When Will A Woman Make It To The White House?

Late last night, after watching some spin room action about the Republican primary debate in California, I started thinking about this question in a way that harkens back to just after Hillary Clinton was no longer in the 2008 race.

It’s not going to be Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin.  Yup, I’m predicting that right now.  Neither will be the general election presidential candidate for the GOP and I’m doubtful that either will be a VP selection of the eventual nominee either.  Might Nikki Haley or Susanna Martinez be the VP choice?  Not sure, just not sure.  But remember, if they are, then we’re going with the “some part of a term in executive office is better than no part of a term in executive office” again, just as was the case with Palin.  And many voters were pretty skeptical about that then.  With Palin eventually quitting that job, it’s hard to ask voters to trust, yet again, that being in something only partially through its expected duration means they’ve succeeded.  I think this is what Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie know very well – fill out at least one term.  There’s no question then about how much stronger a candidate it makes you. Where’s the proof? Well, did you see a single half-term anyone even up on the stage last night?

It’s a given for me that there won’t be a woman on the ticket on the left side of the aisle either.  I don’t feel particularly pleased about that but long-time readers know that I supported Joe Biden in the primaries, eventually chose Hillary between her and Obama and very lukewarmly voted for Obama.

The best news is that there are active, vigorous efforts all over the place, that seek to beef up the bench of women available to make it to the White House. US Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY), spearheads Off the Sidelines and received a good amount of media exposure – and success: she supported Kathy Hochul before pretty much anyone else.  The 2012 Project seeks to get women in their 40s and up who already have distinguished careers in other professions to consider applying that success to politics. And the She Should Run program of the Women’s Campaign Forum (an organization that supports pro-choice women, regardless of party) is extremely active (consider signing up for their regular email that details several stories about women in politics).

Of course there is EMILY’s List, which really does the heavy lifting in terms of providing financial support to Democratic female candidates, and The White House Project, which continues to offer training and many other programs related to women in leadership.

In addition to many other programs on Rutgers’ Center for American Women in Politics list, there are at least three training programs for conservative women that are included there, but I’m not familiar with them and hadn’t heard of a couple of them before, so I can’t say how many women they’re turning out who are running for and winning office. We know that the GOP chose very few women for its Young Guns program in 2010 (for House seats in Congress) and so far, the names mentioned in connection to that program, that I’ve seen, continue to be all men.  I’ve seen little media or blog coverage of this aspect of conservative politics but hopefully as 2012 gets closer, there will be more coverage – and results to report.

So what’s happened since Hillary ended her run and we heard a plea for women to please vote for women, since the reality is that our votes matter? In the case of the GOP, it’s just not panning out for the conservative female presidential primary candidate, as I’ve noted before.  Rick Perry is totally running away with women voters, far exceeding the numbers who indicate support for Michele Bachmann, or, when put in the mix by the pollsters, Sarah Palin.

And yet no one can say the Republican Party wasn’t warned: Amy Siskind of The New Agenda wrote about this trap last fall, in a column titled, “The Republican Party’s historic opportunity with women,”

Here’s what is at stake: women voters have decided almost every presidential elections since 1960. The Republican Party has a historic opportunity to win over this block, all but ensuring a presidential victory in 2012. But, will the GOP be able to capitalize and transform itself into an inclusive ‘women-friendly’ party? Or, will they blow it by embracing a caricature of themselves: a bunch of white guys fighting it out for power?

It’s impossible to deny that, as things stand this morning, they’re indeed embracing a caricature of themselves with a bunch of white guys – Perry and Romney in particular – fighting it out for power, all with the help of the vote of many conservative women.

So, back to the original question: when will we get a woman in the White House, or the VP mansion? I’m eyeing a whole lot of women in the pipeline.  But they’d be extremely well-advised to rip apart the poll numbers that amplify the voting gender gap both between men and women for any one candidate, as well as why any one candidate gets the women’s vote over another.

The women’s vote cannot – and should not – be taken for granted, regardless of the gender of the candidate.  But we will only see women climbing the political leadership ladder if we’re finding them, recruiting them, supporting them  and THEN voting for them – not *just* because they’re female, but because they deserve and have earned our vote.  Just like anyone else.

Cross-posted from Writes Like She Talks.

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19 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry. If you are looking for a Female Republican candidate, if conservative TV is any indicator, I’m afraid she’ll have to be blond, prone to wearing tight skirts, and, be in firm agreement with any conservative male in the room. The very idea of a woman leader in this country is a Liberal political initiative, so good luck with the right wing.

  2. Why on earth do you think this: “The very idea of a woman leader in this country is a Liberal political initiative, so good luck with the right wing.” Conservative women have a number of positive firsts related to women in politics – I suspect they’d be extremely insulted at your suggestion that they’re nothing but pawns or followers of the “liberal political initiative.” What exactly is the “liberal political initiative” btw?

    Last thing – you do not need to apologize for your opinion – unless of course you find it to be something to apologize for. Otherwise? I’ve been blogging a long time and wouldn’t keep doing it if I didn’t expect to see others express their opinions in response (for which I thank you!).

  3. Ok. I’ll work on changing my perspective as I rethink why on earth I wrote this.

    In the mean time, let me say that I am worried that Bachman and Palin are not exactly the best prime examples of executive leadership that members of the fairer gender have brought forward to date.

