Did Men Invent “Likability?”

Hillary nominated

Check out historian Claire Potter‘s piece at The New York Times: “Men Invented ‘Likability.’ Guess Who Benefits.”  She reflects on the origins of the idea of “likability”  advertising culture and, eventually presidential politics.

As Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and others jumped into the race, each seemed to affirm the new power of women in 2019, a power that was born when President Trump was sworn into office, exploded during #MeToo and came into its own during the 2018 midterms.

But no female candidate has yet led the polls. The men keep joining — Michael Bennet this week, Joe Biden the last — and keep garnering glowing press coverage. Although Mr. Biden fumbled two previous presidential bids, we are told he has “crossover appeal”; Bernie Sanders has been admired by this newspaper as “immune to intimidation”; and Pete Buttigieg, who would be the first openly gay man nominated for president, is “very authentic.” By contrast Ms. Harris is “hard to define”; Ms. Klobuchar is “mean”; and Ms. Warren is a “wonky professor” who — you guessed it — is “not likable enough.” Seeing comments like this, Mrs. Clinton said wryly in January, “really takes me back.”

Likability: It is nebulous, arbitrary and meaningless, yet inescapable — and female politicians seem to be particularly burdened with it even when they win and especially when they run for president.

In a recent interview on CNN with Michael Smerconish, Potter challenged the audience to find one female candidate in the 2016 race who has been called “likability.”

Here is another small taste of her piece:

Americans were also taught that being likable was a quality that could be cultivated as a means to get ahead. In 1936, Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” warned that those who tried too hard to be liked would fail: Theodore Roosevelt’s naturally friendly greetings to everyone he passed, regardless of status, Carnegie noted, had made it impossible not to like him, but Henrietta G., now the “best liked” counselor at her office, had been isolated until she learned to stop bragging. (Though looking back, we have to wonder: Would Henry G. have needed to hide his accomplishments?)

As presidential candidates put advertising experts in charge of national campaigns, perhaps it was inevitable that likability would jump explicitly to politics. In 1952, some of the first televised election ads sought to highlight Dwight Eisenhower’s likability. The advertising executive Rosser Reeves put Eisenhower in controlled settings where his optimism, self-confidence, humor and nonpartisanship could be emphasized over his political inexperience and what Reeves viewed as his “inept” speaking style. The animator Roy Disney was commissioned to make a cartoon spot with a catchy jingle: “Ike for President,” the song repeated, cutting to Uncle Sam leading a parade down the streets. “You like Ike, I like Ike, everybody likes Ike,” the chorus sang as Eisenhower’s smiling cartoon face passed.

Read the entire piece here.

Joe Biden and the Catholic and Evangelical Vote

Biden grab

How will Catholics respond to Joe Biden in 2020?  John Gehrig, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, has some thoughts.  Here is a taste of his piece at Religion News Service:

Data from the 2018 midterm election analyzed by Ronald Brownstein of CNN shows that Trump’s favorability among white working-class voters who are not evangelicals — think white Catholics in Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pa. — has already fallen.

Catholic women will be a critical part of this demographic. Democrats, the analysis found, “ran particularly well this year among white working-class women who are not evangelicals, a group that also displayed substantial disenchantment in the exit poll with Trump’s performance,” Brownstein wrote. “Those women could be a key constituency for Democrats in 2020 in pivotal Rust Belt states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where relatively fewer blue-collar whites are also evangelical Christians.”

Right now a fired-up base of progressives is setting the tone in the Democratic primary, making Biden, with his baggage of Anita Hill’s treatment during Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court hearings, a cozy relationship with the banking industry and his record of opposing busing to desegregate schools, a very tough sell.

But don’t sell him short. If Biden can emerge from the necessary challenges on his left to articulate a compelling vision for an inclusive America, one that honors the dignity of work and affirms the vital immigrant character of our nation, Catholic voters could punch his ticket back to the White House as the first Catholic president since JFK.

Read the entire piece here. I think Gehrig is right.

I also think  Biden is going to have to make some kind of an appeal to American evangelicals.  He will not win many of them, but he doesn’t have to win many to take the White House.  Biden is pro-choice, but he has often talked about his personal opposition to abortion.  This might be enough for some 2016 evangelical Trump voters to peel away and vote for him.  In 2016, there were many moderate evangelicals who were looking for a reason–any reason–to vote for Hillary Clinton.  Unfortunately, Clinton never gave them one.  I wrote about this here, two days before the election.

