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How to Sound Smart This Week: Super Tuesday Edition

No time to read The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, the Sunday New York Times, Harpers, The Nation, The New Republic, and New York Magazine during your morning commute? Don’t worry – "How To Sound Smart This Week" will provide … Read More

By / February 4, 2008

No time to read The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, the Sunday New York Times, Harpers, The Nation, The New Republic, and New York Magazine during your morning commute? Don’t worry – "How To Sound Smart This Week" will provide the Cliff's Notes.

With Super Tuesday rapidly approaching, chances are good that you’ll have to talk politics this week. For the Democratically inclined, it used to be really easy to bluff your way into a political discussion: express warm feelings towards John Edwards, thereby throwing the Hilary vs. Obama binary into a tailspin. Unfortunately, Edwards dropped out of the campaign, so now you have to pick a side. Even if you don’t know your own mind, though, plenty of major news publications seem to know if for you, especially if you’re a lady.

In this week’s New York Times Magazine, Linda Hirshman looks at the conventional wisdom that women will vote for Hilary. There’s a lot to discuss here, like the frustrating fact that women are way less informed than men about politics. A recent poll suggests that this is because there are so many more male journalists and politicians. When women can’t find anyone to identify with, they lose interest — whereas in elections with female candidates, they’re more likely to get involved. If you don’t mind heated debate, this is a pretty excellent topic of conversation. Is it reasonable to check out when you’re not included in the conversation? Or is that a cop-out?

According to Newsweek, it’s simply how the brain works. An article on the neuroscience behind voting points out that our gut instinct propel us to vote for people who are like us – e.g. women for Hilary – but adds that identification is highly fluid. It mentions an oft-cited study in which Asian girls who were reminded of their gender before a math test scored poorly, but those reminded of their ethnicity scored well. In other words, we tend to act according to the stereotypes the world has about us. Which suggests, in turn (as you might point out) that women are less enthusiastic about politics because they’re not expected to be – a vicious cycle, sure, but definitely a cycle that can be broken.

Meanwhile, over at The Nation, veteran feminist Katha Pollitt casts her support behind Obama. Pollitt is the definition of an informed voter, but the argument she makes is entirely emotional: “Let's go with the candidate voters feel some passion about."

Lastly, if the conversation turns into a swamp of pure political ambivalence, bring up today’s Salon essay by Rebecca Traister. No factoids or chewed-over science here – just pure commiseration with voters who still haven't managed to pick a side.

Last week: The sub-prime meltdown

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