In an October 16 Politico article, Elizabeth Wilner wrote that masculinity is "a trait that is absent from the top of the Democratic [presidential campaign] field where, despite Barack Obama's fondness for pickup basketball, none of the candidates is really known for being a guy." Asserting that 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry does project masculinity -- albeit "an effete, wet-suited masculinity compared to [President] Bush's frat-boy, towel-snapping version" -- she wrote: "It seems unlikely that between 2004 and 2008, the need for Democrats to show some trappings of strength will just disappear."
Wilner's comments echo the numerous instances Media Matters for America has documented in which media figures have characterized former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) as feminine or weak or reinforced the characterization of the Democratic and Republican parties as the "Mommy" and "Daddy" parties, respectively.
From the October 16 article in the Politico:
Kerry's road back from the ashes of 2004 has been studded with self-inflicted setbacks. Ultimately, it won't be as triumphant as Gore's.
But nor will it take as long -- and there are growing signs that the events of the post-2004 period have granted Kerry at least the right to say, "I told you so."
For four years after winning the race but losing the presidency, Gore could do nothing right. He ignored his loyalists, got bloated and sweaty, embraced the unruly anti-war left and threw his support behind their 2004 presidential candidate, who then imploded spectacularly.
Which is the flip side of the swift-boat coin: The tactic may have damaged Kerry's own chances in 2004, but his support could help inoculate other Democratic candidates against similar efforts to impugn their patriotism in 2008.
He also brings brass to the table -- not only his own Vietnam service but also a small army of veteran supporters built during his presidential campaign and his efforts to support veterans who ran for office in 2006.
And Kerry projects something else the Democratic nominee may need, whoever he or she may be: masculinity. Of course, it is an effete, wet-suited masculinity compared to Bush's frat-boy, towel-snapping version. But it's a trait that is absent from the top of the Democratic field where, despite Barack Obama's fondness for pickup basketball, none of the candidates is really known for being a guy.
Kerry's assets are not inconsiderable given that the current president plans to hand off the Iraq war to his successor and the top Republican candidates seem to be lifting the weak-on-terror charge from the Bush campaign playbook. It seems unlikely that between 2004 and 2008, the need for Democrats to show some trappings of strength will just disappear.