I also wrote about this in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

Though Clinton would never have come close to winning the evangelical vote, her tone-deafness on matters of deep importance to evangelicals may have been the final nail in the coffin of her campaign.  In 2015, when a conservative pro-life group published videos showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing the purchase of the body parts and the fetal tissue of aborted fetuses, Clinton said, “I have seen the pictures [from the videos] and obviously find them disturbing.”  Such a response could have helped her reach evangelicals on the campaign trail, but by 2016 she showed little ambivalence about abortion, or any understanding that it might pose legitimate concerns or raise larger ethical questions.  During the third presidential debate, she defended a traditional pro-choice position and seemed to dodge Fox News host Chris Wallace’s question about her support for later-term abortions.  There seemed to be no room in her campaign for those evangelicals who didn’t want to support Trump but needed to see that she could at least compromise on abortion.

Let’s hope Biden learns from the Clinton campaign.

How Biden Can Land the Democratic Nomination for President in 2020

Biden ad

Yesterday I argued that Joe Biden has the best chance to beat Donald Trump in 2020.  But I also realize that he will have a tough primary-season battle with the progressives in the Democratic Party.  Over at FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver makes the case for Biden:

  1. Former Vice Presidents usually win their party’s nomination.  Check out Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, George H.W. Bush, and Al Gore.
  2. Biden has a huge lead in the polls.
  3. Biden has the highest favorable ratings among all Democratic candidates.
  4. Biden is electable in November 2020
  5. Biden controls the most popular “lane” of Democratic voters.

Biden, of course, also has some liabilities.  Silver covers them here.

Is Joe Biden the Jon Meacham Candidate?

Here is the Biden announcement video:

Biden appeals to the “Soul of America.”  Historian Jon Meacham recently published “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels.”  (Biden and Meacham appeared together earlier this year).

Biden focused his campaign video on the Charlottesville race riots of August 2017.   In his Introduction, Meacham begins with the story of segregationist Strom Thurmond’s 1948 speech in Charlottesville and then moves to the racial violence in Charlottesville in 2017.  (Biden and Meacham also discuss this here at around the 56-minute mark).

If I were Alexander Burns annotating this speech at The New York Times I would note Biden’s debt to Meacham.

Meacham writes:

I have chosen to consider the American soul more than the American Creed because there is a significant difference between professing adherence to a set of beliefs and acting upon them.The war between the ideal and the real, between what’s right and what’s convenient, between the larger good and personal interest is the contest that unfolds in the soul of every American.

He adds:

Philosophically speaking, the soul is the vital center, the core, the essence of life….Socrates believed the soul was nothing less than the animating force of reality….In terms of Western thought, then, the soul is generally accepted as a central and self-evident truth.  It is what makes us us….

Biden’s campaign video is inspirational. It will win him supporters.  But unlike Meacham, who distinguishes between the “American soul” and the “American Creed,” Biden confuses the two.  He begins with a reference to the “soul,” but spends most of the speech talking about America as an “idea.”

I am not sure I have a larger point here.  I am just wondering if “soul” and “idea” are incompatible when applied to a nation.   🙂

 

If Democrats Want to Remove Trump From Office in 2020 They Need to Rally Around Joe Biden

098ac-bidenBiden is in the race.

In a head-to-head battle with Trump, Biden wins easily.  He will win Pennsylvania and will probably win Michigan and Wisconsin.  That’s all he needs.  (Actually, he just needs Pennsylvania).

If anyone else runs against Trump–especially someone in the so-called “progressive lane”-there is a much better chance Trump will get another term.

So what does the Democratic Party want to do?

If the members of the party really want to defeat Trump, the current candidates should all drop out of the race right now and rally behind Biden.  Every time the Democratic candidates beat-up on Biden during the primary season they reduce the chances of their party taking back the White House in 2020.

It is that simple.

Historicizing the “Politics of Touch”

Biden grab

We now know that Joe Biden likes to touch people in ways that some might deem inappropriate.   According to University of South Carolina historian Mark M. Smith, Abraham Lincoln was also kind of handsy.  Here is a taste of his piece at The Conversation:

Amidst the furor over former Vice President Biden’s handsy habits – and with examples of inappropriate touching by current and former U.S. presidents still lingering – it might be a good time to recall how past politicians learned to use touch not to molest, intimidate or cow but to connect, engage and inspire.

No one was better at tactile politics than Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln lived in a time when American political culture valued touch. Handshaking had long been important as a sign of political and social etiquette.

Quakers, for example, preferred the handshake over doffing hats and bowing because the act had something of a democratic ring to it, denoting a rough equality.

By the early 19th century, handshaking was becoming both more American and masculine. French and British gentlemen were less inclined to shake hands and considered the American habit of sweaty handshaking “disgusting.”

