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DeSantis Uses Ukraine to Put Daylight between Himself and Other Republicans

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), as he unofficially runs for president, is trying to build a brand that distinguishes him from his competition, particularly Donald Trump. It's evident that the Governor plans to veer hard right, on the theory that you have to win the primary first and then you can worry about the general. And this week, DeSantis has staked out an extreme position on the Ukraine War.

Note that, to a greater or lesser extent, all of the Republicans who are vying for their party's presidential nomination are anti-Ukraine War. The time in which the Republicans were the party of Ronald Reagan is as dead as the Gipper himself. However, most of them, including Trump, are taking somewhat mushy positions in which they say they want to "negotiate" an end to the war. As if the possibility of negotiating hasn't occurred to Joe Biden, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, or anyone else in a position of power. (It should be noted that Trump also favors allowing Russia to keep parts of Ukraine.)

DeSantis' position, articulated in a statement broadcast on the program of Fox entertainer Tucker Carlson, is that what is going on in Ukraine does not affect the United States' "vital national interests," and that Americans should not be involved in a "territorial dispute" between Russia and Ukraine. Consequently, if he becomes president, he plans to withdraw all U.S. support for Ukraine. That is a position not too far removed from "let Russia have ALL of Ukraine."

When it comes to policy, we don't know what DeSantis actually believes, or if he actually believes anything. The Governor is particularly obvious, in the same way Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is, about his predilection for adopting whatever position he thinks is most politically expedient. And there is no doubt that his stance on Ukraine is informed by the abundant polling on the issue that shows that only a minority of Republican voters are pro-aid-for-Ukraine. For example, the latest from Ipsos, which was just published yesterday, has 42% of Republicans supporting that position. That is in line with other recent polls on the matter.

We suspect that there is something else factoring into the Governor's thinking, namely the Vietnam War. In 1967, support for that war remained high among Americans. Then, in early 1968, which was a presidential year, the dam collapsed. And so, everyone running that year ran on some version of a "Let's end this war" platform. It turned out the winner, Richard Nixon, meant "Let's end this war by escalating it," but he conveniently did not make that clear until after he was elected. In any event, unlike Trump, DeSantis knows U.S. history. So, it's very plausible that he's done the math, decided that Vietnam 1967 and Ukraine 2023 are similar, and has concluded that it's wise to be ahead of the curve.

There are some flaws in the governor's analysis, however. The first is that American support for Vietnam shifted so rapidly because American soldiers were dying by the thousands, and in service of an end goal that was not especially clear. In addition domestic opposition to the war was largely fueld by the military draft. In contrast, the costs that Ukraine is imposing on the U.S. are much less severe and there is no draft now. Further, the victory conditions could not be clearer: Russia needs to stop fighting and withdraw to its original territory.

That leads us to a second point. It's true that many Republicans do not support Ukraine. But pretty much everyone else does. Even with the tepid Republican support, the overall American support for Ukraine is around 65%. That means that the vast majority of Democrats and independents are on board with helping Ukraine. Further, the numbers haven't changed much in the last year. So, the odds are they're not going to change much in the next year. And being on a position that only one in three Americans agrees with is not a great place to be in a general election. Especially when you are also on other extreme minority positions (like restricting abortion).

DeSantis' Ukraine talk would also seem to speak to his less-than-stellar foreign policy chops. It's true that he's much more educated than Trump is, and that he served in the military, and that he even served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee while he was a representative. But the United States' relationship with the world is a giant and complicated puzzle with all sorts of moving pieces. It takes a lot of experience to really get a full grasp on both the foreign policy, and on the politics of foreign policy. And DeSantis just doesn't have that level of experience.

You know who does have that experience, on the other hand? A bunch of the Republicans serving in the Senate. And they are horrified by what DeSantis is saying. From a foreign policy perspective, they understand well that everything is interconnected, and that a decision in one area (e.g., Ukraine) will have echoes in many, many other areas. From a foreign policy politics perspective, they understand that you don't want to make a bold, short-term decision, and then end up holding the bag, long-term.

