A rule of thumb regarding women's attitudes towards fallen political figures, is that "Big Men" who are hard-left are forgiven any sin, and those living ordinary lives that rebuke the tragically hip (or those who aspire to that status) are viewed with hatred. Ann Althouse links to a an LA Times story by author and personality Ann Lamott, on how she forgives John Edwards, hates Sarah Palin, and trusts Barack Obama.
The question regarding John Edwards would be if women forgave him, and if he could restart his political career. While that question remains open, there are signs that opinion makers in media, particularly women, forgive him. As with Charlie Sheen, still popular with women and promoted endlessly by CBS for "Two and A Half Men," women will forgive "the Alpha male" any transgression, really anything, as long as he remains "Alpha Male." Part of that is of course, pushing hard-left politics that as we see in the original LA Times story, are part of the wealthy "New Class" or "Gentry Liberals" (Joel Kotkin's phrase) that constantly struggle to separate themselves from the mass of ordinary people.
The money quotes:
But after a few days on the subcontinent, I came to the unshakable belief that we will have decent enough healthcare reform, and soon. What's going to help America rebound from Bush/Cheney is what saved and saves India -- love, nonviolence, a lot of help, radical playfulness and perspective. I saw Indians living in spaces the size of my bathtub, giddily colorful amid the squalor and deprivation, making themselves beautiful and focusing on what they do have.
The second decision I made in India is to forgive John Edwards. If no one else is going to, I will. My mother would have. She was an old Adlai Stevenson/Jack Kennedy liberal, and I am too.
But she would have railed against Edwards for a few months and then forgiven him. She had a sense of decency that was common in my parents' generation. She would have piled on when Edwards became this season's Old Testament goat, but then at some point she would have let it go and gone on to register voters.
Edwards' fall from grace is the oldest story in America, and probably the world. He was a gorgeous, powerful man willing to torch his family, his career and those who trust him to get laid -- by someone whose name the rest of us can't even pronounce.
But where does Edwards even rank on the scale of loathsomeness when compared with, say, Dick Cheney? Not very high. Twenty names below John Boehner; 27 below Sarah Palin; directly after the TSA security people at the airport; and tied with Susan Collins. He has little children, as innocent as the Haitian and Indian babies we ache and care for through charitable donations. So I am going to forgive Edwards as a way to help them, two of the world's children.
My third decision: I am going to trust this guy Obama. I am going to get my head out of the darkest place on Earth, and I am going to help his election remain a miracle. He was not my original choice, but I think he is a great man, trying to get a crushed nation back on its feet the best he can. And besides, who else are we going to trust? Bart Stupak? Evan "Boom-Boom" Bayh?
Now of course, the woman herself to be fair is not representative of most women. She is far more wealthy, is by all accounts from a wealthy family, and a professional writer. Her books and columns in Salon.com and frequent appearances on PBS make her, however, a formidable taste-maker and driver of women's attitudes towards politics and power. Lamott like almost every female media figure, has a special fury for Sarah Palin.
Note her forgiveness of Edwards and figuring that Palin is far more despicable. This is not any surprise. Women, particularly those like Lamott who embody single motherhood and feminist dreams (of politically correct, expensive consumption such as trips to India), find women like Palin "betrayers." Betrayers of the ideal of landing the "Alpha Male" who is forgiven anything (a John Edwards, a Bill Clinton, a Barack Obama), of not moving upward in class (Palin's accent, large family, failure to abort Trig Palin, and lack of Ivy League credentials make her poison to female opinion-drivers like Lamott), betrayers of the idea of "magical" Third World people and non-Whites, and the horrible "average Whiteness" that is the bane of the existence of the tragically hip.
It is true that few women are as wealthy and tragically hip as Lamott. Most struggle day to day to simply pay bills. But ... and there is always a "but," women consume in media form the opinions, attitudes, and desires expressed by authors and media personalities such as Lamott.
Quick, name a conservative, nuclear family oriented, Palin-loving author of "chick lit." From Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love," to Oprah Winfrey, to the View, to Ellen Degeneres, to Elizabeth Wurtzel, to Candace Bushnell ("Sex and the City") all, without exception, are to the left, embrace a broadly anti-traditional values agenda, leftist status-consumption, and "magical" attributes of non-White, non-Westerners.
In my view, women will forgive John Edwards, in the way they never turned against Charlie Sheen in the first place (Two and A Half Men remains beloved by its female audience who dream of taming the bad boy). Women probably have not on balance forgiven Edwards as yet, but critical opinion makers have prepared the way.
Meanwhile, Sarah Palin remains in eternal, internal exile in women's appraisals of her. She will never be forgiven for her sins: marrying "down" to a man lacking in status and prestige, having a large family, having a middle American, middle class accent, failing to abort her Down's syndrome baby, and lacking Ivy League credentials and/or approval of elites such as Oprah or Jon Stewart.
Why is Palin hated so, by women? Kay Bailey Hutchinson is at least as conservative, and holds office. Hutchinson is running for the nomination in the Texas GOP Governor's race. Yet Hutchinson, or Scott Brown, or Jeff Sessions, conservative or cross-over threats, remain ciphers in the pantheon of female hatred for political figures. This is because, unlike Brown, Hutchinson, and Sessions, Palin is not a political so much as cultural threat. One that could redefine what it means to be successful in life and politics (i.e. a traditional marriage ... where the HUSBAND is not a big shot "Big Man" but rather a supportive partner). Making the consumptive status lives of female taste-makers like Lamott seem sterile and empty.
It is consistent with the stories about women dreaming about sex with Obama. As noted in the story, it is about class (the SWPL consumption-status Yuppies hating ordinary people and identifying with the tragically hip) as well as sex. With a "hip, Black President" being the sensual dream for anxious, status-struggling, Married female writers.
Collectively, these stories don't find a female audience and readership rejecting them. Rather, they embrace them. Despite the far different, more struggling lives of the audience and readers.
Increasingly, the dichotomy in lives for men and women, make political and cultural attitudes of the two groups (among Whites) almost like separate peoples. Women have borne relatively little of the economic crisis, while men comprise 82% of job losses. Government spending and employment is biased towards White women and non-White men, with little of the defense spending and contracting that favors White men. While women will, eventually, confront the pain of the recession, as job losses eventually filter down to the female-dominated government jobs, for now they face fewer threats, particularly with high divorce, delayed marriage, and chaotic cohabitation rates.
Barack Obama will keep White female support far longer than with men, with profound electoral consequences, not the least of which is the transformation of the Republicans into the White male party and that of Democrats of the White female party, with various groups aligned "on top" of the core. Obama is the Alpha Male, with female NYT writers, married, openly writing of their dreams of sex with the Big Man. He will keep them and thus the women who follow them, longest.
Meanwhile, women seem poised, with the influence of taste-makers and opinion makers, to forgive John Edwards. Edwards career is not dead. For most women, his betrayal of his cancer-ridden wife and fathering a child with a new-Age bimbo pales in comparison with Sarah Palin's "betrayal" of their lifestyle. Because the bottom line is, women will forgive the Big Man anything. Just so long as he remains the Big Man.