Lincoln and American politicians cast their touch as a necessary part of political culture and engagement.

I’m a scholar of sensory history, and in my research I have found that elected and electable leaders during the 19th century especially had to touch voters, metaphorically and literally, a point Lincoln probably learned while glad-handing as a young traveling lawyer.  

Read the rest here.

Does Biden Have Silent Majority?

Munich Security Conference in Munich

Yes.

At this point, I think he is the Democratic Party’s best chance to beat Trump.

Over at The New Republic, Alex Shephard argues that Biden’s views represent the views of most Democrats.  He will also win moderates and independents, most of whom are looking for any reason not to vote for Trump.  Finally, I think he has the potential to win enough anti-Trump evangelicals to win easily.

Here is a taste of Shephard’s piece:

A Morning Consult poll released Monday found Biden still leading the Democratic field with a nine-point advantage over second-place Bernie Sanders. Politico, meanwhile, reported that “party gatekeepers” in key primary states still had Biden’s back. The former vice president has perhaps been written off by left-leaning media or left Twitter, but not, it appears, by plenty of other Democrats.

One explanation offered up for the disparity between the narrative about Biden on the left and his actual standing among Democratic voters is that social media has warped perceptions of the party’s base. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn and Kevin Quealy, working off of research by the centrist Hidden Tribes Project, found that “the outspoken group of Democratic-leaning voters on social media is outnumbered, roughly 2 to 1, by the more moderate, more diverse, and less educated group of Democrats who typically don’t post political content online.” These Democrats described in the Times were significantly less likely to have attended a protest in the past year and significantly more likely to view so-called “political correctness” with suspicion. “Over all,” reported Cohn and Quealy, “around half of Democratic-leaning voters consider themselves ‘moderate’ or ‘conservative,’ not liberal. Around 40 percent are not white.”

The party’s progressive base, they contend, is overrepresented on Twitter and Facebook. “Roughly a quarter of Democrats count as ideologically consistent progressives, who toe the party line or something further to the left on just about every issue. Only a portion of them, perhaps 1 in 10 Democrats over all, might identify as Democratic socialists, based on recent polls,” Cohn and Quealy wrote.

Read the rest here.

Joe Biden Weighs-In on the Kelly Sadler “he’s dying anyway” Comment

By this point you have heard about White House aide Kelly Sadler’s comment about John McCain. Sadler said that John McCain’s opposition to Donald Trump’s CIA nominee “doesn’t matter” because “he’s dying anyway.”  The remarks are awful, but I have two additional questions:

  1. What kind of culture has Trump created in the White House that would make it OK for someone to say something like this?
  2. Did anyone in the meeting rebuke Sadler after she said this?  Did the remark get laughs?  Did anyone tell Sadler that this was inappropriate.

Here’s Joe Biden:

Biden

 

The Museum of the American Revolution Opens in Philadelphia

Speakers included Joe Biden, David McCullough, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf, Cokie Roberts, Hamilton star Sydney James Harcourt, a representative from the Oneida Nation, and others.

Glad to see that this museum has finally opened.  I have been following the progress from afar and hope to visit soon.

Read Philly.Com’s coverage of today’s festivities here.

Here is McCullough:

Joe Biden:

Take a virtual tour of the museum here.

Addendum: Boston 1775 has some nice links here.

Does Joe Biden Know Something About Hillary Clinton That We Don’t Know?

Yoni Appelbaum of The Atlantic wonders why Biden would consider entering the race for the Democratic presidential nomination when it appears that he has no legitimate chance of defeating Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps,. Appelbaum suggests, that Biden knows something about Hillary’s e-mail struggles that the public does not. Interesting theory.  It is worth considering.

Here is a taste of his piece:

As Joe Biden edges closer to a presidential run, there’s no shortage of theories as to what he’s up to. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has built a commanding lead in the national polls, giving Biden little apparent space to gain traction. Perhaps he’s counting on the early-primary state of South Carolina to provide a critical boost. He might be banking on appearing as a stronger general-election candidate than any of his potential rivals in the primary race. Maybe after spending the past 42 years of his life running for elective office, he just can’t stop.

But there’s one intriguing theory that has so far garnered little attention: What if Biden knows something about Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton that the rest of us don’t?

After jumping to what seemed a prohibitively large early lead, Clinton has stumbled in recent months. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, hardly the most charismatic politician, has emerged as a viable challenger, generating enormous enthusiasm on the campaign trail, and surging ahead in polling averages in New Hampshire.

Read the rest here.