During the campaign season we took a look at a few campaigns that actively used race and ethnic stereotypes as part of their strategy on the road to Washington, DC. There were undocumented workers slipping across poorly guarded borders to steal American jobs and infect the country with drug-related crime. We faced Islamic terrorists who flaunted their hatred of the US right in the face of Ground Zero. The President himself was often a target, being caricatured as everyone from Che Guevara to Adolf Hitler to a turban-wearing Muslim, to an extra from Amos and Andy. One week out from Election Day, how did they do? And does anyone out there think that using these tactics had any effect on who showed up to cast votes?
The 2010 midterm elections are over. Well, for the most part. It may be a while before all of the ballots are sorted out in the Alaska Senate race, and there's a recount in North Carolina for a House seat, making nine as yet undecided races in that legislative body. And while Washington, DC may be getting prepared to do the staffer's office shuffle, there is still a lame duck session or two for Congress, a host of court cases coming to the Supreme Court, from which new Justice Kagan will frequently have to recuse herself, and some unfinished business on the Don't Ask Don't Tell front, otherwise known as the Clinton legacy that won't go away. I mean, the other unforgettable legacy of his.
A record number of women—262, in all—ran campaigns for the House in the 2010 midterm elections. Despite this wave of women, fewer will be in the House once the 112th Congress begins than were in the 111th. 75 women will take their seats in the voting body, many of them for the first time. Here is a look at several first-year Representatives. On the Senate side, 36 women ran campaigns—also a record—and four were elected, keeping the total for women in the Senate at 17. There will be, notably, no African-American Senators when the new Congress begins in January. What issues will the newest female members of Congress bring with them and what might it mean for feminist political strategists and women?
Remember those weird Verizon ads that seemed to empower young women with statements like "air does not transmit the opinions of a man faster than those of a woman"? Really, they were co-opting feminism to sell phones from a company that is fighting against net neutrality—the idea that people and organizations should be charged more for access or speedier connection to certain sites and services instead of treating all access as equal—something many of us take for granted right now.
The Albuquerque-based New Mexico Media Literacy Project made a response video to the ads that does more than parody, it sends a strong message of its own about net neutrality and free internet: "Latinos aren't buying what Verizon is selling. Verizon says 'Rule the Air,' but Latinos say 'Libera el Aire!'"
Much of the rhetoric in the 2010 midterm elections focused on anger, and the GOP candidates who will take control of the next House session spent a lot of campaign messaging time expressing how they felt connected to voters' anger. Which begs the question: were the candidates or the voters the angry ones? Why did Election Day turn out the way it did? And what does it mean, going forward?
Many people who fancy themselves political science pundits have offered their predictions for Election Day on Tuesday, and as one combs through their numbers rackets—I mean, educated guesses as to who will win what—one finds some significant biases—I mean, measurement error—toward their own political affiliations. But this only made one more determined to identify sturdier means of projecting likely results in the 2010 midterm elections. What I list here are the rigorous, the coincidental, and the laughable predictions for this voting cycle.
As far as human emotions go, if the 2004 elections were about fear and the 2008 elections about hope, it seems fair to say that the 2010 midterm elections have been about anger. Anger at the government for what's perceived as a weak economy. Anger at Congress, either for not getting enough done, or for turning the country into a cesspool of socialism, depending on one's political leanings. Anger at immigrants, who are so crafty to get into the United States that they'll even crawl under fences that aren't on the border with another country (at least according to the ads in Louisiana and Nevada). Anger at liberals and their long affair with taxes. Anger at gay people. Earlier this week Mother Jones ran a cover with Sarah Palin in the image of the '50s movie poster, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, to attempt to show how middle class anger is so fever-pitch high that people are talking about voting against their own interests, and what was the response? Anger that they would replicate such a sexist image.
On Monday, I took a look at LGBT candidates running for office. The general frame of that article, and of most of this series of articles for Bitch has been set within the confines of the US election structure—a within-system critique, taking a discursive analysis approach to the text and narratives of these 2010 midterm elections. I have not been asking about forms of government, the viability of democracy, nor envisioning some new electorate-driven strategy for liberating the oppressed. Those conversations happen, of course, but the focus here has been narrow because I have been interested in putting pressure on the many and varied contradictions floating in the messaging in these individual campaigns and in the media coverage of them as a whole. And I do see opportunities for feminist and progressive-minded people in investigating why those contradictions are so prevalent and so unexplored. Today, I'd like to push in a different direction. What would it mean to queer the election?
I spent two hours standing in line yesterday to hear President Obama and Senator Murray rally the troops for her reelection bid. In the University of Washington's Huskies stadium, there were reminders of the basketball court under our feet, the Democrat's passage of student loan reform, and several rounds of the wave that people do in sports arenas. So imagine my surprise when the AP wire put out a story that today's rally was all about getting women to the polls on November 2. Uh, what?