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May 18 2010

Year of the Woman

Sabrina Schaeffer

As I wrote back in April, it appears GOP women are poised to make a real political impact this election year.  According to the Washington Post, record numbers of Republican women are campaigning for House seats. But that’s not all.

I noted earlier this spring that three of the highest-profile 2010 mid-term elections have women on the ballot: Meg Whitman's gubernatorial run in California, Carly Fiorina's Senate campaign in California, and Linda McMahon's Senatorial bid in Connecticut.

And Sarah Palin just gave each of these women a little help. As Chris Cillizza writes in the Washington Post today:

“All three of the races in which Palin endorsed feature a female candidate running against one – or several men.  In California [Carly] Fiorina, who has put more than $3 million of her own money into the race, is trying to run down former congressman Tom Campbell before the state’s June 8 primary.  In South Carolina, [Rep. Nikki] Haley, the one-time protégé of disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford, faces three men – Rep. Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and state Attorney General Henry McMaster – in the Palmetto State’s June 8 primary.  And in New Mexico, [Susana] Martinez is locked in a tough battle with free-spending former state party chairman Allen Weh.”

Considering that women have shattered the glass ceiling in nearly every professional arena, it may not seem surprising that we’re seeing a rush of female adrenaline in politics.  But as Leslie Sanchez has noted, up until now women have largely remained influencers in politics rather than decision-makers – for instance, Dee Dee Myers, Dana Perino, and Valerie Jarrett.

Certainly running for public office places strenuous demands on women – different demands than what men face.  Women are constantly forced to balance new variables.  In fact, nowhere is the debate over women’s proper role in society more apparent than in politics.  The 2008 presidential election was certainly evidence of this.  Both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were continuously refashioning themselves in an effort to please every potential voter – stay-at-home moms, working moms, small-towners, urbanites, etc.

While there is a well-known shortage of female lawmakers in the GOP, the growing number of conservative women running for public office suggests something has changed. And it certainly has.  At a time when nearly a quarter of women out-earn their spouses, when women earn the majority of bachelor's degrees and master's degrees, and when women's purchasing power has exploded, it makes sense that the economy would become a leading concern. More and more, women are tired of the top-down, Keynesian economics that characterizes this administration and threatens their freedom. The fact is there aren't simply more GOP women running for office -- there are more women running on the platform of limited government.

I think the fact that up until now women have had so many other lucrative professional opportunities has contributed to the shortage of women in politics. However, I suspect we’re in for a big change this November. It may just be the year of the woman.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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