Engaged in a blood-sport, Mrs. Hillary Clinton and her campaign may have an unrealistic expectation of chivalry.
One of my favorite songs from The Temptations, the Motown supergroup that sprung up on the national music scene in the early 1960s and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, is ‘Treat Her Like a Lady,’ a groovy R&B track that featured for the first time Mr. Ali-Ollie Woodson as lead singer. The catchy tune about chivalry is made up of lyrics like “Now I like opening doors, picking her hanky off the floor, treat her like a lady.” The track plays well with me for two reasons: its message and the music behind it.
As a fan of chivalry, I personally don’t believe its dead, nor is it at risk of extinction, though I do think some often seek chivalry from places where it’s unwelcome and from people incapable of producing it. The reasons certain people (men) can’t or don’t exude gentlemanly conduct is largely tied to their upbringing and perception of others. And the reason it’s unwelcome at particular locales is because that space is often reserved for the opposite. It appears no place is more unwelcoming of chivalry than the presidential campaign trail. Moreover, politics as a genre is perceived as a blood-sport, the antithesis of civility and courtesy.
With that aforementioned truth widely understood, though not always enjoyed, by political wonks and observers alike, it’s confusing and a bit frustrating to see the number of individuals after the airing of CNN’s Democratic Debate from Flint, Michigan, accuse Mr. Bernie Sanders, who before the start of the forum was declared the winner of the Maine caucuses, of being disrespectful towards Ms. Hillary Clinton, still the Democratic front-runner who on Saturday won the presidential primary in Louisiana and who maintains a sizable lead in delegates.
“His tone tonight was bordered on the disrespectful,” said a member of the Clinton campaign to CNN.
“I know Bernie needs to stand his ground when being interrupted, but his tone made my stomach turn a bit,” tweeted Ms. Tracey Ross, Associate Director for American Progress, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy organization.
What the Clinton campaign and others are referring to was the moment(s) where, after being interrupted by the former First Lady, Mr. Sanders said forcefully: “Excuse me, I’m talking.” Forget the fact that Mrs. Clinton initiated the abruptness with her untimely assertions; the two candidates were at a debate, where interjections are as germane to the process as pontificating. And outside of Mr. Sander’s standing his ground and the finger wagging – which I’ll concede can be perceived as demeaning – the Vermont Senator was a gentleman, and, considering the temperament on the GOP debate stages, he always is.
The real issue we’re confronted with, in my opinion, is whether in this campaign cycle we’ll permit Mrs. Clinton, a politico with more than two decades of experience, a double standard: neither she nor her campaign wants gender to be the catalyst of her election, but they seem to expect it to render her a level of chivalry during debates and forums, a faux expectation for anyone involved in a blood-sport.
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