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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mo' Binders, Mo' Problems

I'm sorry I missed the debate last night.  I was, however, glad to hear that President Obama mopped the floor with his GOP challenger.  Admittedly, that's a partisan interpretation based on second-hand sources, but no matter how one spins the result, it sounds like Barack sure showed up last night.

Of course, all that anyone's talking about is Bindergate, Mitt Romney's infelicitous attempt to shore up the women's vote.  As I'm sure you've all heard by now, Mittens portrayed himself as a champion of women's equal opportunity because, as governor of Massachusetts, he questioned why his staff couldn't find qualified women to apply for senior governmental positions.  He requested--nay, demanded!--that aggressive steps be taken!  And last night he bragged about compiling "binders full of women."  And a meme was born!

Binders are the new Big Bird.

I've spent an inordinate amount of time today trying to determine whether this remark was actually offensive.  I'm willing to give Mittens the benefit of the doubt here: I'll assume he wasn't being sexist and may, indeed, have relatively--relatively! Remember, the man's in the same party as Rick Santorum--mainstream sttitudes towards women in the workplace.  I think that, unlike his infamous "47%" comment--which came as part of a lengthy discussion and thus probably reflects his true feelings toward the less fortunate--this "binders" remark truly was just bad phrasing: It says less about Romney's possible misogyny than it does about his utter out-of-touchness: For him, women--people in general--are just so many data points, so many quantifiable inputs to be color-coded and tabulated and assessed in terms of their bottom-line value.  Romney may or may not be a sexist, but this comment plays perfectly into the caricature of him as cold-hearted business mogul who evaluates--and values--people only insofar as they contribute to his agenda.

At times like these, I think of my Republican friends--I must have some: I'm a very likable guy.  How did they react when Romney uttered the "binders full of women" line?  Did they cringe, realizing this would be the take-away from the whole debate?  Were they perhaps fixated on some equal and opposite gaffe committed by President Obama (a gaffe pitched to a dog-whistle-like frequency that only Republicans can hear)?  Or do they see nothing wrong with it?

I don't say that out of a sense of condemnation, either.  I think of my reaction when then-Senator Obama made his infamous "gaffe" during the 2008 election cycle, about how certain people "cling to guns and religion" out of a sense of fear--Obama's own "47%" moment, if you will.  Many expressed outrage at the elitism implied by the words, but, frankly, I remember thinking, "What's the big deal?  He's basically right."

We've reached a point in the election cycle, nearly--mercifully--over, when for the most part only the most egregious of blunders will have a serious effect on the race.  Those of us gleefully bantering about Mitt Romney's latest faux pas are for the most part people who would in no way have considered voting for him anyway.  I can't wait for the day when Americans can put all this unpleasantness behind us and return to simpler, more universal pleasures, like hating on Canadians.

1 comment:

  1. I think it should be noted that, separate from the phrasing issue: Once again, Romney is (oh, what's that phrase? Jon Stewart uses it a lot. Oh, yeah!) LYING!!!
    He did NOT "Look for qualified women". The "binders were already in place; prepared by several Women's Rights groups; to be presented to WHOEVER WON THE ELECTION; to let them know of the many qualified women already out there!