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“You’ve Come A Long Way, Maybe”: The Women Who Ran Before Hillary And Carly

In a blast from the past, two women who ran for president, Pat Schroeder in 1988 and Carol Moseley Braun in 2004, liken their experience to what Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina are up against today. It’s a very different world but still frighteningly similar in the assumptions made about female candidates.

Clinton has shattered stereotypes about women and fundraising, and she’s put in place a campaign infrastructure that surpasses any of her rivals. Fiorina is testing the boundaries of what once might have been dismissed as a catfight by taking direct aim at Clinton. And both camps are exploring how much gender solidarity exists with fewer glass ceilings and a millennial generation that is much more willing to elect a woman to the White House.

Democratic Representative Schroeder said the thing that made her nuts was people saying, “I just can’t imagine having a man for First Lady. How do you relate to that? Images are so hard to crack.” For example, how do you show a woman working hard? With a man, he loosens his tie and rolls up his sleeves. Women look like unmade beds or models, she said. 

Schroeder coined the phrase “Teflon president” for Ronald Reagan, and she took on the sexism in Congress, declaring, “I have a uterus and a brain and I use them both.” A long-serving member of Congress on the Armed Services Committee, she dropped out of the ’88 race in September ’87, before any votes were cast. She said the media covered her only when she spoke to women’s groups.

Ambassador Braun was the first and still only African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate. After serving a single term and losing her bid for reelection, she ran for president in 2004 after a short stint as ambassador to New Zealand. She dropped out before the Iowa caucus, but lives on in the highlight reel of debates with her quip that the black vote decided the 2000 election—Clarence Thomas’s vote in the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision.   

Money was a problem for both women, but they were also running against ingrained images of what a president is supposed to look like. 

“We don’t have the equivalent of looking large and in charge,” said Braun in a conference call organized by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which is partnering with the Center for American Women and Politics to provide historical context for the current race. 

“The concept of a woman reviewing the troops is almost incomprehensible,” she said. “Will we have the equivalent of Angela Merkel? I hope so…You have to navigate cultural quicksand in a way no male candidate has to do.” 

“The commander in chief thing is a hang-up,” agreed Schroeder, who was criticized for crying in the press conference when she withdrew from the presidential race. Irked by what she perceives as a double standard, Schroeder for years kept a “crying folder” filled with newspaper clips of men who were applauded for crying.

A woman getting into it with another woman was always dangerous territory. Several times in a congressional career that spanned the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, Schroeder faced a female opponent for her congressional seat. “We had to be so careful. The media wanted to make it a catfight. We had to make it a tea party.”

Leslie Sanchez, a Republican consultant on the conference call, said she has gotten lots of calls about Fiorina and the way she goes after Clinton. Some say it’s a catfight but Sanchez says, “That’s her style, she’s very direct. People can make of it what they want it to be.”

Much of what Schroeder and Braun had to say is turned on its head by Clinton, who can hold her own on any of the standard ways a campaign is measured. Toughness doesn’t appear to be her problem, and after watching her perform as secretary of state, reviewing the troops doesn’t seem out of bounds as an image that Americans could get comfortable with.

But there are clues in these earlier campaigns to what some Democrats are giving voice to, and that is the lack of enthusiasm for Clinton and the historic nature of her candidacy. She is no Barack Obama, exciting young people and minorities; she doesn’t have her husband’s empathy with the voters, and she’s not a one-woman reality show who can (almost) fill a stadium the way Donald Trump can.

To win, she needs the sisterhood to turn out in force, and the historical data isn’t there. Kathleen Harrington, deputy campaign manager for Elizabeth Dole’s 2000 presidential race, said on the call that older women—women older than Dole, who was 54 at the time, were “incredibly supportive.” Among women over 60, “There was hunger for a woman president,” said Harrington. Younger women, not so much—they’ve got time for history.   

The rallying cry since the 1980s is that the time for women had come, and in 2008 when Clinton ran for president, “We really assumed women would gravitate toward a female candidate. And that was true for women over 45,” says Sanchez. “Democratic women under 45 voted on personality and policy, not gender.”  

Sanchez did research across the aisle for her 2009 book, You’ve Come a Long Way, Maybe. Her advice for Fiorina, who’s used to being in business circles and the only woman in the room, is to remember the ladies. “I don’t see her talking to conservative women although they have evangelized around her. There are so many woman entrepreneurs she can talk to.” As for Clinton, keep riding the Girl Power movement, as this piece of history has been a long time coming.  


By: Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast, August 23, 2015

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Hillary Clinton, Women Voters | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GOP Goons Suddenly Run Scared”: What Three Anti-Women Warriors Want To Hide

When we last checked in on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, he was playing down his problems with women voters and boasting of his strong support among men. Somebody must have read his poll numbers a little more closely, because on Tuesday Walker came out with an ad that brazenly lies about his stance on abortion.

The guy who signed anti-choice legislation mandating an ultrasound and sharply regulating clinics looked straight into a camera and said he did it “to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options.” That’s not all. Walker had the audacity to claim, “The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor.”

But Walker wasn’t alone in trying to cut and run on his women’s rights stands this week. In Tuesday night debates, GOP Senate hopefuls Cory Gardner of Colorado and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, like Walker, shamelessly misrepresented their positions as well.

Gardner, Walker and Tillis tried to model three different approaches to hiding their awful records on women’s rights: the cool, the creepy and the clueless.

Gardner’s been the cool one. You’ll recall he decided he backs over the counter birth control pills, so they’re available for all you swingin’ ladies “round the clock” (though as I’ve observed before, birth control isn’t like Viagra or condoms, and picking up a last minute pack at the 24 hour Walgreens won’t prevent pregnancy.) Gardner did even better at his debate with Sen. Mark Udall, bragging that when television ads claimed he wanted to limit birth control, his wife said, “Didn’t you used to pick up my prescription?” Cool guy, always helping the ladies get it on.

Walker is just plain creepy. In his new ad, the dull-eyed governor looks into the camera and tries to feign concern for women who are seeking abortion. It’s a contrast with the way he glibly dismissed imposing the ultrasound requirement last year, telling reporters, “I don’t have any problem with ultrasound. I think most people think ultrasounds are just fine.”

Of course Walker’s not talking about a medically necessary, jelly-on-the-belly ultrasound that most people welcome to either diagnose disease or check on the health of a fetus. This is at best a coercive procedure and at worst, requires a transvaginal wand, in the case of early-term abortion. (Perhaps Walker should mandate that men seeking Viagra undergo a trans-urethral ultrasound.)

Then there’s clueless Thom Tillis, who presided over a radical retrenchment of women’s rights and voting rights in North Carolina’s GOP legislature. Now Tillis, like Gardner, is hyping his support for over-the-counter access to birth control pills and dissembling over his opposition to pay equity legislation. At their first debate, Tillis tried mansplaining the issue to Hagan, and that backfired. So on Tuesday he claimed he believed women deserved “the same pay as men,” but insisted “let’s enforce the laws on the books.” He called pay equity legislation a “campaign gimmick.”

Hagan shot back: “Speaker Tillis, I think you need to read reports. Women in North Carolina earn 82 cents on the dollar. I didn’t raise my two daughters to think they were worth 82 cents on the dollar.”

Gardner has also tried to back away from a personhood measure on the Colorado ballot, insisting he doesn’t support limits on contraception. Yet he’s still listed as a co-sponsor of House Personhood legislation. His explanation: It’s “simply a statement that I support life.” And he wouldn’t promise not to support Senate Personhood legislation if he defeats Udall.

It’s easy to see why Walker, Gardner and Tillis are trying to run from their records: They are being crushed by their opponents among women voters. But will it work? So far, Gardner’s contraception ads haven’t done the trick. “We’ve polled pretty extensively about whether people are persuaded by these ads, and Gardner has a problem,” a Democratic operative told Bloomberg’s Joshua Green. “The problem is that 40 percent of women don’t believe him.”

All three races are going to come down to turnout, and the men may yet pull it out, in a midterm year when Democrats are less likely to vote than Republicans. Still, the fact that all three feel they have to cover up their awful women’s rights records show they’re worried. But whether cool, creepy or clueless, these misleading last minute pitches aren’t likely to fool women.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, October 8, 2014

October 11, 2014 Posted by | Birth Control, Pay Equity, Women Voters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Outreach To ‘Lady People’ Campaign”: The GOP Wants The Ladies To Love Them, (Just Not Enough To Need Birth Control)

So, the announcement that Republicans had formed yet another political action committee targeting female voters – a lady-centric Super Pac named the Unlocking Potential Project – came just as America was digesting the supreme court’s decision to allow certain corporations to deny women birth control coverage based on religious objections. Did Republicans think this was genius counter-programming, or what?

Forget the obvious irony that limiting access to birth control is the definition of denying women their full potential: could launching a women’s outreach program the day we’re reminded of just where the GOP stands on women’s issues – on top of them, stomping down, mostly – ever be genius, or is it just run-of-the-mill tone-deafness?

