Alex Blaze

I like butch Arizonans and I cannot lie...

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 04, 2008 1:48 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Politics, The Movement
Tags: John McCain, Michael Lind, sexism, Team Gina

A video to accompany McCain's biography tour (via Hullabaloo):


iPhone users: Click to watch

Did anyone else notice that McCain's just so tough; he's just so handsome. He's so... butch!

And a specific type of butch. More after.

Matthew Yglesias says of the tour:

What I'll say on behalf of this strategy is that it's the best way I can think of to try to take advantage of older people's potential discomfort with the idea of a woman or a black man in the White House that doesn't involve exploiting racism or sexism in a discreditable way. McCain's putting together an identity politics counter-narrative steeped in nostalgia; it didn't work against a white southerner running on a very cautious agenda, but 2008 is going to see the Democrats nominating an unorthodox candidate running on a more liberal agenda.

Digby disagrees and explains it as an appeal to Southern culture and ethnography. The idea is that America started out with two distinct cultures - North and South - that have survived westward expansion and social upheaval to become roughly the Yankees (New England, the mid-Atlantic, the Great Lakes area, the upper plains, and the Pacific Northwest) and the Cavaliers (The South, Texas, the Mountain West, and the Southwest). From Michael Lind:

What does all this mean for the policies pursued by the two coalitions? When it comes to foreign policy, the divisions between the northern party and the southern party are dramatic, enduring, and somewhat contrary to received wisdom. For two centuries, the northern party (yesterday's Republicans, today's Democrats) has been the more protectionist and isolationist of the two coalitions, while the southern party (yesterday's Democrats, today's Republicans) has traditionally supported free trade, a strong military and an assertive grand strategy.[...]

What explains the deeply-ingrained military ethic of southerners--and the equally intense anti-military sentiments of greater New Englanders? Again, culture is the answer. The New England Puritans frowned on violence as a way of resolving social conflicts. The southern cavalier code, however, endorsed violence when personal or national honour was being "disrespected" or "dissed"...

There's nothing wrong with appealing to a certain region, and what Lind is describing is definitely in that video, as well as in McCain's touring of the South, his forgetfulness that slavery happened, his narrative and imagery around being a Southerner and coming from a long line of military officers. But I don't think that can be divorced from gender analysis.

I'm fairly certain that he's trying to plug into sentiments that women can't as easily access, no matter their family history or military record. In the mythology that surrounds the Old South, the idea of dueling to defend another's honor is gendered. It's not women who pull the pistols to protect a man's honor.

We see it in the way Republicans and conservatives, who obsessively try to rebuild American in that mythology's image, discuss foreign policy and America and the way sorts like Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly exploit it. If you say that America's done something wrong, then you're just an America hater. It's cynical, but that's not going to stop them from doing it.

In that sense, America becomes the glorious, passive recipient of that worship. People who voted Kerry and others raised to value moral uprightness wonder why America doesn't have to do anything great to be great in the minds of these folks. Why is simply being enough? And why does criticism mean that you've gone from thinking America is the Madonna to thinking it's a whore instead of a large nation filled with many different cultures and types of people, with a complex history of doing both good and evil and everything in between?

McCain may be trying to plug into Southern culture, but he's not the belle of the ball in his fantasy. He's the butch, he's the man, and that's the kind of people the "Cavaliers" want to vote for.

In this battle of imagery, it's important not to underestimate its power and focus exclusively on material issues like policy and experience (as in 2004). We're still living in a country where many people don't like to hear what they love get insulted and we're still living in a misogynist culture that devalues both women and men who fail to live up to whatever goalpost of masculinity is set up (see Maureen Dowd).

More from digby:

For one of the tribes in America being a military adventurer, particularly when they perceive the nation's honor to be at stake, is a requirement for leadership. The question for us is whether there are more "Yankees" than "Cavaliers" in 2008. I suspect so; the Bush administration has made a hash of things. But we should keep in mind that the Cavaliers' battle to regain the nation's "honor" will begin the day one of the Yankees wins the election.

So perhaps we "Yankees" ---and by that I include all my liberal southern brethren --- (sorry about the name, I didn't pick it) should talk explicitly in different terms about what national honor really means. I would say that we could begin with the notion that any nation that legalizes torture has lost its honor and the only way to get it back it to hold those responsible for doing it accountable.

Absolutely, but it'll be a lot harder than just arguing that it's America's actions, not the ability of its president to talk it up and resort to violence, that form its honor. That's an uphill battle to undo untold years of social conditioning right before the election, and the strategy wasn't all that successful for Kerry. A better argument would start with getting people to associate the need to protect less with their country and more with the people around them, although that's pretty tough as well.

Either way, I think we'd all do better to watch this video instead of the one before the jump:


iPhone users: Click to watch


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First off, I LOVE butches! Can we have a "butch off" on Bilerico? Ladies, send me a video of yourself in your best butch outfit walking your best butch walk and I'll be the judge of how hot you are. Extra points if you're on your bike or shooting hoops. MEOW!

Second off, you said:

I'm fairly certain that he's trying to plug into sentiments that women can't as easily access, no matter their family history or military record. In the mythology that surrounds the Old South, the idea of dueling to defend another's honor is gendered. It's not women who pull the pistols to protect a man's honor.

Too true.

If you say that America's done something wrong, then you're just an America hater.

This is exactly it. I was listening to Dr. Michael Eric Dyson on "Talk of the Nation" yesterday and he was talking about MLK. He said that MLK was extremely patriotic. If he didn't love America, then why would he work so hard to make it live up to its ideals? If you are patriotic, then you do criticize this country when it fails to be everything that it can be.

Nationalism, on the other hand, is an uncritical, blind love of country. So all these jokers up on Fox and such are nationalistic, not patriotic. (Not that you don't already know that.)

Now, back to the "butch off." I'm totally serious! As a follow up, I suggest a "bear off," because I love bears too!

diddlygrl | April 4, 2008 7:42 PM

You call me a yankee again, and I will have to fly to France and hunt you down!