Patterico's Pontifications

1/27/2014

Latest Project Veritas Video Helps Show How Wendy Davis Targets Greg Abbott’s Disability — But Not in the Way You Think

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:58 am

I just watched the newest video from Project Veritas, depicting supporters of Wendy Davis mocking Greg Abbott for being in a wheelchair. I think the kneejerk reaction to it is: look at how awful lefties are! I have a very slightly different reaction to it: it convinces me that the recent Davis quote saying Greg Abbott “walked a day in my shoes” was a deliberate backhanded shot at Abbott’s disability.

Two quotes from Davis supporters:

He doesn’t speak well, he isn’t good looking, he doesn’t have a good personality, and he’s in a wheelchair.

And:

I’m wondering how this is going to work out, because he’s in a wheelchair and most of the slogans are “Stand With Wendy.”

The second quote is from a Battleground Texas volunteer who also theatrically puts her hands over her ears when someone else in the room talking about possible illegal activity having to do with voter registration.

Now: I think it’s child’s play to collect disgusting and offensive quotes from supporters of a political candidate. That aspect of the video doesn’t grab me. Let partisans make hay out of that.

I have to say, though: I had not been following this race closely enough to realize that “Stand with Wendy” is one of Davis’s big slogans. Here again, we have a double standard. Can you imagine if a conservative used a slogan like that, no matter how appropriate and justified, in a campaign against someone in a wheelchair? The media would never stop portraying that conservative as mocking and heartless.

And yet, it’s a fair slogan in this campaign. Face it: Davis made her name on a filibuster. She is famous for “standing up.” It would be unfair to insist that she softsell that association simply because her opponent can’t stand up.

But . . .

But the campaign surely must have at least thought about this. Just ask Davis defender and O’Keefe critic Dave Weigel. In mocking the partisans who have gotten mileage out of the silly statements of the Davis campaign supporters, Weigel says:

This is a conversation that anyone strategizing to elect Davis was going to have, just as the Abbott campaign was going to strategize (hopefully without cameras in the room) about how to run against a woman without making gaffes. “Stand With [name of candidate]” is a common frame, used by Marco Rubio—only natural, isn’t it, to wonder if it looks cruel when the opponent can’t walk?

Weigel’s intent here is to give context for the heartless statements of Davis supporters, but he unconsciously makes a strong point against Davis. Namely: Davis herself and her strategists have to be very conscious of how their slogans can be perceived as an attack on Abbott’s disability, even if the principal intent of the slogan is to remind voters of Davis’s filibuster. (In a different era, this might have been a springboard for an interesting discussion about intent and interpretation.) To me, that doesn’t mean that Davis should not be allowed to use “Stand with Wendy” as a slogan. It just means that Davis is absolutely conscious of the way that her statements can be taken as a slap at Abbott’s disability — and as the video reveals, some people see that disability as a weakness.

Again, I am not knocking Davis for the “Stand with Wendy” slogan — I am providing the full context for revisiting Davis’s recent quote:

We’re not surprised by Greg Abbott’s campaign attacks on the personal story of my life as a single mother who worked hard to get ahead. But they won’t work, because my story is the story of millions of Texas women who know the strength it takes when you’re young, alone and a mother. I’ve always been open about my life not because my story is unique, but because it isn’t.

The truth is that at age 19, I was a teenage mother living alone with my daughter in a trailer and struggling to keep us afloat on my way to a divorce. And I knew then that I was going to have to work my way up and out of that life if I was going to give my daughter a better life and a better future and that’s what I’ve done. I am proud of where I came from and I am proud of what I’ve been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance. And I guarantee you that anyone who tries to say otherwise hasn’t walked a day in my shoes.

That was not an off-the-cuff quotation. That was a prepared statement, stating that Abbott has not walked a day in Davis’s shoes. And, unlike the “Stand with Wendy” slogan, Davis doesn’t have the excuse that this reference is necessary. Davis is not famous for walking in her shoes.

When I first wrote about this, I suggested that Davis had put her foot in her mouth. I no longer think that.

Davis knows that many people perceive weakness in Abbott’s disability. Maybe she is mocking that with the “Stand with Wendy” slogans — I suspect she is — but she at least has a defensible argument to use that slogan. Here, she was mocking Abbott’s inability to walk, in a prepared statement, with no excuse that the reference to walking was a reference to her strengths.

I think she knew exactly what she was doing, and I think O’Keefe’s video makes that especially clear.

Unfortunately, this argument — while much more convincing an attack on Davis than pointing to how cruel some of her supporters might be — is too subtle for sound-bite politics. So: never mind. tl;dr. Forget I even said a thing.


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