Krystal Ball is someone that we can all learn from. At 29, she ran for Congress in Virgina’s first district. She would have been the youngest woman to serve in Congress ever, if elected. She didn’t win though. During her election, she faced a sexist smear campaign by her opponents on the right who leaked salacious college photos of Ball. (We covered this 2010 edition of sexist double standards here too.) Throughout the whole thing, she held her head high. When others might’ve crawled away from the spotlight, Krystal used that moment to shed light on the inequalities women face in the public sphere. In her response, she wrote:
I don’t believe these pictures were posted with a desire to just embarrass me; they wanted me to feel like a whore. They wanted me to collapse in a ball of embarrassment and to hang my head in shame.
Despite the people that wanted her to hang her head in shame, she did just the opposite. And she’s still speaking up and ruffling feathers. She’s currently one of four hosts on the MSNBC showThe Cycle, where she not only brings a progressive spin to current events, but also, at times, creatively uses her 5-year-old daughter to highlight the need for marriage equality (much to many on the right’s chagrin). She is a great example of someone bravely pushing boundaries, taking risks, and doing things her own way. And most of all, instead of letting negative experiences break her spirit, she uses them to lift herself higher.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five with Krystal Ball.
Anna Sterling: Looking back on your experience running for Congress, would you do it again?
Krystal Ball: Absolutely! Was I scared? Yes. Was it hard? Harder than childbirth. Were there some low moments? Of course. But overall, it was actually a fantastic and rewarding experience that made me stronger and that is a source of tremendous pride. I also think it’s incredibly important that as women we share stories not just of our successes but also of our failures. I ran. I lost. And not only was it not the end of the world, but it actually created the opportunity for me to do what I’m doing now. I think a lot of women don’t run for office because they’re afraid of losing. I’m here to say winning is fantastic but even in a loss, nothing is truly lost and much is gained.
AS: What steps do we need to take to end this double standard placed on women? And what advice would you give young women looking to possibly run for office, who are afraid to take that leap because of what could leak in this social media age?
KB: To end the double standard, we have to be willing to call out our friends and our opponents. To me the recent conversation about the President’s calling California Attorney General Kamala Harris the “best looking” Attorney General was quite interesting. There were a lot of men and women who considers themselves to be feminists who defended the President. Now look, there are worse things in the world than being called good looking and I’m not mad at the President or even really offended. But the fact remains that any sort of focus on a woman candidate’s appearance or clothes does in fact undermine her credibility with voters. There’s a brand new “Name it. Change it.” research from the Women’s Campaign Fund, Lake Research Partners, and the Women’s Media Fund that proves this point. So even though this President has in many ways been great for women, it’s still up to us to educate people about the impact even well-intentioned comments can have.
As for young women looking at public office, my advice would be two-fold. First, and this goes for men and women, be thoughtful about what you put out on social media. But second, if there is some stupid party photo from your youthful days out there, don’t let that put fear in your heart or stop you from running. In my race, while it was painful and embarrassing when party photos of me were posted, there was also something beautiful about the number of people of all political persuasions who rushed to my defense. Many told me that the photos just made them feel like I was a real human being. In the final analysis, based on our polling, they didn’t end up hurting me electorally one bit and may have actually marginally improved my vote totals.
By Jonathan Miller, on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 4:06 PM ET
Terrific piece about politics and celebrity by POLITICO’s Glenn Thrush — and not just because he calls me “affable.”
I must also clarify: While, contrary to much of the political establishment, I believed that Ashley Judd would have been the stronger candidate against Mitch McConnell, I do believe that Alison Lundergan Grimes can beat him, and I hope that she ultimately decides to run:
Jonathan Miller, an affable Harvard law graduate, former Kentucky state treasurer and onetime Democratic gubernatorial candidate, is one of Ashley Judd’s biggest fans. But he has a little trouble recalling any of her movies.
“Kiss the Girls”? Not so much. “Norma Jean and Marilyn”? No. “A Dolphin’s Tale”? Doesn’t ring a bell.
“‘Sisters’!” he says, conjuring Judd’s NBC series, “I remember that from the ’90s. … That was good.”
It wasn’t star worship that impelled Miller to become a driving force behind the unsuccessful push to draft the Kentucky-bred actress and liberal activist to challenge the powerful incumbent Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, for reelection in 2014. It was about money and power. In that respect, Louisville isn’t much different from Hollywood or Washington.
