It is a widely accepted prescript of conventional wisdom that the Democratic Party operates as the singularly reliable agent of contemporary American female interests. The alliteratively appealing ingenuity of the ubiquitous “War on Women” meme is that it simplifies the tangled historical and philosophical considerations of the girl power ethos to a slickly glib canard: the collective Right has reveled in misogyny since time immemorial, and their colleagues across the partisan divide have just as definitively brandished the mantle of women’s progress with nothing less than heroic brio.
The boon for leftist officeholders willing to leverage such mythologies to electoral advantage is evident: with public opinion consistent only its mercurialness after the red tide of the 2010 midterms, any marketing strategy premised on deflection is a potential game-winner. The pervasiveness of the liberal establishment’s similarly reductive take on the advancement of race-related civil rights policy is well cataloged, so it is little wonder why a broad-based vilification of the GOP’s nominal chauvinism is the political talking point de rigueur. After all, many prominent Republicans have, at the very least, failed to navigate the optics encompassing the issue: most notably, of course, members of the House caucus confoundingly hindered the passage of several new provisions during the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, and by now, there must be but a handful of Americans unfamiliar with Representative Todd Akin’s practically medieval misapprehensions with respect to the basics of gynecology. However, just as one polarity of the ideological spectrum defies easy definition, so, too, does the other: just consider the latest developments in the meticulously chronicled Senate contest in Massachusetts.
Faced with an unexpected five point deficit in the most recent Public Policy Polling survey of likely November voters, Elizabeth Warren knew what to do: lie. Unfortunately, she did so as clumsily as she had previously stumbled through one embarrassing response after another during the late spring when questions arose about her extensive pattern of self-identification as a Native American. After the infamous television interview in which Missouri Congressman Akin expressed horrifically misguided views on reproductive biology, Warren mustered an impressive degree of braggadocio if not factual accuracy, and declared, “I understand that Scott Brown and other Republicans want to pretend Todd Akin is an isolated individual, but he is clearly in line with the Republican agenda.”
The only problem? Senator Brown, a dependable moderate for the pro-choice perspective, had already denounced the Representative’s remarks earlier that morning and encouraged him to resign his nomination to the upper legislative chamber of Congress. “There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking,” Brown said, contextualizing his position as a precipitate of his role as a husband and father. What he elected not to mention was his own experience as a survivor of childhood sexual assault, which he addressed in his 2011 autobiography Against All Odds. Not to be deterred by customary credos of decency, Professor Warren debuted a radio spot the following morning that intoned, “Just imagine if Republicans win the White House, or gain control of the Senate,” a confusing prompt to say the least since Bay Staters will be able to count on a bald contrast to Todd Akin irrespective of which contender prevails this autumn.
Warren’s insistence on churlishly casting a victim of sexual abuse as insensitive to “rape” reflects not only the mounting desperation of her campaign, but also the debasement of feminist precepts as a byproduct of an overarching moral fecklessness. The professor’s campaign is, in sum, a narrative of ideological schizophrenia, an abstract of the political candidate as chameleon. Initially, there was the bellicose and righteously intractable woman warrior, so committed to a muscularly articulated brand of populism that she was willing to leave “blood and teeth in the streets” for the benefit of the aggrieved middle-class. Subsequently, as circumstances dictated, there materialized the battered grandmother fielding imaginary “attacks on her family”; the peculiarly retiring prom queen on whose behalf Governor Patrick had to intercede in the prelude to the local June party convention; the aw-shucks neophyte whose plainspoken sensibilities bristled at the rough and tumble turbulence of the stump; and the “first [prospective] senator from Massachusetts with a Native background.” Now, we have a curious hybrid of politicos past (President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton circa the volatile 2007 preliminary debates come to mind) who favors scorched-earth distortions that insult the intellectual astuteness of Bay State women with baseless fabrications. In the coming weeks, bank on the emergence of a softer side of Warren in a sympathetic display reminiscent of Hillary’s teary earnestness prior to last quadrennium’s New Hampshire primary.
The continuing evolution of the most visible 2012 novice spotlights the unique array of societally ingrained paradigms with which stateswomen still contend, but it spotlights a cautionary allegory of abstract aggregate ideals sacrificed to circumstantial ambition. Feminism is ultimately about fidelity to the self, and Warren’s interpretation of “the self” appears to be situationally negotiable; the resulting composite attests to the legitimacy of the old axiom that “everything” is eventually indistinguishable from “nothing”: when one dons as many personae as the professor has, one defiles them of meaning. More gravely and pragmatically, her coarse disrespect for a man who triumphed over a specifically abominable species of trauma shocks the conscience and offends the most elementary tenets of female empowerment. But considering Warren’s documented contempt for the Native casualties of a profoundly flawed sociological architecture, she’d probably say Senator Brown was asking for it.
Educated at Dartmouth College and Columbia University, Cole DeLaune is a native of Oklahoma and Tennessee. He currently resides in Atlanta, and has contributed editorial content to Vogue and Elle, among other publications. He is a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma.