Salon’s Rebecca Traister had an interesting piece in the Washington Post’s “Outlook” section yesterday-5 myths about female candidates. It has a lot of excellent information. While not as hostile to the new crop of Republican candidates as Maureen Dowd’s famous “Mean Girls” column, is definitely not friendly towards them.
She points out that there are more Democratic women running now than Republicans but that the Republicans have gotten more attention. Well, whose fault is that? Christine O’Donnell, who has almost no chance of winning, has garnered an incredible amount of coverage, almost uniformly unfavorable.
One myth Traister debunked has driven me nuts for years:
3. Female voters love female candidates.
No, most female voters love Democratic candidates because they agree with them on issues. Or at least they have for the past 30 years. A recent New York Times-CBS News poll suggests that this year, economic anxiety may be pushing female voters to favor Republicans for the first time since pollsters started tracking these numbers in 1982, but don’t confuse that with a knee-jerk enthusiasm for mama grizzlies.
Women vote not based on gender affinity, but based on their opinions about the economy, health care and foreign policy. They have in recent decades tended to vote against candidates who back big business and for those who back more progressive social causes. All these factors have led to a persistent gender gap in which women have largely voted Democratic, regardless of a candidate’s sex. This pattern was affirmed most recently in 2008, when most women did not jump the partisan fence to vote for Palin. Still, in every election cycle, political strategists persist in treating women like a unified bloc that will flock to the nearest female office-seeker the way Carrie Bradshaw is drawn to Manolo Blahniks.
We’ve always said at IWF that you don’t vote based on gender and that too many women candidates are pro-big government. So, unlike Ms. Traister, I would argue that the bad economy and unprecedented government spending have awakened women to the perils of big government. No, they aren’t becoming imbued with a “knee-jerk enthusiasm for mama grizzles,” but perhaps they are willing to entertain the idea that government is too big.
Traister debunks the myth that “This year’s female candidates are extra-stupid and extra-extremist.” Bravo to Traister for this:
The news media seems possessed by a desire to linger on female candidates’ foolishness and to portray it as emblematic of a larger story line. This frenzied attention to female candidates’ fallibility doesn’t just cheat dopey men who have failed to win the spotlight, it does a disservice to the many women running for office whose nimble and articulate self-presentations have been lost amid the tittering and hooting. Alex Sink, Gabrielle Giffords, Betsy Markey, Libby Mitchell, Diane Denish, Nikki Haley, Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman and Susana Martinez should be furious.
On the other hand, Traister started her argument by mocking Christine O’Donnell as extra-stupid and extra-extremist but then going on to note that there are men (the two she cites just happen to be Republicans) who are just as extra-stupid and extra-extremist.
O’Donnell may not be ready for prime time, but it’s telling that a column supposedly devoted to debunking myths fixates on this one candidate who has attracted so much attention, despite not really being a contender.