For example, consider the response of Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), who will never be confused for a namby-pamby liberal, to DeSantis' remarks:

It does seem consistent with many of the things we're hearing on television and certain friends in the Republican Party. But I don't think that this is a long-game political strategy, and it's certainly not a long-game national security strategy. I really am concerned that he's—and other members of our party—aren't prepared to show resolve in this region because it will have broader implications in the Asian Pacific and the Middle East and beyond. This is the one thing that Vladimir Putin seems to be hoping for right now, which is just to outlast the U.S. It seems plain that if we're not assisting Ukraine and their efforts right now, we're going to have NATO treaty allies with the Russian army standing on their border. The security implications of that are grave and could require an even greater expenditure of resources moving forward.

Translation: "Shut up, Ron. You don't know what you're talking about."

We shall see how DeSantis' position evolves, or if it evolves at all, once he is an actual presidential candidate, and as the election of 2024 draws nearer. He is probably thinking that there is still time to pivot on key issues like Ukraine if the situation on the ground calls for it in, say, February of next year. He might be right but, in the Internet age, and in an election where your opponents on both sides of the aisle are packing hard drives full of footage that can be used to take you down a peg, he might well be wrong. (Z)

Republican Primary Is Going to Be Grim

Since we are talking the 2024 Republican primaries anyhow, let's take a look at a new CNN poll, conducted earlier this month, that has some distressing results. It found that 70% of Republicans think that America's best days are in the past. That is a grim view of the future, although it varies by geography, with 78% of rural Republicans taking that position vs. 69% of suburban Republicans and 63% of urban Republicans. It could be that part of this is that 78% of Republicans think that society's views on sexual orientation and gender identity are changing for the worse. On the other hand, 61% of Republicans admit that the country's increasing diversity is enriching America. Only 38% consider those changes a threat, though 4 years ago it was just 19% who felt that way..

These views are deeply held and have consequences. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (which are kind of the same thing) 59% want a candidate who agrees with their views over one who can beat Joe Biden. We saw how well this worked out in 2022 during the campaigns of Sens. Blake Masters, Herschel Walker, and Mehmet Oz. If this sentiment continues into 2024, Republican voters may pick unelectable candidates up and down the ballot again.

Meanwhile, Republican wannabe presidents, including Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump, read polls. It is entirely predictable that they will lean into these sentiments, and will run incredibly dark campaigns. And actually, we don't have to guess, because it's already happening. Trump is talking about how only he can rescue America from the darkness. DeSantis has grown fond of describing the United States as a "dystopia." Nikki Haley accuses the Democrats of destroying the country from the inside out.

This is the way it goes whenever a political party veers in an extreme direction. Much of the alleged bad stuff that such parties run against, be it immigrants, or crime, or government conspiracies, or "attacks on traditional values," is either exaggerated grossly or invented out of whole cloth. And, in any event, it's almost entirely stuff that those politicians won't be able to change. And when they fail to change much of anything, then the only real option is to double down, and double down again.

This kind of hyper-negativity isn't generally very popular with the electorate, and it doesn't generally lead to success at the ballot box. What it does sometimes do, however, is cause the True Believers to conclude that the system is hopelessly broken and that there is no downside, and plenty of upside, to rising up in violent rebellion. It already happened in 2020 and, unfortunately, the pieces are falling into place for it to happen again. The good news is that, this time, the authorities know what could be coming, and will presumably be more prepared. (V & Z)

Kentucky Legislature Wedges Anti-Trans Bill into Its Schedule

When is 6 minutes the same thing as 24 hours? When you're in Kentucky, and there's a gubernatorial election to be won, apparently.

Let us back up and explain. Kentucky law, like that of many Southern states, places pretty strict limits on meetings of the state legislature. They only gather for a couple of months a year, and cannot be called back into session of their own volition (only the state's governor can recall them). Consequently, as of 8:00 a.m. yesterday morning, there were only four days left on the legislative calendar before this year's gubernatorial election: yesterday, today, March 29 and March 30.

