Caitlin Flanagan is now trying on the role of political consultant for the Democrats. And why the hell not — it’s a venerable tradition of those who do not have a clue about what the voters want to offer advice to the Democrats on how they should capture this group or that.
Caitlin starts things off with a recitation of why she’s Really, Really a Democrat at heart:
I am a 44-year-old woman who grew up in Berkeley who has never once voted for a Republican, or crossed a picket line, or failed to send in a small check when the Doctors Without Borders envelope showed up. I believe that we should not have invaded Iraq, that we should have signed the Kyoto treaty, that the Starr Report was, in part, the result of a vast right-wing conspiracy. I believe that poverty is our most pressing issue and that we should be pouring money and energy into its eradication. I believe that allowing migrant women and children to die of thirst in American deserts is a moral transgression that will stain us forever.
So far, so good, Caitlin. But things take a dramatic turn in the following paragraph:
But despite all that, there is apparently no room for me in the Democratic Party. In fact, I have spent much of the past week on a forced march to the G.O.P. And the bayonet at my back isn’t in the hands of the Republicans; the Democrats are the bullyboys. Such lions of the left as Barbara Ehrenreich, the writers at Salon and much of the Upper West Side of Manhattan have made it abundantly clear to me that I ought to start packing my bags. I’m not leaving, but sometimes I wonder: When did I sign up to be the beaten wife of the Democratic Party?
That’s right — Caitlin didn’t leave the party, the party left her. Where have I heard this before?
Seriously, she sounds like she’s cutting and pasting the same kind of garbage that all the other “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me” types spew when they offer advice to the Democrats on how to win these people back. Complete with references to the Upper West Side. Might as well just say, “Those nasty intellectuals and Jews won’t invite me to their parties, and if they do, they’re mean to me.”
And why are they mean to you, Caitlin?
Here’s why they’re after me: I have made a lifestyle choice that they can’t stand, and I’m not cowering in the closet because of it. I’m out, and I’m proud. I am a happy member of an exceedingly “traditional” family. I’m in charge of the house and the kids, my husband is in charge of the finances and the car maintenance, and we all go to church every Sunday. This month Little, Brown published a collection of my essays about family life called To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife. It’s written in the spirit of one of my great heroes, the late housewife writer and feminist Erma Bombeck. It’s not a book about social policy or alternative lifestyles or anything even vaguely political. It’s a book about how much I miss my mother, who died recently, and about the struggles I have had fighting breast cancer without my mom around to help me. It’s a book that pays tribute to the ’50s housewife instead of ridiculing her.
Let’s stop right here, Caitlin. You’re no more a housewife than I am. You do high-profile work for which you make good money and get yourself on television. You may think that because you do it at home and turn off the computer when the kids come home from school, you’re a housewife. But you’re not.
And yes, dear, your book is political because in it, you’re shitting on all the work that feminists have done and do now in order to glorify a 1950s norm that never was the norm. And you have the audacity to tell other women that they should be doing what you do — minus, of course, the writing gigs for the New Yorker and the Atlantic. And minus the housekeeper and nanny.
Here’s a secret, Caitlin: there are plenty of Democrats in marriages in which the feminist wife stays home with the kids and the husband works. They just don’t kid themselves about the risks of having only one income, nor do they see the arrangement as being a way of recapturing a glorious past. They’ve simply decided that they can afford it, and that this is the best arrangment for them. There are also plenty of couples for whom this is not even an option. You’d throw them under the bus along with the feminists.
Oh, and Caitlin? I’ve read Erma Bombeck. You, Flanagan, are no Erma Bombeck.
As far as I can tell, every reviewer and reporter who has encountered my book has assumed that I’m a conservative Republican. At the end of an interview on a national TV network, a reporter said, “Caitlin, I can’t let you go without asking you one question.” Here was her question: Was it really true that I’m a Democrat? Those reporters’ assumptions don’t tell you anything about me, nor do they tell you much about the reporters themselves: they made an honest mistake. What it tells you a whole lot about is the Democratic Party and the face it projects to the world.
No, Caitlin. It says something about you. It says something about the fact that on the one issue you write about, you espouse retrograde conservative views and engage in sister-punishing. It says something about the fact that you don’t bother writing about Doctors Without Borders or any of the other things that you listed as part of your Democratic bona fides.
It also says something about the way you dress. You might lose the pink jackets and headbands if you don’t want to be mistaken for a Republican.
But we let the Republicans have complete ownership of the image of the traditional family. And that’s one reason we keep losing elections.
Oh, here we go with the advice. Brace yourselves!
The Democrats made a huge tactical error a few decades ago. In the middle of doing the great work of the ’60s–civil rights, women’s liberation, gay inclusion–we decided to stigmatize the white male. The union dues–paying, churchgoing, beer-drinking family man got nothing but ridicule and venom from us. So he dumped us. And he took the wife and kids with him.
Ah, so perfect. She’s really jes’ folks, with the beer-drinking, union-man husband. Except for the fact that he’s a corporate executive.
And now here we are, living in a country with a political and economic agenda we deplore, losing election after election and wondering why.
It’s the contempt, stupid.
I don’t even know where to go with this one. Someone with nothing but contempt for working women trying to give advice to the party that at least nominally supports working women and doesn’t try to chase them back into the kitchen.
Face it, Caitlin. You *are* a Republican.
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