January 29, 2007

"Women Feeling Freer to Suggest 'Vote for Mom.'"

This is a front-page "political memo" from Robin Toner.
Today, many political strategists say women no longer have to be so defensive. Voters have grown more accustomed to women in powerful positions....

What this means, strategists say, is that motherhood and a focus on children can become one more political asset to be showcased — a way of humanizing a candidate and connecting with voters, especially other women....

National security remains a threshold issue for voters but is no longer such an automatic advantage for the Republicans because they have lost so much support on the war in Iraq, the polls suggest. And neither Ms. Pelosi nor Mrs. Clinton is neglecting these issues. On the campaign trail in Iowa on Saturday, Mrs. Clinton argued that all of this — security, maternity, affordable health care — was part of her potential-first-woman-president package.

“I’m going to be asking people to vote for me based on my entire life and experience,” she said. “The fact that I’m a woman, the fact that I’m a mom, is part of who I am.”
Well, I've already said what I think about Hillary Clinton on this one. I think she's overdone the mommy stuff at this point. But managing our feelings about women and power is a complex task. We may be "more accustomed to women in powerful positions," but it's still very complicated. And raising motherhood as a qualification is a new move, and we're not accustomed to that at all. This new rhetoric will create its own swirl of complex feelings about women and power. It remains to be seen who will be helped and who will be hurt.

38 comments:

kimsch said...

Motherhood is not a qualification for a powerful position just as fatherhood is not.

All they are doing is saying that a woman can't get the job on her own qualifications only so she has to add motherhood to the mix.

I am not qualified to be POTUS. (I don't want to be POTUS either). Being a mother doesn't make me any more qualified for the post.

Anonymous said...

“I’m going to be asking people to vote for me based on my entire life and experience,” she said. “The fact that I’m a woman, the fact that I’m a mom, is part of who I am.”

Well, I think that's nothing more than stating the obvious and find nothing unusual or objectionable about it. But then, I'm not a professional Hillary hater. YMMV.

Anonymous said...

This is silly. Imagine a man saying "Vote for dad," or "Vote for the man."

vbspurs said...

Well, I think that's nothing more than stating the obvious and find nothing unusual or objectionable about it.

I agree with that, Internet Ronin.

Can it be that this type of mindset is particularly resonant with her generation of woman? By suggesting that motherhood is not an impediment, is to suggest that somehow it was.

I think women like Hillary have changed their feminism, and have had to change their feminism in many ways -- and not only has it surprised others, but I think it has surprised themselves more.

I understand that this is particular to her projection as a LEADER and potential POTUS, rather than just as a politician -- a side we are not used to hearing emphasised, as Ann said.

But the lady doth protest too much.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

"Vote for dad," or "Vote for the man."

BTW, has there ever been a female President or Prime Minister elected by acknowledging or promoting her maternal side?

I doubt even Golda Meir, with her gefilte fish and matzo recipes, took to stumping about her "mothering" skills to qualify her leadership abilities.

Cheers,
Victoria

Joe Baby said...

What patronizing gruel! Can't believe people fall for this schtick.

I must be some kinda uber-tolerant. I have no problem electing women...until they start belching this woman/mother/sensitive crap.

I also doubt whether you'll actually hear meaningful anecdotes from these women...you know, anecdotes that would show them to be mothers and wives.

And I've also wondered if advertising yourself as a woman/mother/wife actually makes them less electable. We're not cavemen, we know that it's not easy for a woman to have a career and raise a family...and we understand that working women have to rely on others to assist with family. But the more you tell me you really are supermom, etc., I instinctively think, "oh really? You were a partner in a law firm and your children never missed your presence. Right."

amzbd said...

It's not about being POTUS, its about being a candidate...and men do it all the time, just more subtlely. Think of every candidate brochure you've ever found in your screen door...didn't they all have a picture of the candidate smiling with his whole family? Don't they usually list "father to three great kids" under "personal qualifications?" Don;t they try very hard to imply that something must be wrong with the other guy if he's not married or can't find some kids to pose with?

Using your kids to imply common ground with the voters is the very essence of American politics, local or otherwise. After all, isn't the nut of a campaign all about making this place (town, state, country) a great place to raise kids? You know, plentiful jobs, affordable health care, clean water, safe streets, good schools, etc.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I'm not sure why people think this is a softening touch. One radical feminist take on power is that patriarchal power is dominating and elicits subordination, but female power is empowerment that transforms and guides for the better, like mothering. It is not a departure from radical feminism for Hillary to present herself as running for the role of America's mother.

To the extent that take on power is implicitly sexist and hypocritical, I suppose Hillary is open to the charge that she might use power to harm and destroy, given that she voted for the Iraq War.