The Republicans who dominate both chambers of the legislature very much wanted to pass an anti-trans bill before adjourning, knowing such a bill is likely to be vetoed by Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY). The general idea is to make that the centerpiece of the GOP gubernatorial campaign; i.e. "We're doing everything we can to protect against the trans agenda, whereas Gov. Beshear wants to enable that agenda." However, after much debate on Wednesday, Republicans in the two chambers struggled to agree on the exact terms of an anti-trans bill. And that meant that it looked like the clock was going to run out on the effort.

This is where the 6 minutes comes in. See, another Kentucky law dictates that the public be given at least 24 hours' notice of committee meetings. That meant that when the legislature convened on Thursday, there essentially was not time for a new anti-trans bill. Such a bill would not only have to be produced, but it would have to undergo review by a committee meeting. A committee meeting that, by rule, cannot happen without 24 hours notice. If you add that up—produce bill, report to committee, announce committee meeting, wait 24 hours, hold committee meeting, committee votes to report bill, entire legislature takes up bill—it did not seem there was enough time in the week, or even the legislative session, to get it done.

What do you do when faced with a "crisis" like this, then? You ignore the rules, both the general rules about normal order, and the specific rule about 24-hour notice. During the legislature's Thursday lunch break, two members called a surprise House Education Committee meeting. Just 6 minutes after making that announcement, they presented a new and improved anti-trans bill labeled S.B. 150. Among its terms:

  • Gender-affirming medical care for minors would be outlawed
  • Doctors would be required to wind down existing cases of gender-affirming medical care
  • Teachers who choose to misgender their students would be legally protected
  • Schools would be forbidden from discussing sexual orientation with students of any age
  • Schools would be forbidden from discussing gender identity with students of any age
  • Schools would be required to make certain that trans kids use the bathroom that matches their gender at birth

The bill was so fresh off the presses, as it were, that the Clerk of the House did not have a copy available for review (much less the general public) when it was being discussed in committee. That committee voted to advance the bill just 30 minutes after its meeting was called. Then, about 30 minutes after that, the entire state House voted on the bill, approving it largely along party lines. A few hours later, the state Senate approved it, also largely along party lines. It now goes to Beshear, who is expected to veto it. However, Republicans have vowed to use the remaining 2 days in the session (again, March 29-30) to override the veto.

This is now the third item in as many days about Republicans using anti-trans legislation as a wedge issue. However, this particular story—brought to our attention by reader R.H. in Santa Ana, incidentally—is surely the most crystal clear of the three on that front. The only time pressure here is created by the fact that there is a gubernatorial election in November. If not for that, it could certainly have waited until the next legislative session.

Meanwhile, we still have to talk about how religious groups are pulling many of the strings when it comes to anti-trans activism and legislation. That will come next week. (Z)

Why The Trans Hate?, Part VIII: Grab Bag

We've had a theme to the last several entries in this series, but today we're going to just run a selection of interesting responses we've gotten to the question "Why the trans hate?" And so:

  • M.J. in Granger, IN: I have really enjoyed, and much more, I am grateful for the multi-day posts on trans hate and the feedback from a large background of people. It has made me smarter and more informed on this issue (which your site does on a regular basis!)

    However, I am very concerned about the political wedge issue this is. Why? It is going to resonate with a lot of middle-of-the-road voters. I am a 56-year-old Democrat in a red state. I think the last Republican I voted for was Richard Lugar and that was only because he read to my son at a local library event (and the Democrat wasn't very good). The reason that I give this biography is because I am not, nor have I ever been, interested in limiting people's rights or access to the freedoms that I enjoy.

    But I am concerned about the sports aspect of this debate. My wife does not understand how big a role sports have in many people's lives. I have coached everything from TBall/baseball to soccer to basketball for both girls and boys and on mixed-gender teams as well. But I am uncomfortable, and I suspect many people are, having female trans athletes competing against cis girls. Not because I am against any type of choice (or biological imperative) but because I truly value gender-exclusive sports. My wife, an elementary school teacher, has argued with me vociferously about how girls, at the elementary school level, often are bigger and stronger than her boys. Which I do not doubt. But I do not feel comfortable having transgender girls competing on the girl's side of sports.

