by Max Brantley
"And the reason is that, you know, you have to accept the political world we live in, in the sense that you cannot offer up words like libido — wherever that came from — you don't offer up these sorts of, you know, lobs and set up passes and serves that allow the Democrats to spike the ball."
We know what Mike Huckabee meant. Sort of. Kind of. But, really?
As Republicans can’t seem to learn, it’s all in how you say things. Even if Huckabee was only describing how he believes Democrats think of women, he may have parted the curtain on his own unconscious processes. Who, really, is worried about women’s libidos?
No one in the debate about health insurance coverage of birth control has concerned himself with libido-related concerns except, notably, Rush Limbaugh. It was he who made the leap from Sandra Fluke’s insistence that health insurance should cover birth control to his conclusion that Fluke is, therefore and obviously, a “slut.” (A far shorter leap is required to infer that sitting alone in a room talking for three hours a day into a large, golden microphone millimeters from one’s oral cavity undoubtedly allows the mind to wander.)
Alas, and sadly for Huckabee, his introduction of the libido and all subsequent mental associations not only distracted from his essential message but also placed him squarely in the frame with Limbaugh. One is justified in wondering: Why do these men concern themselves so much with what women do with their, ahem, “reproductive systems”?
The world of gender politics has changed in the past six years. The sexist swipes that were normal then won’t fly in a post-“war on women” culture. Feminism has hit a tipping point. Stories such as the rape in Steubenville, Ohio , or Mike Huckabee’s comments on women’s libido and “Uncle Sugar” previously went unremarked outside of feminist circles; now, they’re up for widespread public debate.
Today, if someone tried to start a Facebook group called “Hillary Clinton: Stop Running for President and Make Me a Sandwich” — in 2008, this group had more than 40,000 members — it’s hard to imagine it would last long. (In fact, thanks to an online feminist campaign, Facebook now bans gender-based hate speech.) And if an opponent laughed it off when asked “How do we beat the bitch?,” as John McCain did at a 2007 event in South Carolina, he or she would be toast.
No doubt, there will be a tremendous amount of sexism lobbed at Clinton if she runs for president. It just won’t be as explicit or gleeful as in years past. At least, that’s what Republicans are hoping. The GOP is so worried about further alienating female voters that it is sending its candidates to classes on how to talk to women — or, more accurately, how not to talk to them.