By Stephen Noriega
I have asked many women, from third wave feminists to conservative traditionalists about how gender would affect politics. Most women have told me that if women had more influence at the spigots of power, the environment would be less hostile and more collaborative. Disagreements, although longer in duration because congresswomen have never physically assaulted another lawmaker, at least here in the United States, would be settled through understanding and consensus. According to feminism, the patriarchy, the constant need to be the Alpha Male and the following aggression, especially in campaigns, creates a lot of the negative framing we see today. I agree with this assessment. Politics is a shadow cast by the object of our real institutions. We are trained to act this way and to observe the male-centered ways of how we select our leaders. The traditional way to present our candidates is in an adversarial format. We pit them against each other, focusing on strength of character, willingness to confront the other, physical attractiveness and their control of their wives (the only first ladies to draw controversy were the more assertive ones like Hilary Clinton or Teresa Heinz Kerry). All three waves of feminism have grappled with this issue. I will not speak to the history of this struggle but the current system is not what most third wave feminists want.
So to make a long story longer…
One would think that Betsy Markey would take a cue from her own feminist roots and look for ways to shift the paradigm so as to not recreate the patriarchal election tradition but to compete without spears and missiles, mostly in the form of negative ads. Elizabeth Helen (AKA Betsy) Markey has attributes that could appeal to both sides of the aisle, again, giving her an opportunity to change her own small universe of politics. Markey has a rich academic background, receiving a Masters degree of Public Administration from American University. In business, Markey made a modest fortune co-founding Syscom Services (http://www.syscom.com/software.htm). She also established Huckleberry’s in Fort Collins and sold it for a profit. Markey also worked with and served as an officer with the Food Bank of Larimer County. Markey has also worked on many issues relating to communities, families and women’s issues. Betsy Markey, even though coming from a Catholic family, elected to keep her original name when she got married, something very feminist to do these days and hooray for her! I am quite aware of the patriarch name argument as my wife chose to keep her name and it is the logical thing to do. My wife then honors her family through time as well and keeps her professional brand consistent. Following is a photo of Betsy Markey, not my wife.
Courtesy of Betsy Markey for Congress
So what problem could I have with this person? My issue is that Betsy Markey is falling into the same old crap that white men have been practicing since they seized power a long time ago. The fight for the 4th Congressional District has become a bitter, slicing contest, snowing under many concerns. Quoting 9News about the October 9th debate they held, “Both Republican incumbent Marilyn Musgrave and Democratic challenger Betsy Markey were emotional when asked about misconceptions voters might have about them from the heavy negative advertising in the race.” http://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=101504
This is not to say that Marilyn Musgrave has run a thoughtful, sporting campaign. Musgrave has linked Markey’s business with corruption and has inferred that she is a liar, a manipulator and (gasp) a liberal.
Betsy Markey could have risen above this but she chose not to.
It is not to say that scurrilous attacks should go undefended. Some of the accusations that Musgrave’s campaign brought up were absurd and vicious. These can be addressed while not launching equally serrated sorties. In fact, in this particular election, the less one must attack, the better. This is the election to begin realizing that political cockfighting is not the only way to campaign. Betsy Markey can be a transformational character because of what she has accomplished so far and how she continues her political success. Watching the national elections is indicating that perhaps the general public is finally getting tired of the negative attacks and perhaps wants more discussion. Less patriarch warfare and more presentation of comparable values might be the cure of the day. Betsy Markey has held a slight advantage over Musgrave since August and no negative campaigning on either side has helped. It is perhaps an election where we seek the challenge of working on solutions rather than the comfort and tradition of fighting over them.