queen of clean for a day?

Via Glenn Reynolds, Ed Driscoll quotes an interesting analysis from Howard Husock that rang so true:

With Mrs. Clinton now the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination, it's worth reflecting on that formative political experience -- and the extent to which it may still influence her campaign approach.

In addition to its "bring the troops home now" message, the McCarthy campaign also introduced new tactics into campaigning, ranging from its reliance on a core group of ideologically-motivated funders -- presaging George Soros -- door-to-door canvassers brought in from out of town, and, perhaps most memorably, a tactic which its young volunteers adopted known as "Clean for Gene." Viewed most simply, it involved long haired New Left types getting haircuts, before hitting the streets of Concord and Manchester.

In his definitive 1970 memoir of that campaign, "Nobody Knows," McCarthy speechwriter Jeremy Larner described the tactic this way: "There was to be said here for the self-imposed discipline of the youth corps. 'Clean for Gene' was a policy of practical political sophistication. For several years, the peace movement had been having a mixed effect on America. In New Hampshire it was possible for students to work effectively against the war and the assumptions behind the war without an exchange of hostility."

In other words, "Clean for Gene" was about much more than a haircut. It was a tactic designed to package one's beliefs behind a misleading façade -- to present oneself as the kid next door, an All-American boy or girl. In other words, this was a tactic meant not so much to disarm as to deceive. Notably, it established a pattern. Time and again, left-leaning organizations have, in the years since, sought to wrap themselves in an outer mantle of traditional Americanism, despite their distaste for it. Think of " People for the American Way" and its founding president, Anthony Podesta, whose younger brother John was the founding president of Center for American Progress. Or think of the abortive left-leaning radio talk show network, Air America, or the 2004 Kerry campaign bumper sticker, "Support America, Defeat Bush." All stem from the "Clean for Gene" tactic -- asserting one's tie to American traditionalism no matter one's actual politics.

One can go further and wonder, indeed, whether Mrs. Clinton's nominally difficult to understand record -- voting initially for the war in Iraq, offering apparently centrist views on everything from abortion to flag-burning to statements about the importance to her of "faith" -- are themselves a long-playing version of "Clean for Gene."

At 14 in 1968, I was a bit young for the "Clean for Gene" stuff, but I do remember a similar phenomenon when I worked for Bobby Seale's 1973 campaign for Mayor of Oakland. Just about every worker (myself included) was a scruffy unwashed type, and you just don't send people who look like that out ringing doorbells (unless, that is, you wanted to ensure a high turnout for Seale's opponent, incumbent Mayor John Reading). They made men wear slacks and shirts with collars, and women were similarly supposed to be nicely attired, and every attempt was made to ensure all workers who went door-to-door looked clean and well groomed. If you came into the office wearing a T-shirt and blue jeans, you simply were not allowed to work in a public manner. "Respect the people!" "Be polite to the people!" "Make a good impression on the people!" were phrases repeated constantly. (We were told not to knock on Republican doors or waste time with obviously conservative types of voters, but I do remember having nice talks with people who, while they'd have never voted for the Black Panther Party Chairman in a million years, were genuinely curious about how a seemingly nice young man like me was going door to door for him.) Anyway, things can be made to seem other than the way they are. (I actually was seemingly nice, and I still can be if I'm driven to it. Actually being nice is much harder.)

The "Clean for Gene" piece reminded me of tonight's identity-politics-driven gay issues debate. The whole thing couldn't possibly be more calculated to place Hillary solidly in the center.

First, by doing absolutely nothing, the GOP candidates are placed by default in the automatic anti-gay position. If Hillary is lucky, after the debate, the angry anti-gay GOP minority will sound off with some inflammatory remarks about gays, thus cementing into place the well-worn routine that the GOP hates homos, whose only possible friends are to be found in the Democratic Party. (That self-hating 25% group of homos for Bush better get with the program fast, for soon the GOP will show its true colors and start demanding for the death penalty for sodomy!)

The candidates further to the left than Hillary can be depended upon to stake out positions too radical for middle America, and if Hillary gets really lucky, there might even be some boos from angry ACT-UP types. (A "sissy Souljah" moment, maybe? I can dream. Well, she did kicked Code Pink butt, didn't she?)

Forgive me my diversion into Hillary's heterocentristnormativism, but Driscoll's "clean Gene" analysis reminded me of my reaction to this morning's Inquirer:

Logo, available in 27 million homes, offered to hold a second forum for Republican candidates, but the GOP front-runners - less supportive of gay-rights initiatives than the Democrats - showed no interest, Logo general manager Lisa Sherman said.

The Democrats will appear sequentially at 15-minute intervals during the two-hour forum, never sharing the stage with one another.

All of them support a federal ban on job discrimination, favor repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, and support civil unions that would extend marriagelike rights to same-sex couples.

So far, only two long shots, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska, have endorsed nationwide recognition of gay marriage, which a majority of Americans oppose.

"No viable mainstream contender for president is going to support gay marriage in this election cycle," said Ethan Geto, an adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton on gay-rights issues. Geto suggested that Clinton's hesitancy on same-sex marriage stemmed from her religious upbringing.

(Emphasis added.)

Nothing like having your religious opposition to gay marriage confirmed by your advisor on gay issues!

You'd think he was reminding people to keep it clean for the debate.

Yeah, wink-wink and all that. I don't get the Logo channel, so I'll miss out on all the fun.

MORE: I could not get the Logo video to stream at all, and I had to go out, so I am relying on the kindnesses of strangers who were nice enough to liveblog the debate.

Glenn Reynolds has a roundup including liveblog journals from GayPatriot and Ryan Sager. Unfortunately GayPatriot had trouble streaming from the Logo site and there's not much from Hillary. (I'm glad I had to go out, or I'd have had the same frustrating experience. It's bad enough to watch one of these debates even when you can! When it won't stream, it's unbearable.)

A blogger in Charleston, SC ("Gay Charleston") supplies about the closest I'll get tonight to a transcription of Hillary's remarks, which were a disappointment to moderator Melissa Etheridge:

[Richardson] says homosexuality is a choice. The poor man is losing the crowd here. "I don't like to answer questions like that."

Mellisa: "It's hard when people tell you it's a choice when you were born that way."

Here's the question. People say that gays and lesbians can choose and change. What does Richardson say.

He says it's about full equality for everybody.

If anybody blew it tonight, it was Richardson. He has set Hillary Clinton up for a home run.

Oh, I bet John is chatting up the green room about that jacket as we speak.

Why no legislation to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

"The very simple answer is that we didn't have a chance with a Republican Congress and George Bush as president."

Ready to lay the groundwork to get it done. She says DADT was a stop-gap measure.

"We've moved a long way on this and other issues. ... It was not implemented appropriately."

She may spend her 15 minutes on this one question.

Same-sex marriage opposition. "I prefer to think of it as being very positive to civil unions."

"We believe in equality. How we get to full equality is the debate we're having."

Says she supports states rights on marriage. It will be where we see our victories. I agree.

"I'm very optimistic." Polling at 48 percent, I'd be optimistic about a lot of things.

Mellisa: Not so optimistic. "Our hearts were broken. We were thrown under the bus. All those great promises that were made to us were broken."

Hillary: "I don't see it quite the way you describe. ... We certainly didn't get as much done as I would have liked." But she says they got a lot done.

"If I were sitting where you are sitting, having gone through what you've gone through, I would feel the same way. ... As president, I feel like I have an opportunity to reverse the assaults on people. ... That is over."

Apparently Rosario (the maid, not Dawson) is in the audience.

Hillary: "I'm your girl." What? No Z-snap?

Not sure about the last bit of editorializing, but it does appear that Hillary held the center, and managed to get a nice question allowing her to tout her presidential experience, while reminding everyone she was on their side. ("WE" got a lot done!)

Is that only a royal "we"?

UPDATE (08/11/07): Marc Ambinder thinks Hillary has cinched the gay support, and I agree:

....a kind of détente has arisen: HRC and other gay organizations don't push too hard on the marriage question, and Democrats support almost all of the rest of what they're asking for: a federal hate-crimes law, civil unions, repealing Don't Ask, etc.

Of course, not everyone wants in on this deal, as Etheridge and a few others make clear. But that hasn't stopped Clinton from making serious headway with the gay community, despite a few tense moments like the ones last night. So don't be misled. One of the underappreciated stories of this campaign is how effectively Clinton has shored up endorsements and support, and in few places is this truer than the gay community. The impression I've been given is that HRC's eventual endorsement of Clinton is a mere formality.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Considering Hillary's overall lukwarm record on gay issues, I guess this means that it will no longer be considered a sign of "self loathing" to oppose Hillary, and that gays will be allowed to make up their own minds over whether to support the GOP.

You know, free citizens being allowed to make up their own minds?

I can dream, can't I?

posted by Eric on 08.09.07 at 05:19 PM


Eric I here that LOGO has a webcast at their website,don't know the URL sorry (I think),

Bobnormal   ·  August 9, 2007 8:04 PM

The moderator at the debate wasn't disinterested.

Brett   ·  August 10, 2007 7:55 AM

I live in NYC, a rather provencial inside the box environment, and about a year and a half ago I was sending to a longtime friend, who is gay, articles on treatment of homosexuals under Islam. After a couple of articles with photos describing how the real world mistreats homosexuals my friend said to me "Sometimes I think you do this just to be different"

Well, I was heartborken and that was the last time I cared about anything gay. The constant whining in America about 'gay rights' while ignoring the horrific treatment of homosexuals in the real world is what drove me to tune out.

I also told my friend that were he ever thrown into one of those secret American gay gulags so feared I'd still be the first one in fighting to free him.

syn   ·  August 10, 2007 8:35 AM

This sure was a long analysis of a simple truth: the governing classes lie to us to get our votes.

The only way to punish such mendacity is to include a binding "none of the above" line on every ballot in every race.

Brett   ·  August 11, 2007 9:21 AM

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