The Old Belle is Still Ringing: the Tea Party and white women's activism

Kevin Drum offers an interesting short history of right-wing populism and its rise after the election of Democratic presidents since the 1930s over at Mother Jones (via RealClearPolitics.)  He writes:

When FDR was in office in the 1930s, conservative zealotry coalesced in the Liberty League. When JFK won the presidency in the ’60s, the John Birch Society flourished. When Bill Clinton ended the Reagan Revolution in the ’90s, talk radio erupted with the conspiracy theories of the Arkansas Project. And today, with Barack Obama in the Oval Office, it’s the tea party’s turn.

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[S[hared tropes [of these movements] include a fear of “losing the country we grew up in,” an obsession with “parasites” who are leeching off of hardworking Americans, and—even though they’ve always received copious assistance from business interests and political operatives—a myth that the movement is composed entirely of fed-up grassroots amateurs. Take, for example, this description of Pam Stout, the star of a seminal tea party profile written earlier this year by David Barstow of the New York Times. After Obama took office, he writes, “Mrs. Stout said she awoke to see Washington as a threat, a place where crisis is manipulated—even manufactured—by both parties to grab power. She was happily retired, and had never been active politically. But last April, she went to her first tea party rally.” Compare that to the description of Estrid Kielsmeier in Suburban Warriors, Lisa McGirr’s history of ’60s-era right-wing activism in Orange County, California.Kielsmeier, a resident of my hometown of Garden Grove (my mother acidly recalls PTA meetings at my elementary school as hotbeds of John Birch Society activism), was a homemaker who ran the local gubernatorial primary campaign headquarters of ultraconservative oilman Joe Shell against Richard Nixon in 1962: “Her baby played in a playpen next to her desk while Kielsmeier participated in what she later called her first real involvement in politics. ‘Up to that time…it was education and just kind of…networking, really.'” Continue reading

That's Professor Genius to you: Annette Gordon-Reed wins MacArthur grant

Can things get any better if you’re Annette Gordon-Reed?  I guess a new job at Harvard and a National Book Award, and a Pulizer Prize for her latest book, The Hemingses of Monticello:  An American Family weren’t enough–she won a 2010 “genius grant!” 

I remember reading Gordon-Reed’s first book about Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings:  An American Controversy(1997) back when it was first published, and being completely impressed by her thoroughness and doggedness.  She not only came to her conclusions (later ratified by the DNA evidence) about Hemings’ long-term liaison and motherhood of most of Jefferson’s children through old-fashioned historical methodology, this law professor out-historianed the historians by showing in excruciating detail how the historians had colluded for two hundred years in lying about Hemings, trying to erase the evidence, and perpetuating every ugly stereotype about African American women ever imagined.  Continue reading

Emeritus status: who cares?

Is being named an Emerita or Emeritus Professor really all that important?  As many of you may have heard, last week the University of Illinois denied Emeritus status to retired Education Professor William Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground, because he dedicated a book he published in 1974, Prairie Fire, to 200 people, among whom was Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy.  Kennedy’s son Christopher Kennedy is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, which made the denial of Emeritus status seem quite personal.  Inside Higher Ed has a good story explaining  the Ayers denial of Emeritus status and different views on it today.

I suppose it’s just bad luck for Ayers that Christopher Kennedy happens to Chair the Board of Trustees, but I don’t see a lot to get excited over here.  I can understand why Kennedy fils would vote against honoring Ayers.  Ayers had a long and productive career as a political provocateur and then as a professor.  The University of Illinois saw fit to tenure and promote him regardless of his personal history, so I can see arguments that it’s petty to withhold Emeritus status from him.  But, I don’t think Emerita or Emeritus status really matters all that much.   Continue reading

Democrats to women: drop dead

Your Democratic Party in action!

Here’s an article headlined “Can women save the democrats?” (via RealClearPolitics) suggesting that Democrats are attempting a last-ditch effort to pull their a$$es out of the fire in November:  targeting their base of women voters.  Except, it’s mostly a recitation of bad polling numbers for the Dems–there’s little if any indication that Democrats intend to do anything about it.

Can women save the Democrats?

The gender contours of American politics have been clear for many years. Democrats have long enjoyed a decided advantage among female voters, less so among men. Over the next five weeks, Democrats’ hopes of holding the House and Senate may depend on their success in once again rallying those female voters.

Right now, Democrats are doing far better among women than men, but in many places not by enough. In a number of states, men are supporting Republican candidates by significant margins, while women are backing Democratic candidates but not by as much as in some past years.

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Four years ago, on the eve of the 2006 midterms, men were evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats in their voting intentions for the House, while women were Democratic by 22 percentage points. Today, Newport said, 52 percent of men say they plan to vote Republican and 40 percent say they will vote for the Democrat. Women are the opposite: 52 percent Democrat and 40 percent Republican.

CNN released a series of statewide polls last week, showing much the same. In Colorado, Republican challenger Ken Buck led Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet 49 percent to 44 percent among likely voters. Among men, it was Buck 56 percent, Bennet 36 percent. Among women, it was Bennet 52 percent, Buck 41 percent.

So what are Democrats doing to try to energize their base?  What outreach efforts are they making?  Here’s the only evidence offered in this story that anyone associated with Democratic politics thinks this is a problem:  Continue reading

Scholars on scholarship, writers on writing

Dr. Crazy offers a succinct defense of sabbaticals and research leave for scholars like her–like most of us–who don’t teach at R1s or in Ph.D. granting departments.  Once again, she explains why the dichotomy between research and teaching is a false one (emphases mine):

Anyway, I think the reason that the writing has been going smoothly this week… well, there are a few reasons.  One of the big reasons is that I’ve spent a lot of time in the past week thinking about teaching.  As much as I’m grateful for this sabbatical – and believe me, I am, and it’s been really, really good for me – I think that thinking about teaching helps me as a researcher.  If I’m too much in my head – too much in the research place – I lose sight of the fact that the scholarly side of things is about actually communicating with other people.  That the sort of scholarship that I like to read teaches me something, and so really, I can think about writing as just a different kind of teaching, and that takes a lot of the pressure off.  But a lot of times, I’m in my head.  And then I can’t write because I don’t know why I’m writing.  And I think my ideas are dumb, and I think there’s no point to any of it.  Except here’s the thing: there is a point to what I’m doing.  And it translates into what I’m going to do once I’m back in the classroom, and it translates into my broader ideas not only about my discipline but about what a university education should mean, ultimately.

See, this is the thing that pisses me off when people act like research is this thing that should be reserved for fancy types at fancy research universities, as if every other college professor should just shut up and teach and not worry about pesky things like having ideas.  I am a better teacher because I remember what it’s like to learn stuff.  Doing research is about continuing to learn stuff.This isn’t to say that top researchers are always better teachers or something that stupid.  Obviously that’s not always true.  But to say that we can just take intellectual inquiry and separate it off from teaching seems really [fracked] up to me. Continue reading

Thursday roundup: "postfeminism" and bad reputations edition

Come and git it!


Hecksapoppin’, friends.  I’ve got too many irons in the fire, again.  Fortunately, other people are keeping the world-wide non-peer reviewed interwebs loaded with feminist news and views you can use: