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Reclaiming Feminism for Platitudinal Incoherence: Jenna Haggar Bores CPAC

Rep. Jenna Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls) gives CPAC and speech students everywhere an example of how not to conclude a speech:

So discover your personal passion, seize opportunity right in front of you, and watch your calling unfold [Rep. Jenna Haggar, speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Washington, D.C., 2014.03.07].

This closing line has little to do with the bulk of Haggar's speech. I'd say thesis rather than bulk, but that would imply there was some unifying theme. Haggar didn't go to Washington to issue some bold vision or call to arms or even a coherent discourse. Haggar spent six "spectacularly awkward" minutes reciting from a script of prescribed conservative memes.

She calls health care a luxury.

She says South Dakota's pioneers had no government to provide for them (never mind that they pretty much all got free land courtesy of the Homestead Act).

She says we are "blessed to live in the freest country in history." But she lamented that we live under the tyranny of "his imperial highness Barack Hussein Obama, mm, mm, mm." (Those three mm's are there, inexplicable.)

She wanders into literary allusion, saying. "Even though we are still writing the story of America, it is not a fairy tale with a guaranteed happy ending." I cannot make sense of why that sentence begins with "even though," since the fact that we are still writing the story would explain why there is no guaranteed ending.

She talks about reclaiming feminism, aligning ourselves with "eternal significance," and fighting abortion and human trafficking.

She mixes in biography, bragging about having no college degree and not being a model politician, even as she models what every good politician does, speaking in platitudes and promoting her PAC (, complete with repurposed chunks of her CPAC speech) to a national audience of prospective donors.

Haggar's CPAC speech develops no theme. It builds toward no understanding or conclusion. One does not go to CPAC to make a point. One goes to score points, to see and be seen, and ask for money.

p.s.: Haggar can't even ask for money right: she pitches her PAC at CPAC, but directs them to a website where the Donate button doesn't work. Jenna, call Annette and Chad: the Donate button was the first thing they got working on their website.


  1. Loren 2014.03.10

    I saw a clip of her speaking. What a wasted trip. Bland, boring, and nothing but a recitation of Republican talking points that you can get every day on Faux News. I was embarrassed when they identified her as a "state rep. of SD".

  2. PrairieLady 2014.03.10

    Sorry, but this girl does not have a clue what feminism is and what life was like before the Women's Movement and Roe vs. Wade.
    Yesterday MN PBS had several wonderful documentaries airing. What a wonderful way to have a refresher course of how hard we fought for change and still have along way to go. The program was Makers: Women Who Make America

  3. Angry Woman! 2014.03.10

    I don't know what to say about Jenna... except I feel her definition of feminism is far different from mine.

  4. mike from iowa 2014.03.10

    Is that called tacit consent for a guy with passion for women to grab the first one he sees,rape her and then take pride in being a rapist? Did I miss something? Even wingnut women make war on women.

  5. Richard Schriever 2014.03.10

    Was Isaac Latterell (R-Tea) with her?

  6. El Rayo X 2014.03.10

    I wonder if Dr. Boz has hit up Jenna's new PAC for a contribution yet? In fact, I'd be willing to wager that when the good doctor's senate bid goes belly up, she and Chad will start a PAC of their own to make money.

  7. Rorschach 2014.03.10

    The video of her speech was like a train wreck you just need to watch. After watching, I'm more convinced than ever that the GOP selects its "up and comers" based upon physical attractiveness rather than ability. The CPAC audience, which should have been friendly to her, could only muster tepid applause on one occasion, and that was for her name calling directed at the President of the United States, "His imperial highness, Barack Hussein Obama. hmm mmm, mmm."

    If grade school name calling is the best she can do, that ain't much.

    She's apparently a better panhandler than speaker, having begged enough money for a free trip to DC. Here's what Troy Jones has to say in the DWC post about Jenna's panhandling: "You liberals who demand Thune or others with money should pay for what you want need to go get signed up for obamacare over at Madville." Harsh words for his fellow GOPper.

  8. Roger Cornelius 2014.03.10

    The good news coming out of CPAC is that they are still locked into the 2008 and 2012 national election themes that lost them both of those elections.

    Basically the same people saying the same old things and not daring to appeal to new voters and slandering that 47%(?) Romney didn't care about.

  9. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.10

    I read Rep. Haggar's "Redefinition of Feminism." As near as I can understand, she is advocating a return to 1950s family structure. She is going back to the "poor, fragile men" days. You know, those days when men were made of brittle glass. The family was supposed to tiptoe around him, make sure nothing upset him, never challenge him or question him. He just couldn't take it! Seriously, men must have felt insulted by such implied fragility.

