Don Draper and Women


At the end of last season of Mad Men, Don Draper showed remorse as to the disrespect he showed his wife Betty on the many ocassions in which he cheated on her. This season began with Don going out of town on a business trip and spending the night with the stewardess at the head of the table.

We often root for characters on television who exhibit conduct we normally wouldn’t condone. Even Don Draper is a boy scout compared to J.R. Ewing or Tony Soprano. Nurse Jackie even extends such behavior to a female lead. Katie Baker considers why women love Don Draper:

Why are we so wild for Draper? By any measure, the character’s a cad. He constantly cheats on his wife. He skips town for weeks and won’t write or call. He doesn’t talk much, and anesthetizes any feelings with copious amounts of booze. He’s an enigma, a locked box of a man who resists, maddeningly, easy explanation. And yet he excites an attraction among women—particularly ones my age, women in their late ’20s and ’30s who were born after the era that Mad Men portrays—that seems unmatched by any leading man on television today, with the possible exception of Lost‘s con artist, Saywer (another strapping scoundrel with a deeply troubled soul). We describe our obsession in words that, like the show itself, are somewhat retro. “He is a straight-up man. He makes me feel like a woman via the TV.” “He’s a throwback to a time when men were men. “It’s the thickness of his body.” “Shoulders to cry on and a jaw that causes women to swoon.”

A man’s man. A virile man. A masculine man. Strong terms. And ones that would make our postmodern gender-studies professors blush. After all, we’re the generation of women who grew up beating the boys in math class, reading Judith Butler (by choice or by force), celebrating “Grrl” power. Traditional male-female roles were going out the window while we were still toddlers. And maybe that’s why we feel a little guilty when we stop to admit to ourselves why Draper excites us. Because we’re not supposed to be using those terms anymore to describe our desires. Those words threaten a backsliding—they hint at some deep, unspoken turbulence; that, as if by saying we want a “real man,” we threaten to erase all the gains our mothers made in terms of equality in the workplace and the home. After all, we don’t believe in that evolutionary “me Tarzan, you Jane” nonsense anymore. We’re supposed to want men who are sensitive and respectful; men who emote and help around the house, and talk openly about their feelings. And we do want these things. Don’t we? So then why are we fantasizing about Draper rather than Jim from The Office?

“Would I want to marry him?” one acquaintance—an executive assistant at a high-end financial firm, and the dictionary definition of “independent”—asked rhetorically. “No. But he has that whole ‘strap a sword to me, I’ll cut down men and then ravish you’ thing.” We have to clarify this matter, you see, lest men misunderstand us (or, worse, lest we misunderstand ourselves). So we lay it out very clearly: we don’t want to wed Don Draper. We know madness that way lies. We see how Betty Draper is drowning in loneliness, one more beautiful woman trapped in her suburban prison, desperately trying to pull devotion out of Don. We see how she’s had to resort to silent fury to make him come around again. And we’re cynical about this next season, for Betty’s sake—sure, Don wrote her a letter saying he can’t live without her. Sure, she let him back in the house. But a baby’s on the way, and nothing says ball and chain like a newborn. And men like Don Draper don’t change their spots. Already in this season’s first episode, he’s undressing a stewardess. My mother’s generation—who had to live with such men, whose hearts were broken by such men, and whose careers were stymied by such men—don’t seem to have much interest in Don Draper. They know all too well the downside of a man’s man. And they made sure as hell to raise us differently.

Conservative Delusions and Liberal Ideology on Health Care Reform

So much in politics these days comes down to the delusions held by conservatives, whether they come from Fox, talk radio, a crazy lady writing on Facebook in Alaska, or random voices in their heads. Issues rarely seem to come down to real differences in opinion these days. Instead they are based upon the differences between reality and the delusions of conservatives. The claims of “death panels’ provides an excellent example of this. Greg Sargent has been analyzing a recent  Research 2000 poll which asked if people believe the health reform proposal contains “death panels.” Sargent noted these results among Republicans:

Yes: 26
No: 43
Not sure: 31

In this case the number of Republicans who are not sure of something which has no basis in reality is a significant finding. Adding up those who believe this false claim with those who are unsure totals 57 percent of Republicans being unaware of the facts. He also noted that only eight percent of independents accept this claim. In addition 16 percent are unsure with 76 percent of independents realizing this is untrue. The numbers are even stronger for Democrats with 88 percent answering no.

