An old saying has it that pain focuses the mind. To which someone once responded that, indeed, pain does focus the mind… on pain.
One recalls that Freud, when suffering from cancer of the jaw, famously refused pain medication because he believed that it would muddle his thinking.
Meantime, trauma does not focus the human mind any more than does pain. Some few people do draw lessons from trauma. Others, faced with failure, choose to double down.
First in the latter group is obviously Paul Krugman, a man who cannot understand how the American electorate did not vote the way he wanted them to vote last Tuesday.
To Krugman’s subtle mind the people who cast votes in the election were simply wrong. It’s good to be so confident in the correctness of your opinion that you can disregard the verdict of a democratic election.
Normally, success breeds respect. For Krugman success that does not look the way he wants it to look breeds contempt.
Among the stories we will follow in ensuing months, we will want to see whether victorious Republicans will be more respected in the media and among the intelligentsia. Most people respect success. No one flocks to failure. It will be interesting to watch.
In one corner of the American left feminists are wondering whether the election was good for women. Surely, it was not good for feminists. Michelle Nunn, Allison Grimes, Kay Hagan, Wendy Davis, Martha Coakley… even Sandra Fluke lost. (Tell me that the Fluke loss did not brighten your day!) Now Mary Landrieu is about to go down to defeat also.
The Wendy Davis debacle in Texas was clearly the most prominent example of ideological overreach. Texas Democrats chose to run a candidate whose claim to fame was a pro-abortion filibuster. Perhaps they imagined that all women are feminist zealots, concerned only about one issue. They might have believed that the formula had worked around the country in 2012 and thus would continue to work.
Apparently, they went to the well once too often.
Last Tuesday was the day that the war on women trope ceased to work. I think it fair to say that Hillary had a very bad day. Not only did Hillary campaign for these candidates, but they were all, in one way or another mini Hillarys.
As for the prominent women who won, they are decidedly not feminists. For some feminists this is very bad news indeed. In their mind what’s good for feminism is good for women. In their minds, a woman who is pro-life or even who wants restrictions on abortion access is anti-woman.
Jessica Grose draws a different and more reasonable conclusion. She begins by calling out one feminist who refused to see reality:
A headline on the Cut announces that the midterm election results were “Bad News for Women.” Under it, Ann Friedman argues that even though there were several “prominent victories” for Republican women this week—including combat veteran and hog castrator Joni Ernst in Iowa, black Mormon Mia Love in Utah, and youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress Elise Stefanik in New York—because they do not support abortion rights and are pro-gun, that means their wins are not a boon for women.
In begging to disagree, Grose points out that the feminist approach is narrow-minded to the point of demeaning and diminishing women. Who knew?
In her words:
It should be obvious, but “women”—half the population—are not a uniform voting block with uniform ideas about what is best for them. Though Friedman claims that Ernst was “a woman candidate whom most women voted against,” NBC’s Iowa exit poll shows that’s just not the case: Ernst and her opponent Bruce Braley split the female vote evenly, 49 to 49 percent. Though I personally find Ernst’s far right views terrifying (she believes in fetal personhood and wants to abolish the EPA and the Department of Education), “women” in Iowa do not agree with me, and she’s their representative, not mine.
Fair enough, Grose is labeling Ernst an extremist. And yet, these are still welcome words. Grose is respecting the Iowa voters, especially the female voters who disagree with her. This is vitally important.
Considering the extent to which political parties tend to demonize the opposition, to believe that those who do not agree are subhuman, a gesture of respect matters enormously. Honorable people may disagree without being shunned and slandered.
Without the ability to respect different opinions the marketplace of ideas will cease to function and democratic deliberation will become impossible.
Grose puts the debate in perspective. In so doing she rescues the reputation of women from the feminist juggernaut. She views women as complex human beings who might reasonably disagree, not as one-issue ideological zealots.
… though the right to choose is incredibly important to people like me and Ann Friedman, it’s not as important to a good portion of the female electorate. And even women who do care deeply about reproductive rights don’t necessarily like being treated as one-issue voters.
To buttress her point, she adds two anecdotes:
After the election, a woman I think of as a deeply feminist Colorado resident—she has devoted her life to fighting sexual assault—posted on Facebook that she was glad to see Democratic Sen. Mark Udall lose his race. “The ads angered me,” she wrote of Udall’s TV commercials like “Backwards,” which focused on women’s access to abortion and contraception. “As a woman, all I care about is my private parts? I have nothing else on my mind, like, I don't know, everything else?” Another woman who voted against Udall, who is a self-declared feminist and fan of Gloria Steinem, told CNN, “I want grandkids. I want security. I don't want to worry about paying the bills…[Udall is] pandering on the choice issue, trying to scare women. I don't scare anymore. I'm beyond that.”
It’s good to see women winning back their self-respect by rejecting the feminist caricature of womanhood.
As for Colorado, some reports have it that Udall did even better among unmarried women than did President Obama in 2012. To know how significant that is, we would also want to know how many single women turned out to vote and how many married women did the same.
You may or may not agree with Grose on the issues she holds to be politically important. But surely we can all agree that her reaction to the election results is intelligent and sensible, a giant step in the right direction, vastly superior to the reaction of those who have chosen to double down on failure.