    Here is some of what is on her "Rushmore Women" site:

    "We may have reasons to feel inadequate, and when I looked at myself, there were many. But when I redirected my focus to a hopeful vision of love towards my community, suddenly my inadequacies didn’t matter. The missions of justice and mercy are so much greater than us, and as we align ourselves with a mission of eternal significance, success is guaranteed, because good always triumphs over evil. :)

    "My desire is to help young women recognize their value, pursue their dreams now, and reclaim feminism. Women across cultures have saved the lives of many people and even nations, not by competing with men, but because they dared to pursue what is good and true in our world. We need more women like that!"

    "Reasons to feel inadequate. . . not by competing with men. . . " Notice Rep. Hagar's references to women as good and noble creatures, focused on doing good, loving, mercy. Those are indeed noble actions, and, putting together Hagar's words, it sounds like a return to the bad old days of female subservient martyrdom.

    To be clear, any woman can take on any role she chooses. No role is wrong, unfeminine or dishonorable unless it's illegal or harmful. That's not what Hagar is saying. She prescribes specific, limited roles for women.

    Limitations on women or children or men is the opposite of feminism. Hagar does not want to reclaim feminism. She wants to deform feminism into an ugly distortion of what it truly is.

    (BTW, the smiley face is Haggar's and is in the original on her website.)

  10. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.03.10

    I must not have lived long enough yet or been on the wrong side of issues. She said "In the end good always triumphs over evil." I have seen a lot of times when it didn't.

    The last two words of her speech were "thank you". Not sure if that is what you meant Cory, I never took speech, but I was in Toastmasters and we were taught there never to end your speech with Thank you.

    Wasn't the legislature in session Friday? Sure hope she does not collect her per diem for that day, and Thursday either if she had to use that day for travel to DC.

  11. John 2014.03.11

    Not only did the homesteaders receive essentially free land but prior to their arrival the US government stole the land from the Dakota for the future homesteaders. Recall at the time Minnesota Territory's west border was the Missouri River. - Likely more facts that eluded Haggar's Cracker-Jacks-Box "education". The treaties, lies, and war for the land resulted in more deaths than occurred later at the Little Bighorn.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.03.11

    Sorry, Lanny: I completely ignored the "thank you," since it's an even more generic way to end a speech than the self-help pablum Rep. Haggar thoughtlessly appended to her talk. Maybe in this case, "Excuse me" would have been more appropriate.

    I've never been to Toastmasters. Did your Toastmasters instructor explain why you should not say "thank you" at the end of a speech?

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.03.11

    As John says, without the U.S. Army to push the Indians off the land, those South Dakota pioneers would have had an even harder time.

  14. Chris S. 2014.03.11

    Jenna's inexplicable "mm mm mm" is a reference to a bit about the president done years ago by some gradeschool kids. I assume they were learning history/current events, and the line "Barak Hussein Obama, mmm mmm mmm" was used to help them remember. However, it's apparently become wingnut catechism about ZOMG indoctrination!!1! now. Just do a YouTube search for the quote, and feast your eyes on all the screaming all-caps posts from Glenn Beck types.

    Anyway, I just wanted to clear up where Jenna's inexplicable quote came from. It's only meaningful to the initiated who live in the Fox "news"/AM hate radio bubble.

  15. Chris S. 2014.03.11

    C-Spackle is nothing if not hi-larious. To paraphrase an internet meme: "Humor, how does it work?"

  16. barnbarn2000 2014.03.11

    my first inclination was for her not to do the speech. That is why I didnt donate for it. I dont have any problems with her, but there is just too much downside to something like this.

  17. Roger Cornelius 2014.03.11

    Your comments about homesteaders caught my attention and made me recall a story about my mother.
    In the 1950's she was the county extension agent for the Pine Ridge Reservation (four counties).
    She was asked by her Brookings supervisors to attend a women's conference and to bring some of the reservation women with her.
    The conference had something to do with early pioneers of the Dakotas and role of women. The keynote speaker gave a speech detailing how her ancestors made the trip from the east in covered wagons accompanied by the calvary, thwarted harsh winters, blistering summers, and the need to get supplies for their new homesteads and the personal losses due to the lack of medical care.
    With my mother and her friends sitting in the crowd, many of whom were direct descendants of Chief Red Cloud, Youngman Not Afraid of His Horses, Crazy Horse and other great warriors, the woman ranted on how those "Indian savages" would raid them, steal from them, and in some cases kill them.
    She wrapped up her speech with how hard their lives were and yet they persisted and succeeded, and than added "If this wasn't courage, what is"?
    My mother, never one to be silenced by ignorance, stood up and said "Greed". She silenced the hall and with her friends got up and walked out.
    At first there was hell to pay for my mom by causing such a ruckus at a "ladies" meeting, with my Dad supporting her she took on the state director of extension and others. It took awhile, but the state did apologize to her for putting her and the Lakota ladies in such a position.

  18. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.11

    Roger, your mother is now one of my heroes. Thank you for a wonderful recollection.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.03.11

    Heck of a story, Roger. Your mom showed a lot of strength there.

    Barn, you're right: little good can come from Jenna opening her mouth on a national stage and showing everyone how ill-prepared she is for public policy discussion.

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