I'm largely in agreement with what Richard Goldstein says in the current Nation about Howard Dean's swagger:
... ever since Ronald Reagan rode roughshod over that wimp in the Mr. Rogers cardigan, the Republicans have played the gender card very effectively against the Democrats. From Bill Clinton's "rhymes with witch" wife to Gore's obsession with earth colors, the party of give-'em-hell Harry has taken blow after blow to the primal parts. It's been a long time since the Democrats had a presidential candidate who could jut out his chest and shoot from the hip with Dean's credibility. Maybe it's natural, maybe it's an act, but as even some Republicans are willing to admit, it seems to be working....
After decades of associating Democrats with failed masculinity, the Republicans are faced with an opponent who knows how to put on a butch display.
I know a lot of people sneer at this kind of analysis, but consider some numbers from yesterday's edition of the decidedly non-postmodern USA Today:
...Highly educated men and women increasingly view the political world in dramatically different ways: Men are mostly Republicans, women are predominantly Democrats. A modest gender gap among Americans who don't have college educations balloons for those with a college degree or more....
...An analysis of more than 40,000 interviews for the USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll from January through November this year shows the trend. Among those with a high school diploma or less, men were inclined by a single percentage point, 45% to 44%, to vote Democratic. Women leaned toward the Democrats by 11 percentage points, 50% to 39%. That's a partisan gap between the sexes of 10 percentage points.
For those who had taken some college courses but not graduated, that gender gap grew to 15 percentage points. Among those with a college degree, it rose to 20. And for voters who had taken postgraduate courses, it reached 28 percentage points — almost triple the gender difference among the least-educated voters.
Goldstein argues that white men have gone conservative because racial minorities, feminists, and gays pose "threats to the masculine mystique"; the people quoted in USA Today think it's about money:
...John Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, co-authored a study that concluded the votes of men and women were driven by the state of the economy. But they assessed the economy by different standards: "We found men tended to vote in terms of their personal economic situation, and women were more likely to vote on the nation's economic situation."
Whether that's because of biology or socialization or something else is the subject of academic study and ideological debate. Whatever the reason, women are more likely to agree with Democrats about the need for a safety net of government social programs. Even upscale women are more likely to imagine that they might one day need it.
"It's left-brain/right-brain," says Nancy Hurlbert, 56, a civil engineer in Deerfield Beach, Fla., who usually votes Democratic. "Women are just more inclined to be socially aware, and perhaps even from their own personal experience or their mother's experience understand the need for social programs. They know that the government can't be run like a business."...
Either way, it does look as if men feel they're being deprived of something.
What the Republicans have done so successfully over the past quarter century is make it all seem one amorphous entity: feel-your-pain-tax-and-spend-welfare-freeloader-homosexual-agenda-castrating-bitch. Meanwhile, of course, when your job gets sent overseas, it's by a rich white guy in a suit. If men feel deprived and are angry, maybe Howard Dean can -- for a change -- get them (us) angry at the right people.