It is nearly impossible to keep track of the number of times the GOP has rebooted this “outreach to lady people” campaign – there’s already an entirely separate Pac, called RightNOW, aimed at recruiting female candidates (launched this year), and a parallel effort by the National Republican Congressional Committee, Project GROW (from 2013). The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) launched yet another, similar recruitment project this summer – 14 in ’14 – primarily because the number of Republican women running for Congress actually shrank between 2012 and 2014. One presumes the party will keep holding recruitment drives until the number of female Republican candidates reaches zero.

(Republicans’ time and money is probably better spent on the other NRCC project relating to female candidates: workshops for male candidates on how to not to sound like dumbasses when running against them.)

GOP voters have stymied the NRCC’s efforts by rejecting women at the polls almost as fast as the party leadership can put them on stages and point to them as evidence that the party has no problem with women. In the 2012 primary season, female Democratic candidates won their races about 50% of the time, but female Republicans did just 31% of the time. This House primary season doesn’t look to be turning out much better: female Democratic candidates are winning their races about twice as often as Republicans, and some of those losses have been particularly nasty.

Former Miss America and Harvard Law School graduate Erika Harold, running as a Republican against incumbent Rodney Davis in Illinois, found herself the object of dirty tricks and vile slurs: “Rodney Davis will win,” wrote the chair of the county Republicans in an email to a GOP newsletter, “and the love child of the DNC will be back in Shitcago by May of 2014 working for some law firm that needs to meet their quota for minority hires.” Denied access to GOP voter data by the party – an invaluable source of information for both fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts – she lost, 55-41%. In other words, a female Republican candidate straight out of We Are the New GOP central casting got slimed by the kind of racist nonsense Republicans continually declare to be a vicious stereotype about Republicans.

But it’s not a stereotype if the examples just keep on coming.

The most charitable interpretation of Republican outreach efforts to women is “at least they know it’s a problem!”. But the truth is that they’ve known about the political gender gap since 1984, when it first emerged as a potential problem for the party. And, sadder still, they’ve been trying to address it explicitly for at least 20 years – a Quixotic crusade that’s given them the largest gender gap ever (20 points) in the 2012 election and, looking forward to this year’s elections, a double-digit deficit among women in generic congressional preference (50-38%).

The seeds of the party’s failure are clear in a dusty piece in The Atlantic from 1996, “In the Land of Conservative Women”: change a few names and dates and it could run in, say, Politico – tomorrow. The author, Elinor Burkett, spent half her time marvelling at the audaciousness of female Republican staffers wearing short skirts and enjoying rock-n-roll music (said one such rebel: “One girl told me I was the first girl she’d ever met who was pro-life and still cool”). The other half of the story was an earnest appraisal of kitchen-table-bound, pocket-book-cautious moms: “Overwhelmed by bills, worried about their kids, afraid of violence.” Surveying that vein of potential Republicans, she wondered, “If 1994 was the year of the angry white male, 1996 may turn out to be the year of the anxious white female.” (Nope! The Clinton-Dole gender gap was 14 points.)

What Republicans were really hoping to do in 1996, Burkett wrote, was “appeal to female voters by persuading them that a balanced budget, lower taxes, and school choice will do more to improve their lives than will affirmative action, abortion, and funding for rape-crisis centers.”

Well, that’s worked out great. (This strategy’s dismal chances can also be seen in the politician presented as female Republicans’ biggest ally: Newt Gingrich, described as “determined to help women come together”.)

Flash forward to more recent times and the right is still promoting fun-loving gals who like guns and God while writing positioning memos that urge candidates to address “the economic anxiety women feel” and making this familiar argument:

Women tell us their top issues are the economy, jobs, health care, spending. When we start buying into the Democrats’ definition that it’s all about reproductive issues, then we are not playing to our strengths.

That reproductive rights are an economic issue is a stubborn truth that will keep the GOP stumbling for as long as they choose to ignore it.

I’ll give you one hint about the problem with believing that your female compatriots are either lusty libertarian-leaning pixies or Xanax-seeking helpmeets: it starts with “virgin” ends with “complex” and has a “whore” in the middle.

Don Draper’s psyche is not anything upon which to base a political strategy – and if you require Pac upon strategic plan upon public statement to affirmatively appeal to women, you’re confirming the fact that your policies alone no longer do. Maybe work on that.


By: Ana Marie Cox, The Guardian, July 1, 2014

July 2, 2014 Posted by | Contraception, GOP, Women Voters | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Right’s New Racial Math”: How Its View Of Nonwhite Voters Got So Demented

The news is so depressing for conservatives these days. All the demographic trends are moving against them.With every election showing a large majority of single women, young people and people of color voting for the Democrats, thus solidifying their identification with the party, the less likely it is that Republicans can outrun the shift to a multiracial majority. But they still don’t seem to understand exactly what this means for them.

