Via the Free Beacon, are Meg and Whoopi correct in the clip below? Whoopi’s probably right that a mother with young children at home wouldn’t be given quite the same benefit of the doubt in soft-launching her presidential campaign with a solo cross-country drive as a father would. Dad hitting the road for work and leaving the kids with mom is an old, familiar story in American life; mom hitting the road for work and leaving them with dad is … less familiar. It’s bound to be that some voters would look askance at it.
Although I don’t think it’s the double standard about parenting that makes it so much harder to imagine a woman pulling off Beto’s “road trip.” I think it’s the fact that Beto sold it as a road trip. He needed to clear his head, get out on that open road. This bird you cannot change. I can imagine Elizabeth Warren pulling a similar populist stunt in which she headed out in her car to various campuses, small towns, and so on, as Beto did. But she wouldn’t package it as embarrassingly as this:
Have been stuck lately. In and out of a funk. My last day of work was January 2nd. It’s been more than twenty years since I was last not working. Maybe if I get moving, on the road, meet people, learn about what’s going on where they live, have some adventure, go where I don’t know and I’m not known, it’ll clear my head, reset, I’ll think new thoughts, break out of the loops I’ve been stuck in..
She’d call it a “listening tour” and make it about the public instead of about her own emotional journey or whatever. “A campaign designed to empower the people needs to begin with the people,” etc. Beto had to make it about him and in a completely contrived way too. If you want to drive around shaking hands to show how in-touch you are with the little guy, be up front about it. Spare the public the Kerouac hokum about finding yourself, which would be embarrassing for a college student, let along a middle-aged would-be head of the executive branch. He felt safe broadcasting a degree of immaturity that would be seen as unbecoming in a woman pol.
What we’re also arguing about here, I think, is the gender disparity in political personality cults. Beto sold his barnstorming tour as a “road trip” because he knows that he has a cultish core fan base that’s elevated him to icon status. They’d be interested in his emotional journey! Trump and Obama also benefited from cultish followings. Bernie’s cult may exceed even Trump’s in terms of their passion for their candidate. Which women in American politics have enjoyed a genuine cult of personality, though? The only one I can think of is Sarah Palin. (Hillary is an icon of a sort but lacks the populist appeal of which true personality cults are made.) Why it is that women politicians have more trouble building ecstatic followings than men do is above my pay grade, but it’s for real.
Exit question: For all the heat Beto rightly takes for being thin on policy, what’s Pete Buttigieg’s big policy idea? Buttigieg has eclipsed O’Rourke as a sort of “thinking man’s” fresh face, the guy with all kinds of substance behind the youthful charisma. But Buttigieg’s claim to substantiveness is personal — Rhodes scholar, speaks eight languages. His most celebrated policy idea, as far as I’m aware, is Court-packing, which is ridiculous at best and hugely destructive to public respect for the judiciary long-term at worst. Why is Beto the slouch on policy compared to him?