The XX Factor

When Only the Voters Go Off-Message

I don’t know, Jess, is it really our goal to “make work policy and health care better for women and families in this country”? By which I mean, yes, it’s your goal and my goal, but if by “our” in that sentence, you mean Democrats, I think you’re wrong, and even if you mean feminists, I think it’s a tough sell at the moment. It’s primary season, and the goal of the people who influence policy is to win elections. There’s no room for the pro-life liberal in the tent. She’s too dangerous; too suggestive that real thought and weighing of issues go into our collective considerations of what’s important. If we all start weighing each individual issue, where will the people who need to sum up their entire world view in a 30-second ad that also paints horns and tails on their opponents be?

There’s no room for the pro-choice conservative, either. (I’d argue that, post-Bush, “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” is nearly as funny as the “fiscally liberal, socially conservative” 30 Rock joke one of the commenters to your post referenced.) There’s no room for anything but the party line, and the partisan situation feels like it’s never been more discouraging-read, for example, George Packer’s “The Empty Chamber” in the Aug. 9 New Yorker , in which senators refuse to allow a general and an admiral who’ve flown halfway around the world to testify before the Armed Services Committee one afternoon, not because they have any objection to hearing the testimony, but because an arcane rule of procedure requires unanimous consent to hold hearings after 2 in the afternoon when the Senate is in session, and one party had decided, on that particular day, to vote against any and all motions put up by the other. It doesn’t matter which party was which; there were equally egregious examples in the piece on both sides of the aisle.

There should be room for the woman in the yellow sweater-and it’s worth noting that there was room for you at a Susan B. Anthony list discussion, and that you actually went, when I know that your views aren’t theirs. There should be room for discussion and mutual exchange of views on everything from abortion to health care to foreign policy, because without it, we’ll never be able to understand and work with people whose views aren’t identical to ours. But there isn’t. We hear the views in the 30-second sound bites, and we assume that even though a 30-second sound bite wouldn’t encompass all of our own thoughtful positions, it does cover those of everyone with whom we disagree. Very few of us are that single-minded, although there are at least a few hundred members of the House and Senate who do a pretty good job of faking it.  Is there room for a pro-life, fiscally liberal candidate or a fearlessly outspoken pro-choice, fiscally conservative one, or maybe one whose views on either choice or fiscal policy aren’t so easily summed up in a two-word phrase? We may find out someday, but it doesn’t look like it will happen this November.