Democrats and Republicans dismissed the candidacy as a distraction and a joke, but Judd’s celebrity, Miller knew, translated to instant cash and cachet. Kentucky Democrats, he reckoned, could save millions they would otherwise have to spend on get-to-know-you advertising to increase their candidate’s name recognition by having someone famous, like Judd, on the ticket. The local and national media would be all over the race, drawn to the irresistible storyline of the lissome, earnest liberal facing down a five-term Machiavelli in wire rims demonized by Democrats as an arch-obstructionist.
“Celebrity was a large part of why I thought Ashley would have been great,” said Miller, who thought the choice of local Democrats, Kentucky’s low-key, 34-year-old Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, would almost certainly fall to McConnell.
“It’s a constant struggle for an ambitious candidate to make news or raise money. Name recognition would have been the most obvious advantage for Ashley, but the more important benefit is the free media attention,” he added. “Sure, they’d go after her as a member of the Hollywood elite. But the esteem for politicians around here is so low, people are less likely to hold that kind of thing against her. I mean no one could accuse her of being a regular politician. …
“She was a celebrity, but she was also an outsider. Nowadays, being an insider is worse.”
Judd’s flirtation reflects Hollywood’s through-the-looking-glass relationship with politics — no longer merely fodder for story lines but a forum for their own aspirations. A new generation of celebrities is more attracted to policy than publicity — a younger, unapologetically liberal group of activist-stars inspired by the examples of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the 2008 campaign.
By Artur Davis, on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 10:00 AM ET
Give the New Republic’s Adam Winkler credit for laying some of the blame for the collapse of background checks on gun sales not just on NRA sophistry but on a poorly executed, badly timed, overly polarizing campaign by the Obama Administration. As Winkler points out, the over-reach of going after an assault weapon ban boomeranged badly, serving only to galvanize opposition and define even incremental regulations as a wedge to confiscate guns. And the virtues of a go-for-broke strategy, whatever they were, never compensated for the fact that no assault weapons ban had even a remote chance of passing the House.
I would add an additional point that goes much deeper than tactics and the debate over guns. To a degree that could not have been anticipated, and seems doubly odd for a reelected president, Barack Obama smothers his own initiatives. He has the capacity to lend eloquence to his own followers’ views, but no demonstrated ability to organize them behind any cause other than putting him in office. He moves literally no sector of the electorate that didn’t vote for him. His intervention in a legislative fight seems good primarily for preserving gridlock. Obama wins elections but through pathways that close quickly and elevate few specific policy aims: in 2008, a backlash against George Bush’s unpopularity and an airy promise of a post-racial society, and in 2012, a relentlessly negative siege against Mitt Romney. And the country that has elected Obama twice is still split to the core, more so today than when he was a senator signing book contracts. And the deepest splits are more around the country’s perception of Obama than around any singular issue.
None of this means, of course, that there are not a variety of other elements that contribute to the hyper-polarization of the past four years, from the internet’s inevitable pipeline for misinformation, to the continued weight of interest groups like the NRA, to a cable culture that dismisses any efforts by politicians to craft a middle ground as expediency. But it would take an element of willful denial to ignore the fact that Obama occupies the single most divisive space in American politics since Nixon, and that one of the costs is a presidency that is frustratingly weak at persuasion.
It is not too early to wonder if Obama a generation from now looks weirdly like, of all people, Margaret Thatcher: a highly effective campaigner whose victories spun off the unintended consequence of an entrenched cultural opposition, and whose “conviction politics” seem like a relic. Twenty plus years after Thatcherism formally ended, it has been supplanted by a run of center-leaning British prime ministers with a penchant for downplaying sharp ideological rifts. It is not hard to imagine that Obama’s successors won’t be similarly preoccupied with navigating away from the intense divisions of the Obama era.
Read the rest of… Artur Davis: Obama the Polarizer
By Jonathan Miller, on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 4:25 PM ET
From Jack Brammer of the Lexington Herald-Leader:
FRANKFORT — Actress Ashley Judd has bought a house once owned by her father in Ashland, the northeastern Kentucky city where she spent part of her childhood.
Judd paid $120,000 on March 21 for a house on Morningside Drive in the city’s Beverly Hills subdivision, according to Jay Woods, chief deputy in the Boyd County Property Valuation Administrator’s office.
