Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann have sparked much discussion about the state of women in politics. Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and even Condoleezza Rice have been prominent national figures for years, but there's something different about powerhouses Palin and Bachmann-namely, that they are outspoken, conservative, pro-life, attractive mothers, all of which makes them particularly noteworthy and threatening to the Left.
Undoubtedly, the media has treated these woman (particularly Palin) with a unique viciousness. Who else has had the media pore over every last e-mail written during their political life? And as Cheri Jacobus wrote yesterday, the media seems surprised that Bachmann gave a strong performance during Monday's debate and is making a play for the presidency. Jacobus asks:
Why is it a challenge for the media to get their heads around the notion that a 50-something, three-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives who serves on the Intelligence and Financial Services committees, launched the Tea Party Caucus, served as a state Senator and was a tax attorney and successful entrepreneur could be capable of an able performance in a political debate? Is it because she is a woman and they still insist on grading on a curve?
Certainly Jacobus is right that the media seems intent on dismissing or even demonizing Bachmann, who has had a serious political career. Yet focusing on the media's sexist treatment of Bachmann and Palin as sexist is to only consider one side of the ledger. The fact that these women are women is also one of their assets. After decades of being tarred as sexists, conservatives and the GOP base are understandably proud to have women making their case in support of limited government and free markets. These women obviously do appeal to an audience – particularly fellow women – that has often tuned out similar messages when voiced by the standard white male conservatives.
Democrats rely on the idea that support for big government is synonymous with support for women. Indeed, just as they consistently go back to the well of "MediScare," they also return to the notion that cutting government spending is a "war on women." When it's Bachmann, Palin, and other high-profile Republican women who respond to these charges, they are a little less likely to stick.
Undoubtedly, the mainstream media is particularly hard on GOP women, but that's because they know they are uniquely dangerous to the cause of big government. That may mean strong conservative women face an extra challenge in handling the media, but we shouldn't forget that being a woman is also an enormous asset.