A belated remark on “binders full of women”

Regular readers should know that I’m no fan of Romney and that however much Obama has been disappointing, I want him to win. I hope that leaves me room to point out, then, that the “binders full of women” thing is kind of bizarre to me. As I’ve pointed out on Twitter, binders are a perfectly acceptable way to store resumes, and if his goal was to prioritize the hiring of women, organizing binders full of women’s resumes seems like a good practical step. In addition, though I did not watch the debate (in part because I can’t bear to watch video of Romney), I’ve heard from several people who did watch it that the “binders full of women” remark did not actually stand out to them and that they were surprised that it became a “thing.”

Why this remark, then, out of all the other stupid things he said? I would venture to say that this was singled out for ridicule precisely because it was a case where Romney appeared to be doing something liberals would like and, indeed, seemed to have his heart in the right place. Anyone could make his conservative talking points sound stupid (i.e., simply repeat them) — the truly astute political move was to make his very attempt to swing toward the center and shed his “severely conservative” persona seem like a laughable and even vaguely creepy thing to say.

It’s classic Karl Rove: attack your enemy precisely on his greatest strength, and then there’s no good way to respond. And I think that it’s actually a positive sign that Democrats are using that kind of tactic, because it shows that they’re willing to fight, that they recognize the Republicans as an enemy. That kind of politicization is in itself a positive step away from the self-inflicted impotence that has beset liberals for a generation.

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9 Responses to “A belated remark on “binders full of women””

  1. gerrycanavan Says:

    My take was just that his weird phrasing sounded enough like violence against women to be both “funny” and politically useful, but your take is interesting. It’s a strange moment because it was essentially a defense of affirmative action that has been utterly undercut by everyone despite being good policy Democrats supposedly like. Why not attack him on the grounds that he was lying about it?

    The meme-ification of Romney’s blunders happened so fast in all three debates that I’ve half-wondered if Obama somehow has a meme guy on retainer.

  2. ben Says:

    It wasn’t really a Democratic tactic, was it? It seemed as if people watching the debate thought it came off creepy and weird and memed it up.

    It doesn’t hurt that it was actually a lie on Romney’s part, though that only came out later.

  3. beatrice marovich Says:

    Yeah, I found this meme really aggravating. I think you’re right: binders should be considered an acceptable way of storing information, such as resumes. And I feel like the way people reacted to this statement was far creepier than anything that Romney actually said, or even intimated. My facebook feed was, for days, loaded with images of Romney, with images of scantily clad women all around him… which just seems, to me, far more offensive than fumbling with one’s phrasing when discussing an obviously sensitive issue.

  4. bzfgt Says:

    The remark was awkward and funny but there was nothing really wrong with it. It became a ‘meme’ or whatever because it was funny, but the substance of the political attacks wasn’t “he said binders” but a. he was given the binders, unsolicited, by an advocacy group; and b. he had less women in his administration than the previous and succeeding ones did, and the comment implies he was having a hard time finding qualified women and needed to solicit binders which, in any case, he didn’t do. I don’t think anybody seriously objects to the phrase itself, except that it sounds funny and serves as a shorthand for a. and b. above.

  5. Btj Says:

    It is the phrase itself that is funny. He didn’t say binders full of women’s resumes. It doesn’t even strike me as creepy or political for that matter, but maybe that is why it has become a meme. It is such an unusual thought in that the logic of it gets lost in the humorous juxtaposition of the words. The fact that something is a perfectly understandable activity doesn’t preclude it being hilarious!

  6. emily Says:

    Pornography

  7. ambzone Says:

    #iwanthimtowin #sorrybugsplats

  8. Adam Kotsko Says:

    People keep porn in binders?

  9. Nyasha Chiundiza Says:

    I am not sure what you think of Chris Hayes but he made a great point the other day about conflict and politics that jibes quiet well with your comments: “And I think that it’s actually a positive sign that Democrats are using that kind of tactic, because it shows that they’re willing to fight, that they recognize the Republicans as an enemy. That kind of politicization is in itself a positive step away from the self-inflicted impotence that has beset liberals for a generation.”

    That’s not to say I’ve got a binder full of Chris Hayes but…

    http://tv.msnbc.com/2012/10/13/the-beauty-of-process/


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