Revenge of the mommy party?

Democratic women to the rescue!


Katharine Mieszkowski
March 24, 2006 8:01PM (UTC)

This fall, Republicans may rue the day that they slurred the Democrats as the "mommy party," according to a front-page story in the New York Times today.

In nearly half of the almost two dozen closely contested 2006 congressional races, Democratic women candidates are running strong, including Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth, who is seeking a seat in the Chicago suburbs. "Supposedly, in the shorthand of political positioning, Democrats are more concerned with nurturing, caring and domestic policy, while the Republicans care more about security," the Times reports, which is why Republicans like to tar Dems as the mommy party, while they paint themselves as big-strong-daddy types who can beat up scary terrorists.

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So, think of November 2006 as "Mommy Strikes Back."

"In an environment where people are disgusted with politics in general, who represents clean and change?" Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, tells the paper. "Women." Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who is working for three female House candidates this year, echoed that: "If you want to communicate change, honesty, cleaning up Washington, not the same old good old boys in Washington, women are very good at communicating that."

What's most hopeful about this article, though, isn't just the sheer number of Democratic women in key races, but the suggestion that the stereotypes about what gender means about a candidate may actually be fading, even as the Democrats hope to capitalize on those lingering associations.

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"Linda DiVall, a longtime Republican pollster who has worked for many female candidates, also notes that sex stereotypes cut both ways among voters. For example, female candidates are often seen as vulnerable on national security, Ms. DiVall said, which could be a problem in a post-Sept. 11 world. Ms. Lake, the Democratic pollster, said the sex advantages (like honesty) and disadvantages (competence on foreign policy) have grown more marginal."

"'They're not as new as they used to be,' Ms. Lake said of women in politics."

Still, when daddy spends billions of dollars that the family doesn't have on bullying the rest of the world, and still can't find Osama, can we blame the electorate for looking to mom for a change?

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Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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