleged) elite minority imposing its views on the rest of us. You'll notice that Haley returns to this theme at the end when she refers to "pushing what a small minority want." That's pretty slick coming from a woman who stated during the event her opposition to red flag laws, a  gun safety measure supported by a majority of Americans.

The guest continued

My daughter ran track in high school. I don't even know how I would have that conversation with her. How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in the locker rooms? And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year? We should be growing strong girls, confident girls.

"I am woman, hear me roar.!"  Expected to be the only woman in the GOP presidential sweepstakes, Haley wants to claim that lane, though her anti-feminist macho girl routine probably won't work.

The percent of teenage girls who contemplated suicide in 2022 is thought to be a little lower, approximately 30%,  than one-third. Far worse, obviously, is that she is blaming suicide ideation on transgenderism., which has has far less impact on this than has the pandemic or, more so, social media. Nonetheless, in a party in which the leading candidate probably would have said "most" are considering suicide and blamed it on Joe Biden (or "the Democrats"), this was not Haley's worst sin of the night, and possibly not even of the response. And yet again, Haley goes to girls' sports- which strokes the conservative id- and better yet, personalizes her remark by referring to her daughter.

Haley added

There you go and talk about building a strong military. How are you going to build the morale n a strong military when you're doing gender pronoun classes? Why is-is (applause)- why is it that you have, you know, kids undergoing critical race theory where if a little girls is in kindergarten, that she goes into kindergarten- if she's white, you're telling her she's bad if she's brown or black, you're telling her she's never going to be good enough and she's going to be a victim.

All of these things have gone to where they're pushing- and you know, transgender- the whole issue of transgender. It's not that people in America don't think you should live the way you want to live. I want every body to live the way they want to live . But stop pushing your views on everybody else. That's the problem, that they're starting to push their views on the rest of us.

Don't underestimate the strategic importance of "they," as in "where they're pushing" and "they're starting to push..."  Early in her rant, it was worse (or better) as the ex-governor stated "all of those things that are pushing what a small minority want..." 

All of those things that are pushing? Do things- or people- do the pushing?  Of course, the phrase is not supposed to make sense because the candidate wisely wants to keep it vague. If she mentions any names, a separate issue, such as whether the individual(s) actually did or said what she is claiming, emerges.

The "town hall" format is designed to give a public official opportunity to turn toward the audience in the hall and beyond; to babble as he or she pleases, saying whatever the intended audience wants to hear; to avoid answering whatever questions the guest wishes to sidestep. It is as intended by the network: a 60-90 minute campaign ad.  Haley's response to a request that she define "woke" was uninformed, imprecise, haphazard, and dishonest.  For a Republican primary electorate, that's one adjective better than a trifecta.

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