These findings are related to other findings in the poll which show that a sizable number of Republicans believe Fox  is a reliable source of information and also do not get news from other sources. During the height of the Soviet Union I doubt that Russians were as gullible as to the reliability of Pravda as Republicans are with regards to Fox. also debunked a conservative ad today which contains false claims about care for the elderly as well as several other false claims being used to scare seniors. Of course this won’t change the mind of those who are brainwashed by the right. They are told that any objective source of information is actually a biased liberal source making it almost impossible to alter the views of those on the far right with the facts.

While they show far more understanding of the actual facts, blind ideology might also become a problem from the left with threats to block health care reform if it does not contain a public plan.  In some cases this is because some on the left see a public plan as a back door way of achieving a single payer system. This is somewhat unrealistic considering how watered down the public plan already is and how few it is likely to actually cover.

The question remains as to what will happen if we reach a point where the only item before Congress is a proposal with significant improvements but without a public plan. Will liberal Democrats will really let a good bill go down to defeat over this? Some liberals are beginning to question the wisdom of this. For example, Matthew Yglesias has popularized an idea to split health care reform into more than one bill:

One bill, a filibusterable non-reconciliation bill, would set up the basic framework of a health insurance “exchange” on which individuals and small businesses could get insurance. It would feature an employer mandate, some kind of sad co-op, and some not-very generous subsidies. It would be subject to various kinds of regulation including the White House’s key eight points of consumer protection. It’s a bill liberals would find horribly disappointing, but you could imagine it getting sixty votes in the senate.

Then if you get that done, all you need is a second bill. At that point, changing the co-op rules to make it work like a real public option, making the subsidies more generous, expanding Medicaid, and other wholesome progressive stuff all becomes budget-relevant material that can be done through reconciliation with only fifty votes. It’s not clear at this point that the public option has fifty votes in the senate, but it’s close, and I’m reasonably certain that the votes could be found if the procedural path existed.

I fear that such a strategy would only give Republicans even more motivation to filibuster  the first bill, but if this were to play out I would suggest one change. The second bill should not expand Medicaid but eliminate it and move Medicaid patients into a public plan. The goal of universal health care should be to provide a decent basement level of care for all Americans without keeping many in a second class status in Medicaid. Even backers of a Republican plan support the idea of giving  “lower-income Americans a way out of the Medicaid ghetto so they can have the dignity of private insurance.” This is one Republican idea which Democrats should seriously consider.

Four Bad Examples of Health Care Systems

What do Russia, China, Turkmenistan, and the United States have in common? Their health care systems are the four listed by Foreign Policy as systems policy makers interested in reform “should avoid at all costs.” From their description of the US system:

The United States has the rare distinction of being both one of the world’s richest countries and having one of its least-functional health care systems.

Americans spend around one in every six dollars on healthcare. But, in aggregate, they’re not getting much bang for their buck. People in the United States are as likely to die from diseases like lung cancer as citizens in all OECD countries – which, on average, spend less than half as much per capita. Some 47 million lack any health insurance coverage. An estimated 600,000 people file for bankruptcy every year because they cannot pay their medical expenses. Indeed, the United States is the only rich country without universal coverage.

White House Blog Addresses Change In Email Program

As I noted yesterday, the White House has discontinued the email address used to send copies of viral email with misinformation about health care reform less than two weeks after the program began. While those wearing tin foil hats on the far right saw a government conspiracy to track down dissidents, this was really a case of new technology creating concerns which had not previously been considered. The White House blog has discussed the issue, correctly describing the irony of the situation:

An ironic development is that the launch of an online program meant to provide facts about health insurance reform has itself become the target of fear-mongering and online rumors that are the tactics of choice for the defenders of the status quo.

The even greater irony is that those engaging in this fear-mongering are often the same people who supported acts of true surveillance when performed by the Bush administration. Their actions betray the fact that their true concerns are over partisan politics, not civil liberties.

They also discussed how the program is being changed and affirmed their support for privacy:

The Reality Check website exists to inform public debate about health insurance reform – not stifle it.  As the President said, “We are bound to disagree, but let’s disagree over issues that are real.”  To that end, we’ve seen incredible response from website visitors who are using the tools provided on the site to share videos and other content with friends and family.

To better understand what new misinformation is bubbling up online or in other venues, we want your suggestions about topics to address through the Reality Check site.  To consolidate the process, the email address set up last week for this same purpose is now closed and all feedback should be sent through:

The White House takes online privacy very seriously.  As our published privacy policy makes clear, we will not share personal information submitted through the site with anyone. We also ask that you always refrain from submitting others’ information without permission.

Now the right wingers can get back to worrying about Obama’s birth certificate, the NAFTA superhighway,  floride in the water, or whatever else the voices in their heads are warning them about today.