    The girls I have coached have demonstrated and executed at high levels and their accomplishments are real. But in my experience, boys have generally been better gifted physically; Better hand-eye coordination, greater muscle mass, generally quicker, etc. And let me be crystal clear, this is not to say there aren't some elite women athletes that can just torch most men/boys in sports. I think Caitlin Clark could play on many men's Division 1 basketball teams. But generally, that has not been my experience. And I feel uncomfortable with the idea that my daughter might have lost out on the thrill of victory. And, yes, I know that this implies that my daughter's team might have lost just because of a transgender athlete on the other team. They probably wouldn't have. But we have girls' sports for a reason, which I value and do not want to dilute the competition with potentially unfair advantages or scapegoats for lack of performance.

    Now, I feel very, very uncomfortable with this position. But that is why it is the perfect wedge issue for the Republicans. I am not advocating for a ban on trans athletes. I do not know the answer. But I do know that ignoring and dismissing the reasoning for most of the anti trans sports bill(s) is a way to alienate voters. I have not seen any solutions that address the bottom-line issue of fairness and the basic discriminatory nature of "banning" athletes from participation. Maybe someone else has a good compromise to balance out each side?

  • E.O. in Medford, MA: There are a couple of aspects of the right-wing obsession with trans people and gender/sexuality issues in general, and how the rest of society deals with these things, that I keep coming back to.

    The first is that there's a lot of misogyny in the way the right wing culture warriors talk about trans people, and also gay people. There's much more attention and revulsion toward the idea of men dressing or acting like women than the reverse. A man dressing in drag is ridiculous or degrading. There's a fear of "losing your man card" if you embrace any of the things generally associated with femininity (like pink, or knitting, or dresses, or makeup). And there's an unspoken fear that if you don't put down any man who embraces girly things, the other men will think you are secretly also an unmanly girly man.

    Which brings me to my second point, which is that so much of this obsession with assigning things to gender expression boxes just seems so incredibly shallow. We assign genders to all kinds of stuff that seems arbitrary if you think about it. Short hair vs long hair, pink vs blue, specific kinds of decoration, food and drink preferences, hobbies, the list goes on and on. It's even crazier when you realize that lots of the things we gender one way today have been gendered the other way around in various other times and places, or engaged in by both men and women.

    Personally, I'm a straight cis woman. I also have a buzz cut and almost all my clothes are from the men's section. But they are comfortable and fit me and are appropriate to my lifestyle. I know how to use a table saw, and I also know how to use a sewing machine; and honestly, I get the same kind of satisfaction from using both machines and they require very closely related skills. So why should one be for women and one be for men? I support anyone who identifies as gender non-conforming, but I am also concerned that the obsession with gender identity might be making it harder for people to just like what they like regardless of what category it's assigned to instead of easier. Just being a man who likes to wear a skirt sometimes shouldn't have to make you nonbinary.

    Lastly, there's also a major double standard at work here. I can wear my normal clothes anywhere in the country, and no one will notice or care which part of the catalog they came from. No one has ever asked me how come I was dressing in drag, not a single time. However, if my male partner were to put on a boring, generic, basic skirt he would attract all kinds of unpleasant attention and might have good reasons to fear for his safety in some parts of the country. Again, the men's version of a generic outfit is unisex and generic, and it's fair game for anyone without comment; the women's version is weaker, pinker, smaller, and only for women or sissy men who lost their man card (probably by knitting a scarf or ordering a wine cooler).

  • S.S.T. in Copenhagen, Denmark: I will here try to offer a perspective on your very interesting series on hate towards the transgender community.

    I am a teacher at a school in Copenhagen, Denmark. I have over the years had the honor and joy of experiencing trans and nonbinary students galore. It has never been a problem, and I do consider myself rather open to all sorts of sexual preferences having myself explored various possibilities as a younger man before realizing that I am an entirely straight male (with a penchant for dressing up as a woman when the carnival is coming to town).

    What compels me to write this comment is the comment from I.F. in Toronto on "nonbinary" and the problems concerning the negative use of this term by activists towards people not fully agreeing with their stance.