Take, for example, Michael Medved’s latest in the Wall Street Journal in which he explains that the Democrats’ strategy of wooing women voters by pointing out the GOP’s hostility to reproductive rights and equal pay is nothing but a sham. Sure, Barack Obama won the female vote by a commanding 11 points in the last election but it’s not as if he won a mandate for his message. After all, he lost the white female vote:

A closer look at the numbers reveals that Mr. Obama’s success with the ladies actually stemmed from his well-known appeal to minority voters. In 2012, 72% of all women voters identified themselves as “white.” This subset preferred Mitt Romney by a crushing 14-point advantage, 56% to 42%. Though Democrats ratcheted up the women’s rhetoric in the run-up to Election Day, the party did poorly among the white women it sought to influence: The Republican advantage in this crucial segment of the electorate doubled to 14 points in 2012 from seven points in 2008. In the race against Mr. Romney, Obama carried the overall female vote—and with it the election—based solely on his success with the 28% of women voters who identified as nonwhite. He carried 76% of Latina women and a startling 96% of black women.

The same discrepancy exists when considering marital status. In 2012, nearly 60% of female voters were married, and they preferred Mr. Romney by six points, 53% to 46%. Black and Latina women, on the other hand, are disproportionately represented among unmarried female voters, and they favored Mr. Obama by more than 2-to-1, 67% to 31%.

A similar pattern emerges among young voters, suggesting the president’s popularity among millennials also came from racial minorities, not any special resonance with young people. While nonwhites compose 28% of the electorate-at-large, they make up 42% of voters ages 18-29. Mr. Obama won these young voters handily—60% to 37%. He lost young white voters by seven points, 51% to 44%.

If the majority of women who vote for Democrats are young, single and black or brown, how can anyone say the war on women was a legitimate issue? True, those votes do come in mighty handy Election Day but let’s take a look at the reality: If young, female racial minorities couldn’t vote, the Republicans would win in a landslide!

I’m sure this makes them feel better. The right women are all on their side. Well, actually it’s just a small majority, even by that unfortunate standard: 46 percent of white women went with the Democrats so I wouldn’t be too sure that they’ve got them quite as locked up as Medved supposes.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard such embarrassing rationalizations coming from the Republicans after a loss. They often explain that they actually won — it was just all those young nonwhites who messed up the proper results. Take this one from Romney’s adviser Stuart Stevens who explained his boss’s loss this way:

On Nov. 6, Mitt Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters. While John McCain lost white voters under 30 by 10 points, Romney won those voters by seven points, a 17-point shift.”

There was a time not so long ago when the problems of the Democratic Party revolved around being too liberal and too dependent on minorities. Obama turned those problems into advantages and rode that strategy to victory. But he was a charismatic African American president with a billion dollars, no primary and media that often felt morally conflicted about being critical. How easy is that to replicate?

It’s interesting how he assumed that none of the African-Americans, women and young people who voted for Obama are middle-class. But then that was the campaign that famously derided “the 47 percent” for being parasites so it’s not all that surprising. He also assumes that the “minorities” the Democrats are traditionally “too dependent” upon will not vote in future elections and thus deliver the presidency to the candidate who represents what are apparently the Real Americans: white people who make over 50K a year.

None of this is to say that studying the demographics of the voting public is unacceptable. It’s a big part of American politics, and slicing and dicing the electorate is how the two parties strategize their campaigns and that’s fine. But to constantly bring up the fact that Democrats can’t win if they don’t have the votes of racial minorities and young people implies that there’s something not quite legitimate about it.

As Politico helpfully spelled out for us in 2012:

If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites. That’s what the polling has consistently shown in the final days of the campaign. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it’s possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000.

A broad mandate this is not.

Right. The popular choice of all racial minorities, unmarried women and urban whites of of all ages isn’t a mandate. It doesn’t include enough of the right kind of votes. You know, the best kind. The older, rural, married white kind. Also known as “Republicans.”

Michael Medved, at least, understands the GOP’s demographic challenge, even as he foolishly discounts the salience of issues that directly affect half the population, regardless of race or age. He counsels the Republicans to forget women and work harder to attract racial minorities. Here’s a tip, free of charge: A good first step would be to stop talking about their votes as if they aren’t quite as valuable as white votes.


By: Heather Digby Parton, Salon, April 21, 2014

April 23, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Minorities, Women Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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