Saturday, September 20, 2003

Cowboys and Wimps

I'm going for Wesley Clark. Check his website at

For the past 30 Americans have imagined that the only alternative to being a cowboy was being a wimp. It didn't even matter whether you were a real cowboy--what exactly does Dubya raise on his ranch?--so long as you looked like one and weren't one of those self-hating, granola-guzzling sensitive new age guys in birkenstocks. Get-toughism would solve our problems. Even if there was no account of the mechanism, it would work, and if getting tough didn't work it only showed that we weren't tough enough. Conservative was tough--Liberal was limp.

At some point the economic and political committments of liberalism, apart from indiscriminate dovishness, dropped out: liberalism, and conservativism, came to be seen as a styles. There were liberal foods--whole grains, fruits and nuts--and conservative foods--steak and jellybeans. There were liberal hobbies and conservative hobbies: liberals hiked, conservatives hunted. It was all code for the dichotomy we didn't dare mention in public: masculinity and femininity. And voters wanted the guys in office.

Schwartzenegger is the reducio--an actor with no experience in any responsible position and no policy other than cutting taxes who, incredibly, is Republican frontrunner because he was a professional bodybuilder and played toughguy roles in the movies.

Whatever happens, having Wesley Clark visible should be an edifying reminder that real men can be Democrats and, maybe even more importantly, that real guys can be smart.

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