    I have myself been through a very bad experience on the social media when I opined that the term TERF is not supported by any scientific evidence and that J.K. Rowling might actually have a point in some of her viewpoints. The most vicious attacks came, invariably, from straight people defending their LGBTQ+ friends while I was always able to respectfully discuss my opinion with nonbinary and transgender people without being characterized as a TERF, racist, misogynist or whatever else misnomer other people used for me.

    Still I would say that the main thrust of the hate towards trans people are not those activists but as many others have opined: fear. Fear of not fitting in, fear of the secret and suppressed feelings you might carry around yourself.

  • J.L. in Colorado Springs, CO: My older child was born biologically male, came out as female with a different name at age 12, then went non-binary 6 months later, and 6 months after that returned to identifying as male. He ended up keeping the non-binary name for school, but he says he'll use his male name when he starts high school in the fall.

    My younger child was born biologically female, came out as male with a different name at age 11, went non-binary 6 months later and had a subsequent name change about 3 months after that. This child presents pretty female and often gets referred to with she/her pronouns.

    It certainly has been a struggle and emotionally challenging to deal with all the changes while trying to be a supportive parent. Along the way, I've done my best to use the names and pronouns my children have asked for. My mom (my kids' grandmother) has struggled more with this and their changes.

    My point here is not that "oh, just wait, they'll come around, trans is just a fad," because I believe that for some, being trans or non-binary is not a choice. However, part of growing up is figuring out your identity, and coming of age in today's America means that there are more options for that identity. For M.K. in Wilmington, "John" probably would benefit from having gender-affirming treatments as they start puberty. For my children, it was wise to hold off on medical intervention to make sure these identities were really who they are. Overall, I wish that we demonstrate more love and acceptance to people, to be supportive of how complicated and difficult it is to grow up today, and to understand that this whole thing is pretty nuanced.

  • M.A. in Knoxville, TN: I have a bit of an unusual contribution to add to the trans discussion. Last year I discovered and read a manga called Boku ga Watashi ni Naru Tama ni. (In English: In Order for Me (Male) to be Me (Female).) It is an autobiographical story by the artist about their trip to Thailand in order to undergo gender reassignment surgery, to transition physically from male to female. They also include flashbacks about their journey that led to the surgery.

    Anyone who thinks someone opts to be trans on a whim should be required to read this. The surgery is not easy, it's quite painful, even with modern surgical techniques and pain management.

    Japan is pretty hostile to transexuals. She had to travel long distances to find doctors that would treat her gender dysphoria, and even after the surgery had trouble finding clinics closer to her home that would provide the estrogen injections she needs.

    The manga is only one volume of eight chapters. This is a fan translation, as no official translation exists. (And almost certainly never will for something so niche.) It's well worth a read, and I encourage everyone to read it, especially if they're anti-trans.

  • K.M. in Olympia, WA: I was considering submitting a closely written piece combining my Anthropology education (MA, Indiana University 2000) with my experience as a transgender woman (transitioned 2001). But then I figured "Why bother?"; no one's ever had their mind changed on this by reason, just by seeing someone they know go through it. So what I'd like to say to all our detractors, whether on the right or on the left is:

    1. What's it to you?
    2. What makes you an expert on gender?
    3. Mind your own business.

    Because people who berate us usually come across as paternalistic and condescending, just like they do to LGB kids: "You're too young to know, it's just a phase, you'll change your mind when you get older/fall in love/have sex." Their attitude is that they know better than us, that if they don't experience it then we can't, that we can't be trusted to make our own decisions. They're wrong—I knew by the time I was 5 that I was different, even though I couldn't put that difference into words. And I soon learned that it was much safer not to try! And later when I did learn something about it I hesitated to do anything because of all the B.S. I'd have had to put up with. I did in the end, of course, and what's more I'm not going away, or detransitioning, or even going back into the closet. And if you've got a problem with that, you can KMTA!

Thanks, as always, to the contributors! We'll have a bit more this weekend, and then next week. (Z)

The Word Cup, Round 3: Non-Presidential Slogans

On Wednesday, we revealed the four presidential slogans that still survive in our little contest (vote here, if you haven't already). And today, it's the four non-presidential slogans that continue their march. First, from Group C vs. Group G:

  • Black Lives Matter (51.5%) defeats Make Love, Not War (48.5%)
  • We Shall Overcome (81.4%) defeats #MeToo (18.6%)

Two different generations' slogans crafted in service of Black equality will thus duel it out.

