Progressive Women Rising in Power; Palin Off the Mark

September 3, 2008
Women's Suffrage March, 1912

Women's Suffrage March, 1912

Celebrating Women’s Power in Denver

Tuesday, August 26th, was the 88th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote—and here in Denver it was quite a celebration.

During the Democratic National Convention (DNC), Emily’s List (a PAC dedicated to building progressive women’s power in politics) shared the news that 55% of the electorate will be women this year—the highest ever. The DNC Women’s Caucus met in a sprawling ballroom filled with a thousand energized delegates and fellow travelers, celebrating the fact that about 60% of the overall Democratic vote every year is women.

Die-Hard Hillary Supporters Take To the Street

At that very same moment, that same sentiment was sweeping down Denver’s Colfax Avenue.

Just as thousands of Convention women celebrated their power and role in the Democratic Party, hundreds more women gathered to march down Colfax. Out in the streets passionate Hillary Clinton supporters had traveled to Denver from across the Country to celebrate the woman who nearly claimed the presidency. They filled Colfax sidewalk to sidewalk, banged drums, chanted Hillary’s name, and promised to put a woman in the Oval Office within ten years.

Some of the marchers were adamant that they would never support Barack Obama, because he had stolen the nomination from the experienced and prepared Hillary Clinton when she had already put in her time, and because Obama was allegedly sexist for paying his male Senate staffers more than his female staffers. To get a sense of the flavor of the march, including some interviews with the Hillary supporters in the street, go here and scroll down to audio reports on the August 26th Hillary Clinton supporters march. Or you can see what some of the delegates inside the Convention Center hall had to say here:

And to cap it all off, on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton addressed an adoring crowd of thousands in the Pepsi Center, in a moment that will be be remembered through history in the same breath as suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton herself.


Rising Women’s Power = Rising Progressive Power

The growing power of women in American politics is big news for politics and big news for progressives.

Progressives take heart in the growing political power of women, because women vote Democrat. Since 1992, Democrats have enjoyed about a 10 point “gender gap” in presidential elections as women have preferred Democratic candidates by an average of 10% over the Republicans.

This gender gap is present as well in 2008 pre-election polling. Obama enjoys a 12% pre-convention lead among all women voters—while younger Millennial women voters give Obama an incredible 30 point lead.

chart source: http://www.emilyslist.org/programs/powerpoint.pdf

Here’s more good news for progressives. Younger women, are now 57% of all college students. And as college graduates are increasingly female—they are likely to grow their civic participation even more.

The future female powerhouses of the country are even more liberal than senior women. 46% of young women believe that America’s growing racial diversity is entirely a good thing—only 30% of senior women think that. 36% of young women believe that it is good that the Christian tradition is declining in strength—since there are traditional notions of patriarchy embedded within it. Only 26% of senior women shared this idea. And 53% of young women believe in full acceptance and inclusion of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgendered in the community—while only 26% of senior women agree.

Sarah Palin Pick Misses the Progressive Boat

This is the heart of the trouble for the McCain pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Although Palin made an explicit appeal for Hillary Clinton supporters and women of all stripes to vote for McCain since a woman was now on the Republican ticket

“It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.” — Sarah Palin’s Vice-Presidential announcement speech

It is becoming clear that women voters are not lining up behind the McCain/Palin reasoning. The Palin reasoning seems to be that Hillary Clinton’s advantage with women, is driven more than anything else why women’s desire to vote for a woman, not matter who she might be. Even though Palin’s politics are profoundly different from the liberal politics of Hillary Clinton (e.g., Palin is pro-life, believes in teaching creationism in schools, is opposed to gay rights, and is a fiscal supply-sider), and even though Palin has no national experience and is only 44 years old, she asserted that Hillary Clinton supporters would be excited to support her in order to advance female solidarity against the “good old boys” network.

But come to find out, women are voting for Democrats not because the Democrats run more women, but because women align more closely with the progressive values and policies of the Democratic party. That is why early polls show women LESS likely to vote for McCain after the Palin pick. Palin’s conservatism, her lack of experience, and perhaps the “insult” that some women feel with McCain’s transparent attempt to woo women voters with an arguably inexperienced female candidate just isn’t appealing to female voters. It shouldn’t be that great a surprise. Polls from some time ago have shown that Hillary’s strongest supporters were more attracted to her politics and her experience than to the fact that she was a woman. This is why the leader of a PAC dedicated to enhancing women’s power in politics (Ellen R. Malcolm of Emily’s List) spoke out so strongly against the Palin nomination.

“How ironic that, on his 72nd birthday, McCain has raised the question of whether his running mate is prepared to be Commander in Chief and lead the country. Governor Palin and John McCain are a good match because they both want to overturn Roe V. Wade, they both want to continue the failed economic policies of the Bush administration and they both offer more of the same that has led this country down the wrong path. McCain clearly sees the power of women voters in this election but has just as clearly failed to support any of the issues that they care about. His choice for vice president only reinforces that failure”

Though Sarah Palin has not been welcomed by a mass movement of women voters—Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party has been. That’s because women voters tend to have Democratic/progressive political values—far more so than men. And these progressive women are rising in power. As Hillary Clinton addressed the American people during the Democratic National Convention, she represented a real and fundamental transformation in American society. Like never before, the future of American politics is in the hands of women, and especially young women—progressives can take heart in the future these women will build.

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