The purchase occurred six days before Judd, a Tennessee resident, ended speculation that she would run for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky against Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell.
Boyd County PVA Chuck Adkins said the house once belonged to Judd’s father, Michael Charles Ciminella, a marketing analyst for the horse racing industry.
The house, built in 1944, has 1,405 square feet with three bedrooms and one bathroom, according to Homes.com.
Adkins said Judd’s father had sold the house to a next-door neighbor, Beth O. Kee, and she sold it to Judd last month through the law firm of Edwards & Klein. A spokesman with the law firm declined to comment.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Actress Ashley Judd had purchased a house in the northeastern Kentucky city of Ashland when she was considering running for U.S. Senate.
Boyd County Property Valuation Administrator Chuck Adkins said Monday that Judd paid $120,000 for the house that once belonged to her father, Michael Charles Ciminella. The deal was finalized in March, about a week before Judd announced her decision not to run against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.
“It was kind of her old home place,” Adkins said of the modest home on Morningside Drive. “I think it was for sentimental reasons.”
Judd supporter Jonathan Miller, a former two-term state treasurer, said he sees the home purchase as an indication the actress wants to be involved in Kentucky politics.
Miller didn’t discredit speculation that Judd could be looking ahead to 2016 when Kentucky’s other Senate seat, held by Republican Rand Paul, is up for election.
“That could be an open seat, if Rand runs for president,” Miller said. “And those open Senate seats come along very seldom.”
Coates’ theory is that Carson is the latest phase of an eight year initiative, “a Republican plan”, to locate a black conservative to counter Barack Obama. As evidence, the existence of four black men who have flickered in and out of the spotlight during Obama’s ascension: Alan Keyes, Michael Steele, Allen West, and Herman Cain. In pulling together these loose strands, Coates overlooks an array of inconvenient facts—that only one of them, Steele, emerged as the product of any sort of party-wide process; that West openly complains that national Republicans ignored him during his failed congressional reelection; that Cain was about as much a product of a grand Republican strategy as Michelle Bachman, who surged for about as long as Cain did; and that Keyes was not so much hand-picked, more a self anointed sacrifice with a history of parachuting into quixotic races.
The only vague line connecting all four, much less all four and Carson, is their sharing of the same skin color. Coates takes that and runs with it, with the very same snide cynicism that he charges conservatives have practiced in elevating these “Black Hopes of the moment.” It is the left’s usual penchant for dismissing conservatives, with the underlying innuendo that a black conservative’s advancement is a fraud that could never transpire without conspiracy or the hand-out of affirmative action. In other words, the same poison that Coates’ writings routinely suggest is at the root of any right-winger’s skepticism of black accomplishment, from Obama all the way down to the corner office.
I have no doubt that a part of Carson’s appeal is that he is vivid proof that not every black embraces an activist, expanding government. But at the risk of upsetting both Coates’ and Sean Hannity’s narratives, I see Carson more in the vein of, say, a Bill Gates or a Mark Zuckerberg, spectacularly successful achievers whose run of success earns them a public policy stage. That makes Carson not a race pawn, but the beneficiary of a common American archetype of making all purpose experts and role models out of gifted people.
Read the rest of… Artur Davis: Taking Ben Carson Seriously
By John Y. Brown III, on Fri Apr 5, 2013 at 3:00 PM ET
“Someone in Heaven this yesterday said, “Cut, print, that’s a wrap!”
And gave a thumbs up.
RIP Roger Ebert
I never met Roger Ebert. But I felt like I knew him. How many critics can you say that about?
Roger Ebert was the most human of critics in my lifetime. My first years as an avid fan of Siskel & Ebert, I favored the more academic and cerebral Siskel.
But as I matured, I found myself leaning toward Roger Ebert. And the last two decades I looked to Roger Ebert if I ever wanted to understand the meaning of a film. Or decide if I should go to a film based on the quality of that film. Or, and this is most important, if I wanted to know what a film had to teach about life.
I don’t think there will ever be a film critic who will teach us more about life through the medium of film. That is because there will never be another critic who loved film as much as Roger Ebert. And who loved life equally as much as the art he critiqued.
Most critics love their art but too often hide behind it instead of embracing life. Roger Ebert was one critic who rose above his peers and helped to create an art form of covering an art form—and managed to marry a love of the art he covered with a gift for communicating the mechanics and mystery and magic of film. As one human to another.