And then, from Group A vs. Group E:

  • Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death! (92.2%) defeats Better Dead than Red (7.8%)
  • Remember the Alamo! (52.6%) defeats Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever (47.4%)

Here, we'll have two slogans that predate the Civil War. And it wouldn't be too terribly wrong to say that one matchup here will be about Black liberty, and one will be about white liberty.

A few reader comments on these matchups:

  1. S.D.R. in Raleigh, NC: "Make Love, Not War" defeats "Black Lives Matter"—I hope that if the question of which of these slogans has been more impactful comes up in another decade or so, it will be difficult to pick. But now, in the year 2023, MLNW is the clear winner.

    "We Shall Overcome" defeats "#MeToo"—I almost just cut-and-pasted what I wrote above to use again here. But "#MeToo" is unusual in that it encouraged women to share their stories and thus had a major role in creating a movement, whereas most slogans simply helped to galvanize a movement that already existed. So it clearly has had significant impact. That said, it's up against a slogan that played a role in getting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed, so WSO wins out.

  2. D.S. in Palo Alto, CA: In response to J.Z. in St. Paul, we uber-techies, especially those involved in telephony, correctly refer to the # symbol not as "pound" but as an "octothorp," or perhaps "octothorpe."

    With that, #MeToo, taken in its entirety, has no particular connotations one way or another.

  3. F.L. in Denton, TX: Looking at some of the leaders: "We Shall Overcome," "Votes for Women," "#MeToo," "Black Lives Matter."

    Ages ago (~'80), I took a sociology course. It was pointed out (by Max Weber?) that revolution does not come when things are at their worst, but when there is a scent that change is possible.

  4. A.B. in Wendel, NC: I graduated high school in Texas, and so, though I suspect I am in a minority here, I had to vote for "Remember The Alamo!" That, and being, for much of my life in the minority and the underdog, I also had to vote for "Remember The Alamo!"

  5. G.M. in Laurence Harbor, NJ: I'm not that familiar with any of the four in Groups A and E other than "Better Dead Then Red." I have an unusual connection with this slogan. I was in high school in the waning years of the Cold War. I did, as my junior year history term paper, a piece damning the John Birch Society. Part of the research was obtained from materials that I could pick up from the local John Birch Society storefront down the street from my father's store. Unfortunately, I learned after turning the term paper that the operator of the John Birch Society storefront was the husband of the very same history teacher to whom I submitted my report. Thus it was no surprise that without any spelling errors and without any written comment by the teacher I got a "D-"

  6. J.G. in Olympia, WA: Some commenters wrote in that "Segregaton Today, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever" only had a minimal impact and therefore shouldn't have been the leader in this group. I'd beg to differ. Yes, the slogan did not accomplish what it set out to do, but it is the fundamental building block of the modern Republican party. Without that nativist vote going to the Republicans, they wouldn't have dominated the Presidential election for the next few decades. They wouldn't have had the white resentment surge that occurred when they lost the presidency that they thought was theirs and that began with Newt Gingrich, followed through to the tea party, gained strength with MAGA, and is in full display now with the MAGA children running roughshod over the Republican party. We don't have a traditional conservative party anymore, we have a populist authoritarian party and a Centrist-Leftist alliance and it is a direct continuation of the political power of those that "Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever" spoke to and inflamed.

This is the ballot for this round. And, of course, we continue to welcome comments.

Also, you still have one more day to submit nominees for the Greatest Political Blunders competition, which commences next week. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude: Who Saw That Question Coming?

Bethany Mandel is one of the many folks who is making an excellent living peddling right-wing outrage in the form of articles, podcasts, books, etc. Her newest, in the latter category, is entitled Stolen Youth: How Radicals Are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation. Mandel says the book is about the "sort of a woke reimagining of our society" that is currently underway.

