February 12, 2014

The packaging of #WendyDavis

At the New York Times Magazine, Robert Draper has an in-depth profile of Wendy Davis. Draper, a native Texan, was on the road with Davis off and on since last summer before filing this longform read.

Much of the piece is about the "packaging" of Davis, in part by her consultants, in part by herself. And, I'm talking about more than then "single mother" campaign bio that got partially deconstructed last month by Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News.

It's a good piece, in line with some other news analysis pieces I've read before. Draper might be seen as similar to Jim Moore — sympathetic, but not pulling his punches.

Here's a good takeout to start with:
The persistence of a gender-based double standard, (Jennifer) Granholm said, “is the oldest story in the book.”

(An) equally familiar tale is about how narratives are spun in American politics. Davis’s rendition — “a Texas success story,” as she put it on the “Today” show — was chosen and packaged by her and her team with the greatest of care, and as Granholm acknowledged, “strategists emphasize some things and downplay other things — that’s true with every candidate on the planet.” The only thing harder to imagine than conservative voters being wholeheartedly supportive of Davis’s life choices is a savvy politician being wholly oblivious to such unease and, in concert with her campaign team, not tailoring her story accordingly.
Well put, well put. In short, there's two takeaways.

One is that said "packaging" isn't easy. The second is that "handlers" often can't see very far outside their bubbles.

There's also this observation about her personality:
At the same time, celebrity does not altogether suit Davis. She lacks the salty oratorical verve of Ann Richards. She is unswervingly articulate and genial but maintains a lawyerly remove; her emotional thermostat remains more or less at room temperature.
That, as well as her running away from her filibuster last summer, is another puzzler as to why she's running for governor. It's also yet another parallel between her and Dear Leader, Barack Obama.

And, there's this, that partially undercuts the Texas exceptionalism she used in Waxahachie last year:
“But we need to be able to tell a story that includes our whole population. Our real job as state leaders is not to brag about how great we are, but to be forward-thinking enough to deliver on the promise that everyone has a place in that story.”
Agreed. But, please, keep that in broader mind.

Meanwhile, here's the ultimate challenge:
Additionally, as the de facto challenger in the race (Governor Perry is stepping down, but Abbott is widely seen as his heir), Davis will have to point out the state’s shortcomings while being careful not to offend its tender sensibilities. The duality of Texas pride and Texas insecurity harks back to its decade-long experience as an independent republic.
Draper, a Texan himself, is exactly right.

So, I say?

"Grow a pair, Pointy Abandoned Object State residents." That was nearly 200 years ago.

At the same time, the whole story is worth a read. Draper also talks about how J.D. Angle and other "handlers" approached Jeff Davis, her ex, to finesse and massage the issue of how much he funded her higher education and other things.

It also offers more clues as to why her dad was prominent in her political bio, for years, as well as hinting why her mom was and is not.

Draper's  "wrap" with Davis, of Draper's last visit, includes this:
“And it really is, I think, rather absurd that we’ve spent so much time picking over details of my biography.”
Well, some of the GOP attacks have been over the top. But, your language has been more than "not tight." It's been fudged, in that "lawyerly remove."

But, you've chosen to run on your story above all else, a tough choice as it may be, like this:
Davis had reassured voters with a near-perfect narrative: a portrait of herself as modern-day Supermom, a woman who existed only in our imaginations.
Well put.

Draper's wrap also shines more light on what I already see elsewhere in her personality, from her lawsuit against the Star-Telegram on: Once she stakes out a position on an issue, that's it.

Oh, and feel free to take a second to vote in the poll at right about this race. So far, half of respondents expect Davis to do worse than Bill White in 2010.

Unfortunately, the Texas Green party continues to sit on its ass.  And, yes, I may put this comment semi-regularly at the end of posts about Davis.

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