Markey vs. Musgrave: How Women Would Change Politics – Not

October 23, 2008

By Stephen Noriega

I have asked many women, from third wave feminists to conservative traditionalists about how gender would affect politics. Most women have told me that if women had more influence at the spigots of power, the environment would be less hostile and more collaborative. Disagreements, although longer in duration because congresswomen have never physically assaulted another lawmaker, at least here in the United States, would be settled through understanding and consensus. According to feminism, the patriarchy, the constant need to be the Alpha Male and the following aggression, especially in campaigns, creates a lot of the negative framing we see today. I agree with this assessment. Politics is a shadow cast by the object of our real institutions. We are trained to act this way and to observe the male-centered ways of how we select our leaders. The traditional way to present our candidates is in an adversarial format. We pit them against each other, focusing on strength of character, willingness to confront the other, physical attractiveness and their control of their wives (the only first ladies to draw controversy were the more assertive ones like Hilary Clinton or Teresa Heinz Kerry). All three waves of feminism have grappled with this issue. I will not speak to the history of this struggle but the current system is not what most third wave feminists want.

http://feminism.suite101.com/article.cfm/third_wave_feminism

So to make a long story longer…

One would think that Betsy Markey would take a cue from her own feminist roots and look for ways to shift the paradigm so as to not recreate the patriarchal election tradition but to compete without spears and missiles, mostly in the form of negative ads. Elizabeth Helen (AKA Betsy) Markey has attributes that could appeal to both sides of the aisle, again, giving her an opportunity to change her own small universe of politics. Markey has a rich academic background, receiving a Masters degree of Public Administration from American University. In business, Markey made a modest fortune co-founding Syscom Services (http://www.syscom.com/software.htm). She also established Huckleberry’s in Fort Collins and sold it for a profit. Markey also worked with and served as an officer with the Food Bank of Larimer County. Markey has also worked on many issues relating to communities, families and women’s issues. Betsy Markey, even though coming from a Catholic family, elected to keep her original name when she got married, something very feminist to do these days and hooray for her! I am quite aware of the patriarch name argument as my wife chose to keep her name and it is the logical thing to do. My wife then honors her family through time as well and keeps her professional brand consistent. Following is a photo of Betsy Markey, not my wife.

Courtesy of Betsy Markey for Congress

So what problem could I have with this person? My issue is that Betsy Markey is falling into the same old crap that white men have been practicing since they seized power a long time ago. The fight for the 4th Congressional District has become a bitter, slicing contest, snowing under many concerns. Quoting 9News about the October 9th debate they held, “Both Republican incumbent Marilyn Musgrave and Democratic challenger Betsy Markey were emotional when asked about misconceptions voters might have about them from the heavy negative advertising in the race.” http://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=101504

This is not to say that Marilyn Musgrave has run a thoughtful, sporting campaign. Musgrave has linked Markey’s business with corruption and has inferred that she is a liar, a manipulator and (gasp) a liberal.

Betsy Markey could have risen above this but she chose not to.

It is not to say that scurrilous attacks should go undefended. Some of the accusations that Musgrave’s campaign brought up were absurd and vicious. These can be addressed while not launching equally serrated sorties. In fact, in this particular election, the less one must attack, the better. This is the election to begin realizing that political cockfighting is not the only way to campaign. Betsy Markey can be a transformational character because of what she has accomplished so far and how she continues her political success. Watching the national elections is indicating that perhaps the general public is finally getting tired of the negative attacks and perhaps wants more discussion. Less patriarch warfare and more presentation of comparable values might be the cure of the day. Betsy Markey has held a slight advantage over Musgrave since August and no negative campaigning on either side has helped. It is perhaps an election where we seek the challenge of working on solutions rather than the comfort and tradition of fighting over them.

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Schaffer Versus Udall: Clash of Negatives

August 28, 2008

If this wasn’t a presidential election year, this one could be put on pay-per-view. Bob Schaffer, with oil and gasoline exuding from his pores, clashes with Mark Udall, spotted owls flying from his nostrils. One is a fascist. The other is a communist. They are both faithful, poison-tipped spears from the far right and left. Both of these fine demons from different hells will fight until humanity is annihilated just so they can get elected to the U.S. Senate.

In many senate campaigns, one can hardly tell the difference between Democrat and Republican. Ken Salazar demonstrates this all the time. As candidates dance to the middle to get elected, they hide from their extreme bases and their core beliefs. This will not be happening in the Bob Schaffer – Mark Udall Armageddon, I mean Election. Colorado will have a wild choice to make. Some will call this a Hobson’s Choice because of the extremes to choose from.

So far, the campaigns have spent over 8 million dollars in negative advertisements (Michael Riley – Denver Post, Public Ad Buy Information – 8/22/2008). By the last total on Friday, August 22nd, the anti-Schaffer forces have spent 2.68 million. The anti-Udall forces have spent 5.95 million. For a senate race in Colorado, that is a whole lot of character assassination!

The Schaffer camp wants to paint Mark Udall as a deep ecologist, willing to let American children starve rather than drill next to a couple of caribou and gulf water shrimp. They want to show him as a flip flopper and an absentee legislator.

The Udall camp wants to frame Bob Schaffer as a hired mercenary for the oil companies, hoisted up into this campaign to make sure that Colorado’s beauty is strip-mined of its shale and that Exxon-Mobile can ravage the earth with impunity.

Now these are 527 hench-groups, with some of their own agendas and freedom to be looser with the truth. However, the messages are not being renounced or forbidden. The war is on. Schaffer and Udall have already met in debate. Schaffer successfully cornered Udall to promise he would keep Congress in session until an energy bill regarding offshore drilling was ironed out. Udall’s plane was late getting back to Washington and he was blamed for ruining the lives of millions of people.

This is only the taste of things to come. Bob Shaffer is an admirable and terrifying debater. Many people in Colorado politics remember how he disemboweled a rather highly regarded but political inexperienced Pete Coors in a primary contest. T.R. Reid wrote it well how Schaffer outplayed his fellow Republican:

In a debate, the wily Schaffer demanded to know whether Coors agreed with Paul Martin on U.S.-Canadian trade. Coors fell right into the trap. “I’m not sure I know who Paul Martin is,” he said warily. Schaffer pounced: “A U.S. senator needs to know who the prime minister of Canada is.”

-T.R. Reid, The Washington Post, 7/25/2004

In a debate meant to address energy issues, Shaffer pulled a great debating trick over Mark Udall on the Iraq question. He quoted one of Udall’s pre-Iraq statements that was pro-invasion. The crowd exploded with cheers and boos. The anxious mediator implored the crowd to stand down. The war continued.

Udall gave an answer but Schaffer won this joust, knocking Udall off his horse. Udall’s campaign will be wise to avoid too many rounds with the debater from hell. He will have to rely on his personal appeal and on Schaffer’s attachment to oil companies. The environmental 527’s have done this well, highlighted, in my opinion by a well-designed commercial from fingerprintbob.com and the League of Conservation Voters.

This fight will be energetic because it plays to two sides of Colorado culture, both wanting more power than they have. Bob Shaffer represents true conservatives. Mark Udall represents true liberals. They have to get nasty to influence those in the middle. Believe it or not, most people in Colorado want energy independence and a protected environment. Most people in Colorado are more reasonable than the ads that have played and that will come. The winning candidate may very well be the one who convinces Colorado voters that the other is farthest to the extreme, whether it is to the left or the right. The war will continue.

Stephen Noriega