Given that she's got a book coming out, Mandel is doing a book tour right now. It's a two-fer, as it gives her a chance to expound on her political views before an audience, and it also helps her sell books. Among her appearances was one on The Hill's streaming show Rising. And after Mandel introduced the new book and explained how it's about fighting wokeness, host Briahna Joy Gray asked Mandel to explain what she means by the term "woke."

Now, let us pause for a moment and note that, as college teachers, we know it can sometimes be difficult to answer questions in the moment. Those with simple answers are no big deal, but those with complicated answers are tougher, since you didn't prepare, and time is limited. Just this week, for example, (Z) got this question from a student: "How many women have run for president of the United States?" That's not so easy to answer, because the meaning of "run for president" is fuzzy. And so, (Z) had to pause for a few moments to formulate an answer. That said, he was ultimately able to come up with something satisfactory.

(In case you are interested, it was: "Well, every year, there are hundreds of people who run for president; you just don't hear about most of them because they aren't going to get many votes and they have no chance of winning. So, if we just mean 'ran for president in any way whatsoever,' then the answer is 'hundreds,' starting with Victoria Woodhull in 1872. If we mean 'mounted a serious enough campaign to get some press attention, and to get opportunities like participating in candidates' debates,' then the answer is 'about 20.' If we mean 'got actual delegate votes for a major-party presidential nomination,' then the answer is '10 or so.' And if we mean 'got the nomination of a major party,' then the answer is 'one—Hillary Clinton.'")

The point is, we are sympathetic to the challenges of curveball questions. But this was not a curveball question. If you are going to write a book about wokeness, you better damn well know what you mean by that, and you better damn well be able to define your terms. It's just like every grad student is told: "Be able to summarize your dissertation in three sentences or less."

Needless to say, Mandel was not able to answer the question. She stuttered and hemmed and hawed and made clear that she wasn't going to be able to answer, even if given unlimited time. We don't love linking to Twitter, but that's the only place that the clip can be found right now. So, here it is:

In case you don't care to watch, here's a transcript:

So—I mean—woke is sort of the idea that... [long pause] I—this is going to be one of those moments that goes viral. [another pause] I mean, woke is something that's very hard to define. And we've spent an entire chapter defining it. It is sort of the understanding that we need to—totally reimagine and re—redo society in order to create hierarchies of oppression. [yet another pause]. Sorry. It's hard to explain in a 15-second sound bite.

She was right about one thing: It did go viral. That tweet has been viewed over 30 million times already.

It seems to us there are two possibilities here: (1) The term doesn't really have a meaning, or (2) it does have a meaning, but that meaning is offensive to a non-right-wing audience, and Mandel couldn't figure out a way to talk her way around that.

The upshot is that someone who has weaponized attacks against "the other," which is nearly always a reprehensible thing to do, has just had her "emperor has no clothes" moment. And tens of millions of people have clearly found some schadenfreude in that. (Z)

This Week in Freudenfreude: Pat Schroeder, 1940-2023

This week saw the death of 12-term congresswoman Pat Schroeder, a Democrat from Colorado. The 1980s' answer to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she's another person who should probably be much more famous than they actually are.

Schroeder was born in Oregon, as Patricia Nell Scott, to parents who believed in equality of the sexes. So, not only was she encouraged in her studies, she also became one of the youngest licensed pilots in the country at that time, at the age of 15. She attended the University of Minnesota and Harvard Law, and then settled in Colorado after marrying a Harvard classmate, Jim Schroeder. In 1970, after Jim ran for public office and lost, a friend jokingly suggested that Pat should run. This was apparently quite hilarious since Pat was not only a woman, but had two young children. Pat took the implicit insult as a challenge and in 1972, threw her hat in the ring for the seat occupied by too-conservative-for-the-district Mike McKevitt (R).

Schroeder ran that year on an anti-Vietnam War platform, and won fairly handily, despite a national Nixonian landslide. It helped that McKevitt did not take a female opponent seriously, and so did not bother to do certain basic things like, you know, campaign. Schroeder did not know it at the time, but because of her gender and her liberal politics, she was being surveilled by the FBI while on the campaign trail. When she later acquired the sizable dossier that the G-Men had put together, she learned that the feds' primary informant was... her husband's barber. Undoubtedly, he was able to cut right to the heart of the matter.

