Women candidates don't mean women's votes

Women voters may not be as warm toward Sen. Clinton as stereotypes would have it.

Published June 30, 2006 2:00PM (EDT)

No matter what your feelings toward New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, it is undeniable that the buzz about a possible Clinton candidacy in 2008 is unlike that surrounding any other politician. This week Women's eNews does a good, succinct job outlining some of the issues that make a possible Clinton presidential run particularly fraught for women voters. Under the unfortunate headline "Female Base for Hillary in '08 Is No Sure Thing" -- since, really, neither is the female base sure for Harry, Russ or Mark -- eNews looks at the heightened expectations for women when electing the first-ever female president becomes a possibility.

As Georgia Duerst-Lahti, a professor of political science and women's studies at Beloit College in Wisconsin told eNews, "Women always suffer more scrutiny and they always suffer sharper criticism. Every move she makes is magnified." Indeed, as eNews writes, Clinton's "stance on the war in Iraq, her rhetorical emphasis on preventing pregnancy rather than abortion rights and her reluctance to back universal health care" have raised the ire of liberal women's groups in ways that male politicians' similar views may not necessarily provoke. Marie Wilson, president of the White House Project, a New York-based group that seeks to elect a female executive, says that "progressive women in particular want the first serious female candidate to be 100 percent perfect on issues."

In her 2000 Senate run Clinton led the women's vote by a margin of 60 to 39 percent, reports eNews. But whether that is an indication that women will rally behind her in a presidential race remains unclear. Clinton's 21-point margin came before she fell under criticism for seeming politically opportunistic and for equivocating on issues like women's health, Iraq and most recently, flag desecration. ENews reports that a no-holds-barred Arianna Huffington recently said that "Hillary Clinton is determined to single-handedly remove every last vestige of authenticity from American politics." Really? Single-handedly? One wonders if the same kind of wrath would be targeted at male politicians for whom photo-op candidacies are more often par for the political course.

Jen Sunderland, chairwoman of the Women's Liberation Social Wage Committee, is torn over the possibility of a Clinton presidency. She explained to eNews that there's "that push and pull of wanting to see a woman at that level of government and also wanting to see that issues that affect my life as a woman are being addressed." In other words, ideology may likely supersede biology come 2008.

But in the meantime, do readers feel that there is something particularly divisive about a Clinton candidacy, or do you think that any female politician would be under the same razor-sharp scrutiny? Oh, and in case it wasn't clear -- Clinton has not said whether she will seek the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

By Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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