If you know enough about Minnesota politics to be reading my blog, you probably know who Margaret Anderson Kelliher is. She’s the current Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, the second and longest-serving woman to hold the position. She’s also one of the DFL candidates seeking to replace incumbent Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2010. She’s considered one of the front-runners for the DFL nomination, along with a handful of others, like former Sen. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (who has not officially announced, but who is widely expected to run), and former Minnesota House Minority Leader Matt Entenza. If nominated, she’d be the first woman to head a major-party gubernatorial ticket in the state’s history.
Oh, and she’s also a gossipy teenage girl.
|Jeff Fecke is a freelance writer who lives in Eagan, Minnesota. In addition to his own blog, Blog of the Moderate Left, he also contributes to Alas, a Blog, Minnesota Campaign Report, and AlterNet.|
That assessment of Speaker Anderson Kelliher comes from progressive Minnesota blogger Brian Fallidin. Fallidin has not endorsed a candidate for governor yet, but he’s been pretty supportive of Entenza thus far, which is a feeling that I, ahem, do not really share.
But that’s fine. Fallidin is allowed to like Entenza, just as I’m allowed to dislike him. I don’t know, ultimately, who he plans to vote for (I’m leaning toward Rybak myself, but am still persuadable). And he’s allowed to dislike Margaret Anderson Kelliher, a candidate who definitely has her flaws (as does, to be honest, every DFLer running).
But Fallidin crossed the line in his latest post criticizing Anderson Kelliher. Part of the post was about minor, inside-baseball type stuff (Anderson Kelliher claiming a supporter who apparently had previously indicated support for Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, a second-tier candidate), the sort of vaguely embarrassing mistake that hits every campaign. That’s not the part I mind. No, the part I mind is this:
It seems that Margaret Anderson Kelliher is doing a MAK-Attack on pretty much everyone these days. Her gossip girl comment originally reported in the City Pages where she said “You’re going to have a lot of fun doing a fact-check on what he says….” about Matt Entenza reminds me of that one girl we all hated in high-school-you know the one that desperately wanted you to like them, and when you didn’t they’d say nasty things behind your back?
Okay, quickly disposing of the substance of Fallidin’s complaint: Matt Entenza has a history of lying. It’s the reason I’ve vowed not to support him. Anderson Kelliher is allowed to raise character issues, especially as they relate to a candidate’s public conduct (and spying on your party’s endorsed gubernatorial candidate – while you’re running for Attorney General – is public conduct). Just as Entenza is allowed to raise the fact that Pawlenty drank the DFL’s milkshake last legislative session. These are legitimate issues for voters to discuss, and frankly, issues that should be brought up.
So it’s an absurd complaint. But more absurd is the way Fallidin frames his complaint. Here, reread the paragraph again, this time, with some emphasis added to the relative parts:
It seems that Margaret Anderson Kelliher is doing a MAK-Attack on pretty much everyone these days. Her gossip girl commentoriginally reported in the City Pages where she said “You’re going to have a lot of fun doing a fact-check on what he says….” about Matt Entenza reminds me of that one girl we all hated in high-school-you know the one that desperately wanted you to like them, and when you didn’t they’d say nasty things behind your back?
Now, Brian has told me via email that he didn’t intend to write anything sexist. And maybe he didn’t.
But damn, that’s pretty sexist.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with decrying Anderson Kelliher for brining up character if, for some reason, you don’t think character should be brought up in a campaign. But when you choose to focus on “gossip,” twice in two sentences, and when you compare the highest DFL officeholder in state government to “that one girl we all hated in high-school-you know the one that desperately wanted you to like them,” you’re not making a comment on Anderson Kelliher’s behavior. You’re making a comment on her gender.
Because women gossip – amirite, fellas? They just love to pick-pick-pick at people in the out crowd, not like men who get all brawny and manly and stuff. So girly, that gossip. Except, of course, that men gossip more than women, and also, nobody more fits the idea of a gossip than the guy who hired a private investigator to dig up dirt on Mike Hatch. But that, of course, wasn’t “gossipy,” because Entenza’s a dude.
But we’re not dealing with reality when we compare the Speaker of the Minnesota House to a high school sophomore. We’re dealing with stereotypes. And stereotypes are all about putting people in their place. Anderson Kelliher couldn’t be attacking Entenza for lying because she views him as a liar.1 She must be doing it because that’s what girls do. And she’s a girl. A girly, girly girl.
I’m sorry, whether Fallidin intended the post as sexist or not, it was sexist. It belittled Anderson Kelliher and belittled women generally. I don’t care if you support Margaret Anderson Kelliher for Governor or not – as I said earlier, I’m not leaning toward her at the moment. But one should make that case based on her record as speaker and as a state representative, her positions on issues related to the state, and on her perceived ability to win the governor’s mansion for the DFL for the first time in nearly a quarter-century.
But Anderson Kelliher’s gender is not a reason to malign her, subtly or overtly. And while I dearly hope this is the last time I have to write a post like this, I know all to well that it will not be. If the 2008 primary fight between now-President Obama and now-Secretary of State Clinton taught us nothing else, it is that many progressives, sadly, are as willing to traffic in hackneyed, sorry stereotypes as the staunchest teabagger – if it helps their candidate win.
1As further proof that women are not the only ones who gossip, let me just say that several little birdies have told me that there is no love lost between Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Matt Entenza, and that the two are bitter enemies going back to before the time when Entenza was Minority Leader and Anderson Kelliher was Assistant Minority Leader. But you didn’t hear that from me.