This is about Tammy Baldwin probably running for Senate here in Wisconsin, but let’s first start with what Feminist Theory and Queer Theory used to call “Standpoint Theory,” that everyone comes from a different standpoint that colors one’s apprehension of the world, besides the notion that one is overtly discriminated against. Honesty in discussion sometimes must start with revealing that standpoint, especially when one is not from a class typically discriminated against. Here goes:
I am a man, raised in the upper middle class and still residing in same. I am heterosexual and married. I have read extensively in feminist theory back when I was a graduate student in Philosophy, and find a kindred link between the Foucaultian thought I focused on in school and the Standpoint strand of feminism, at least in the notion that knowledge is power, and knowledge of oneself is very powerful. I have a lesbian sister who is married to her lesbian spouse and they have two lovely daughters and a dog. (I’m the one who drives the Subaru.) I have an adopted son who is African American, and we’re raising him Jewish (we’ve coached him to say “oy vey” when he meets our Rabbi, who is Russ Feingold’s sister). I’m a Democrat, socially liberal and fiscally conservative, but I think of myself as a pragmatic with an open mind. That said, I am often delighted at the notion of the absurd, even, perhaps especially, in politics. There are my biases, if you can work them out.
About Tammy. I think conventional wisdom would say that Tammy Baldwin would be the wrong candidate for the Democrats to put forward to replace Herb Kohl. (I saw Kohl in the parade in Racine yesterday and found him positively and unhealthily skinny!) But when I first think of Tammy Baldwin, when I first heard her name over eight years ago, I can’t think of anything but cottonwoods (and I sneeze!). Conventional wisdom? In 2010 Wisconsin ousted a liberal Senator and replaced him with a Tea Partier, then voted a Tea Partier beholden to big business to the Governor’s office. How in the world could a liberal lesbian possibly get voted in by the whole state? Further, the conventional wisdom wonders why Tammy Baldwin would give up the safety of her Congressional seat to run for Senate given the energized forces of the Tea Party? Yet I’m thinking the political conditions in this state are what give Tammy Baldwin a chance, and I suspect her character is what convinces her she should run to succeed Herb Kohl. (And if Madison misses their gay Congressman, they can always vote for Mark Pocan. . . )
The conventional wisdom might peg Ron Kind as a moderate and thus better able to attract Republican votes, but the guy just ACTS Republican sometimes, like here, where Ron Kind he seems to be ramping up the campaign against Tammy Baldwin already. Sure, Kind is probably right that Baldwin is running, but it’s so unseemly! His first step on the campaign trail should not be to polish his ho hum centrist credentials, nor, given that he will likely face a woman int he primary, should Ron Kind be using the “sexy” metaphor. That’s Republican dog whistle territory, a word choice designed to remind everyone Baldwin is a lesbian without coming out and saying so. Ron Kind just might alienate his progressive base before this race even starts.
But Tammy Baldwin is strong and smart and honest. Given the state of politics in this state, those qualities are bound to be refreshing. Sure, there are a ton of Republicans and Tea Partiers who will never vote for Tammy Baldwin, either because she is progressive or because she is a lesbian. So? There’s still plenty of votes to be had in this state. And voters here have seen enough dishonesty and stupidity from Ron Johnson and Scott Walker. Tens of thousands of voters have protested the dishonesty of Walker, at least, and they’re not all that happy with the sideshow barkering of the Congressman from the district neighboring Baldwin’s, Mr. Ryan. (Baldwin’s commitment to Medicare might just come in handy in this race.) Don’t let Ryan’s failure to enter this Senate race be construed as anything other than that he’s afraid to run, afraid he’d lose and have to earn a living without sucking on the public teat. Baldwin’s character is stronger by far.
Now let’s get to that little lesbian problem. I’m betting Tammy Baldwin isn’t the only gay candidate for Senate in this country, nor the only one in Wisconsin. I’m betting she’s also not going to be the only gay Wisconsin Senator ever, even when she wins. Gosh, I’m the new guy on the block, arriving in Wisconsin just a year ago from Pennsylvania, but I’ve heard the rumors. Tammy Baldwin is also smart. Honest enough to tell reporters she’s likely to run, as Paul Fanlund notes, Tammy Baldwin is smart in going out and campaigning in the six recall elections for women hoping to unseat Republicans. It can’t hurt to get the Baldwin name linked to the protesters in Madison (yes, I know the Repubs won’t agree with that statement, but they won’t be voting for Baldwin anyway).
I’m liking this candidacy more and more, and somewhat for the audaciousness of a lesbian running for Senate openly. Hey, New York just approved gay marriage — is Wisconsin going to lose it’s progressive street cred to New York? I’m thinking John Nichols might be right, that we could be at the edge of a progressive backlash, and that Tammy Baldwin could be the best candidate. Then again, I’m the eternal optimist. . .
Still, if the only argument against Tammy Baldwin running is one steeped in conventional wisdom, then I’m all for her. (If Tammy Baldwin needs a blogger on staff, I’m here to volunteer, too.)