Sunday, January 07, 2007

The lead story in the Week in Review section of today's New York Times is about so-called Macho Dems -- James Webb, Jon Tester, Heath Shuler; the piece is by Ryan Lizza and it's called "The Invasion of the Alpha Male Democrat." Am I wrong to be offended at this sentence?

The members of this new faction, which helped the Democrats expand into majority status, stand out not for their ideology or racial background but for their carefully cultivated masculinity.

Is that what Lizza means? Literally? That Webb, Tester, and other "members of this new faction" have "carefully cultivated" their "masculinity"?

Let's see: When farm boy Jon Tester was nine years old, he lost three fingers in a meat grinder. Was he carefully cultivating his masculinity in anticipation of a career in politics? Or take James Webb: He followed in the footsteps of his father, a career Air Force officer, as well as generations of his family on both sides, and pursued a military career; he graduated from Annapolis and the Marine Corps' Officer's Basic School in Quantico, and was a platoon and company commander in Vietnam, winning the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals, and two Purple Hearts. Just cagily getting his ticket punched so he could someday be a macho Senate Democrat?

The thesis of Lizza's article is that two clever pols from rough-and-tumble cities, New York's Chuck Schumer and Chicago's Rahm Emmanuel, set out to recruit macho candidates for '06; that's probably what Lizza means by "carefully cultivated" -- though the sentence I quoted doesn't say that.

But even that way, the message is that there's something phony about the Democratic Party's new machismo. Lizza's saying that it doesn't matter if you escaped death in war or were grievously injured by farm equipment before your voice changed -- if you're a Democrat, you're part of something fake, because (choose one) you've "carefully cultivated" your macho or you were carefully culled by cynical ward heelers.

Can Democrats ever win with the pundits?

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