When President Barack Obama stepped into the townhall-esque arena at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, it was with the stealthy resolve of a warrior. And when he spoke, his frenetic energy was barely sheathed behind the hot eyes of a predator. His dangerous, violent nature simmered beneath the surface, and every woman exposed to his aggressiveness shivered when assaulted by its harsh impact.
This is what pundits and arm-chair politicos, primarily of the conservative ilk, would have us believe the day after the POTUS decimated GOP presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, in the pivotal second presidential debate.
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, whose politics are often “sketchy,” to borrow a term from the president, said that his behavior was a turn-off:
“Look, there was a lot of stuff back and forth. I think the real take away here was just the sort of vibe and the physicality of it. John Meacham was saying earlier, I’ve never seen a debate where the two of them were so much in each other’s face. We talked about what happened with Al Gore getting in of George W.’s face in 2000, but in this case, they were like two roosters going at each other. That was so physical, that could turn off women and independent voters.
“The other thing about this is the president did not have enough warmth,” Mitchell said. “Here he’s got a jury in front of him and he’s not — as Chuck was just saying off air — he’s not Bill Clinton. He didn’t have that — he didn’t smile. He should have made the same aggressive points because his base wanted him to be a fighter but he should have had a smile on his face as Romney did in Denver when he was making tough points.”
Maybe Ms. Mitchell doesn’t remember the first debate clearly, but Romney was combative, condescending and disrespectful to both the president and moderator, Jim Lehrer; so much so, that he told the poor man he would fire him — along with Big Bird — if he were elected president.
On the night of the first debate, Twitter lit up with viewers calling the former governor a bully. In truth, he was a snarky, elitist a**hole the entire night, but because his patriarchal aggression was wrapped in the white cloak of privilege, he received a stellar grade at the end of the night.
Yes, I said it. White privilege. And the subdued tone in response to President Obama’s powerful performance is because conservatives can not paint him as weak, as they love to do, so they haveto paint him as “Angry Black Man.”
The recurring theme has been that the president’s “aggression” will not play well with women. Former RNC Chair, Michael Steele, appeared on MSNBC and made a similar claim.
But why now? Where were the calls for presidential “decorum” and “dignity” when Romney was acting like the stereotypical weakling who will be boldly antagonistic because he knows that no one would dare challenge him? Now, that the President of the United States reminded Romney that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is his address until further notice, everyone is suddenly concerned with “decorum” and how Obama will play to White women.
Luckily, some White women rebuked that insulting talking point. Joan Walsh of Salon.com, showed her irritation on Twitter:
Joan Walsh @joanwalsh: Please stop it everyone: Women were turned off by the confrontations at the debate? Jesus. Clutching my pearls and heading to fainting couch
Interestingly enough, the intellectual sexism has been a secondary story line, a running joke. Romney and his “binders full of women,” lies about contraception accessibility and framing gender employment equality in the context of allowing the little woman to get off early so she can make dinner for the children. That kind of overbearing, patriarchal stance is much more dangerous to the well-being of all women, and it would behoove critics to remember that instead of subtly painting President Obama as a modern-day, Harvard educated Bigger Thomas.
There is a moment in the movie “Gladiator” where Maximus looks at a society of spectators that have placed him in a cage, fighting for his life. After he unleashes his full might against his opponent, he asked one simple question:
“Are you not entertained?”
President Barack Obama performed last night. He dismantled Mitt Romney’s non-existence policies; he exposed his hypocrisy and ingrained passive aggression against women; he came, he saw and he conquered, just as America asked of him.
The fact that witnessing a Black man in authority assert himself –against a White man — proved to be disconcerting for some White women and their protectors, says a lot more about society, race and the axis of power than any “alpha-male” physicality that was present on that stage.