When Schroeder arrived in Washington the next January, she found a House with only a dozen female members, many of them widows who took over their husband's seats. Taking a look around, Schroeder famously described the lower chamber as "an overaged frat house." Her sardonic wit, and talent for turning a phrase, would serve the Representative well throughout her career. Schroeder managed to wangle a seat on the House Armed Services Committee, becoming the first woman to serve on that body. Although, at the beginning, it was only half a seat. The chair of the Committee at the time, F. Edward Hébert, a conservative Democrat from Louisiana, was ordered to diversify the Committee, and so agreed to accept Schroeder and Ron Dellums (D), who was Black. However, Hébert decided that the two new members would share a single seat on the Committee, meaning only one of them could be in attendance at any given time. "The two of you are only worth half the normal member," he bluntly told Schroeder and Dellums. He also refused to allow Schroder to represent the Committee at conferences, telling her "I wouldn't send you to represent this committee at a dogfight." All we can say to behavior like that is F- Edward Hébert. His retrograde views would cost him his committee chairmanship at the next Congress.

Schroeder's signature issue was women's and family issues, which makes sense because she was living it. Early in her tenure, she would often bring her infant children to work, and would occasionally have to change diapers on the floor of the House. Literally. We presume that the diapered children were not subjected to the rule about wearing coat and tie on the floor. When critics wondered how Schroeder could be both a mother and a member of Congress at the same time, and do both jobs properly, she would reply: "Well, I have a brain, I have a uterus and they both work." She also observed: "Nobody ever says to men, 'How can you be a Congressman and a father?'" Schroeder ultimately helped to establish the House Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families and to secure passage of the Military Family Act of 1985, Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and Violence Against Women Act of 1994, among other important pieces of legislation. She also wrote Champion of the Great American Family: A Personal and Political Book. In it, she explained that "I was and am, like many women, both pro-life and pro-choice."

Schroeder began her political career as something of a moderate, embracing generally liberal views on social issues and generally conservative views on fiscal issues. Over time, however, she went full lefty. "The genius of the Republicans," she remarked, "has been how they figured out how to so polarize the middle class that we vote against our own best interests." She was an outspoken opponent of the two Republican presidents who dominated her House tenure. It was she, in fact, who gave Ronald Reagan the nickname "Teflon Ron," while she voted against George H.W. Bush more often than any other member of the House. Of Bush's VP, she said: "Dan Quayle thinks Roe v. Wade is two ways to cross the Potomac."

Consistent with her social liberalism, Schroder was also an outspoken opponent of racism and other forms of bigotry. On one occasion, the somewhat-less-than-enlightened Duke Cunningham, a Republican from California, delivered remarks on the floor of the House that were overtly homophobic. One of the members, a fellow from Vermont by the name of Sanders, rose to object, and Cunningham shouted: "sit down, you socialist." Schroder then rose to ask a point of order of the presiding officer: "Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman—do we have to call the Gentleman a gentleman if he's not one?" On another occasion, during a discussion of legislation that she found discriminatory against non-white Americans, Schroder asked: "The Pledge of Allegiance says '...with liberty and justice for all.' What part of 'all' don't you understand?"

By the end of her tenure, Schroeder was fed up with Republicans in general, and with then-speaker Newt Gingrich in particular. On one occasion in 1994, Gingrich & Co. gathered on the steps of the Capitol for a photo-op commemorating their return to the majority. Schroeder and her aides climbed up to the Capitol dome and hung a red banner that said "Sold" so that it would appear in the background of the picture. Still, such stunts were only temporary respites, and she decided to leave the House during Gingrich's speakership. On leaving, she said she was just plain tuckered out after "spending 24 years in a federal institution."

After her career in office, Schroeder kept busy. She was a professor at Princeton, and she produced books as both an author and publisher. She also continued to engage in community service, and was active in the League of Women Voters, the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, and Common Cause. There is not freudenfreude in her death, of course, but there is in a life well lived. Rest in peace, Representative Schroder, and to everyone else, have a good weekend. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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