When Will A Woman Make It To The White House?
By Jill Miller Zimon
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.