We lost a great friend today that most of us never met. The one who also happened to be our greatest film critic.
Roger Ebert, is somewhere today, I suspect, critiquing the production choices of Heaven.
By Jonathan Miller, on Wed Apr 3, 2013 at 1:30 PM ET
While we are admitted Nate Silver fan-boys here at The Recovering Politician, our favorite pollsters have to be Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen and Jim Williams. First came their poll that showed Congressional approval below that of Brussles sprouts and barely above root canals. Now comes their national survey about popular conspiracy theories (h/t Jim Higdon):
- 37% of voters believe global warming is a hoax, 51% do not. Republicans say global warming is a hoax by a 58-25 margin, Democrats disagree 11-77, and Independents are more split at 41-51. 61% of Romney voters believe global warming is a hoax
- 6% of voters believe Osama bin Laden is still alive
- 21% of voters say a UFO crashed in Roswell, NM in 1947 and the US government covered it up. More Romney voters (27%) than Obama voters (16%) believe in a UFO coverup
- 28% of voters believe secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order. A plurality of Romney voters (38%) believe in the New World Order compared to 35% who don’t
- 28% of voters believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. 36% of Romney voters believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, 41% do not
- 20% of voters believe there is a link between childhood vaccines and autism, 51% do not
- 7% of voters think the moon landing was faked
- 13% of voters think Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, including 22% of Romney voters
- Voters are split 44%-45% on whether Bush intentionally misled about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 72% of Democrats think Bush lied about WMDs, Independents agree 48-45, just 13% of Republicans think so
- 29% of voters believe aliens exist
- 14% of voters say the CIA was instrumental in creating the crack cocaine epidemic in America’s inner cities in the 1980’s
- 9% of voters think the government adds fluoride to our water supply for sinister reasons (not just dental health)
- 4% of voters say they believe “lizard people” control our societies by gaining political power
- 51% of voters say a larger conspiracy was at work in the JFK assassination, just 25% say Oswald acted alone
- 14% of voters believe in Bigfoot
- 15% of voters say the government or the media adds mind-controlling technology to TV broadcast signals (the so-called Tinfoil Hat crowd)
- 5% believe exhaust seen in the sky behind airplanes is actually chemicals sprayed by the government for sinister reasons
- 15% of voters think the medical industry and the pharmaceutical industry “invent” new diseases to make money
- Just 5% of voters believe that Paul McCartney actually died in 1966
- 11% of voters believe the US government allowed 9/11 to happen, 78% do not agree
Frankly, I do believe that Oswald did not act alone, although I find Oliver Ston-ian “the government did it” theorists to be way off.
And of course, I know that Paul is dead. Cuckoo-catchoo!
There are occasional moments when I feel so confused by an aspect of our culture, it’s like being an anthropologist studying an obscure tribe, or Jane Goodall observing chimps. Usually those moments have to do with my teenagers – a joke they think is hysterical which goes completely over my head, or my 16-year-old trying to explain what makes a video go viral. (He discovered Gangnam Style before it had a million hits, which gives him some authority as being ahead of the pop culture curve.) When one of my videos topped 8,000 hits, his reaction was, “Well, mom, that’s viral for old people.”
But my most recent “I feel like Jane Goodall” moment was in a supermarket check-out line, behind someone who definitely had more than 15 items; to keep from glaring at her, I started reading the magazine and tabloid covers. I pride myself on being fairly well-informed about both politics and entertainment, so it was rather dismaying to realize I hadn’t heard of a single name in those headlines. Every single one of them was from some reality TV show, although I couldn’t tell you which ones were from The Bachelor, which from Survivor, etc. I felt like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, bemoaning the end of true celebrity as a result of some artistic accomplishment. (“I’m still big, it’s the reality shows that have gotten bigger . . . “)
I used to say I wanted the kind of fame that was celebrated by those American Express ads, where talented-but-not-totally-famous people would say, “You know my name, but you probably wouldn’t recognize me.” You know, I’d be acknowledged for my artistry but not hounded or bothered in private. But apparently that type of fame has been eradicated by a stream of Snookis and octomoms, and the worse the behavior, the bigger the celebrity. So this week’s song is a musical musing on life, fame, and what makes someone truly noteworthy.