  4. “When will a woman make it to the White House?” Likely not before diehard liberal males like Mullen and Allen rid themselves of non-conscious sexism even AFTER they are called out on it the first time……lol! If you can’t straighten them out, where are you going to get the necessary votes? From us genetically programmed misogynists of the non-left?

  5. Well – @Casualobserver – that’s the interesting part! There ARE more women than men, and I think but I’m not 100% sure that there are more women registered voters than men. The challenge is to get them to pay attention AND to vote. BUT…they also have to have someone who they’ll vote for. So – it’s not simple but yes, the cultural obstacles are still pretty real.

  6. …But why would a woman vote for a woman that stands against her own political goals…just because she might be the first woman President? It is sad to think that women may feel so oppressed that voting for “any” woman is the answer to her oppression.

    Anyway, I’m not sure that Conservatives actually believe that women are oppressed. I know that liberals believe it because they state as much.

  7. Allen – I wish I understood women who will only vote for women in the name of reaching political leadership parity – but honestly – I don’t get it either. There’s a website and organization called The New Agenda which very outwardly promotes women voting for women no matter what. I’ve asked their founder what she thinks is going on with so many women voting for Perry over Bachmann or Palin when Palin is added to a poll but she’s declined to respond.

    I can’t speak for “Conservatives” and I’m not really speaking for “liberals” either but as for myself as a garden variety Democrat, it’s not oppression – and I bet you know that. ;) It’s about access, rights, treatment and so on.

  8. Well without access, rights, and fond treatment, we all risk or are indeed oppressed.

    Am I right?

  9. Here’s what is at stake: women voters have decided almost every presidential elections since 1960. The Republican Party has a historic opportunity to win over this block, all but ensuring a presidential victory in 2012. But, will the GOP be able to capitalize and transform itself into an inclusive ‘women-friendly’ party? Or, will they blow it by embracing a caricature of themselves: a bunch of white guys fighting it out for power?

    This comment is a little unfair, since it’s unlikely nominating Bachmann or Palin would mean capturing enough women voters to win an election. Both have significant questions about their competence, and appeal mainly to a narrow segment of voters that is defined by politics and not gender. It’s inconsistent to suggest the GOP nominate female candidates while recognizing those candidates just aren’t very good.

    Where was the support for Carol Mosely Braun as an example? She clearly had a lot of baggage and was unelectable, and the Democrats were justified in not nominating her for president.

    To answer the question posed by the headline, it will happen when a women with adequate competence and electability is found. Recently the only high-profile candidate that fit that description was Hillary Clinton, who couldn’t gain the nomination and did have some electability problems of her own. I’m sure there are many able women candidates out there, one just needs to gain adequate prominence and it’ll happen.

  10. DaGoat – in general, I agree with your comment – thanks for sharing. I put effort into making sure that I’m doing all I can to get women into the electoral politics pipeline so that the choices are there for us to make.

  11. Allen – I think that’s exactly right and so we face the issue of the perpetuation of prejudices that prevent, hold back or otherwise impede the ability for any one or any group to be able to get the access, the fair treatment and the rights.

  12. Well, I think it is just a matter of time. In 2008 Clinton had a real chance. In 2012, there are serious female GOP candidates (the view here that someone with conservative views not being serious not withstanding, they wouldn’t be attacks so much if they weren’t significant). So both parties are throwing up real female candidates. Now serious male candidate still outnumber women candidates, so the odds are less than 50-50, but they are high enough that it probably won’t be that many elections before one gets through.

  13. I hope we first get a woman president when she is the strongest candidate. I will not vote for a woman simply because she’s a woman, even though I’d like to see a woman president some day. The best candidate–woman or man–will exude the strongest bearing, be the most intelligent, and articulate the most timely vision. Of ten candidates in the room, I want only the best one, judged by merits of performance, not gender.

  14. Jill-

    I’m trying to visualize a Congress in which every grouping of people with similar political interests is equally represented. I can’t do it.

  15. Allen – I think that while I can understand how sometimes we get caught up in think that that is what we need to envision, I think more that it is the reality that men aren’t always standing up for women, whites aren’t standing up for blacks, blacks aren’t standing up Hispanics, straights aren’t standing up for gays, unmarried aren’t standing up for married. And so this presses us to think that someone from that group can do it better.

    And to some extent, I think that CAN be true but it isn’t ALWAYS or even necessarily true.

    The saddest part is that there is any failing or shortcoming in any elected official to honestly articulate that they are always balancing finite resources for competing interests. How do we meet the needs of those interests in a way that does justice to the taxpayers – who are all possess some of those interests?

    It’s a terribly unfair position to put anyone in but elected officials – myself included – have chosen to take it. And we have an obligation.

    I just don’t think there are enough electeds who speak truthfully or act against their own interest when it comes to these matters.

    And that is, what I think, makes us pine for people we think SHOULD tho not always actually have the same interests as we have.

    Identity politics is very very tricky and I don’t recommend it to anyone but to deny its existence is equally foolhardy, IMO.

  16. Allen – I also meant to say that sometimes it’s not about the proportionate representation of certain cohorts – it’s also about the American Dream in the “if I can see it I can be it” thing – if you don’t see anyone like you in a certain place, it’s very likely that you won’t imagine yourself IN that place.

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