Zeb Quinn said...

Most of yous are overthinking this. Every political campaign guru I've heard commenting on Hillary '08 have said that she'll bring single moms to the polls in droves. She's following that script here, making her grab at the mom vote, particularly including those single moms. And a fairly naked and transparent grab at that.

MadisonMan said...

Using your kids to imply common ground with the voters is the very essence of American politics, local or otherwise.

I see images of candidates with kids and think: What, the only thing they have to show me is a functioning reproductive system? So, Vote for Hillary! Her Uterus Worked! A vote for Romney is a vote for a man with a working vas deferens!

Mortimer Brezny said...

Single moms hate the Iraq War and married moms hated her baking cookies comment.

paul a'barge said...

If the Brits could get over Maggie Thatcher, Americans can get over a woman as president.

All we need is a decent woman for the job.

Anonymous said...

Oh no. Now it's the "Mommie" thing.

Vote for Mommie because she's gonna make it all better.

Mommie will provide the warm and fuzzies. Mommie will fix it.

Let's all go back into the womb. The Nation needs a healing that only Mommy can soothe.

How pedestrian. But, I guess with the kinds of constituents she's attracting at these interminable Townhall/meet-n-greets.....I'm sure there'll be quite a few roped into her whole Mommy thing.

Peace, Maxine

Palladian said...

"All we need is a decent woman for the job."

I'm still waiting for one to come along...

I really hate the "Mother" thing. I mean, it literally makes me nauseous. I remember when Cindy Sheehan first popped up. Aside from the loathsome, stupid things she was given to saying, what was almost more irritating was that people called her "Mother Sheehan". The idea that someone's political opinions should be conferred (in the words of Maureen Dowd) "absolute moral authority" because that person is a mother is ridiculous, not to mention insulting.

Besides, mothers can conjure up just as many bad feelings as good ones. Democrats, being sensitive to "non-traditional" families, should understand that.

Palladian said...

Mother should I run for president?
Mother should I trust the government?
Mother will they put me in the firing line?
Mother am I really dying?
Hush now baby, baby, don't you cry.
Mother's gonna make all your nightmares come true.
Mother's gonna put all her fears into you.
Mother's gonna keep you right here under her wing.
She wont let you fly, but she might let you sing.
Mama will keep baby cozy and warm...

bearbee said...

I doubt even Golda Meir, with her gefilte fish and matzo recipes, took to stumping about her "mothering" skills to qualify her leadership abilities

Golda looked the quintessential grandmother.

Do you think that chain-smoking , frizzy grayed-haired, frumpily-dressed 70 year-old grandmother, with her pocked-marked, heavily lined face and liverspots , could, with her brand of smart, tough, down-to-earth, straight-talking politics, win the hearts and minds of the American public? Or would she have to dress Armani, shape up with Pilates, undergo botox for her face, detox for her smoking and Oprahize her politics?

Every political campaign guru I've heard commenting on Hillary '08 have said that she'll bring single moms to the polls in droves.

Is this a political axiom?

Anonymous said...

"I think women like Hillary have changed their feminism."

Of course they have - they finally learned that their old more radical feminsim, which told stay at home mom's they were either oppressed or idiots, did not play well with middle class voters.

You know the people who are thankful and happy if one spouse makes enough money that the other can stay home and be actively involved with their kid's teachers etc.

yetanotherjohn said...

I was just struck by a counter slogan.

"Don't vote for Hillary or she will make us all clean up our rooms."

While there is certainly an idelized version of Mom (as in Apple pie and Mom), there is also the side of Mom that nags you about cleaning your rooms, sitting up straight and doing your home work. All good things, but probably not the most cherished memories of Mom. And I think Hillary and Pelosi both tend towards the scold kind of Mom who want you to stop doing things you enjoy and do the things she tells you. And while "because I said so" works for a reason at a certain age, that age is usually well past by the time you are elgible to vote.

Pogo said...

If Hillary! becomes National Mom, I'll have to run away from home (because docs will be dead meat when Mom pulls us by the ear into National Medicare). She'll shriek, "Pogo Doofus Unguentine! Come down here this minute! I'm gonna wash your mouth out with some socialism, then you're gonna stand in the corner until you sing 'The Internationale' properly"

The trouble is finding the 'Canada for capitalists' to run away to. (....cuz then she'll be sorry...*snifff*.) Cayman Islands? Scotland? Singapore?

My other option, once everything's nationalized, is to quit working, move into the National Basement Apartment, eat Cheetos and watch TV, look for (but never quite find) a job, and forever complain about my parents and tell Mom to get off my back already!!!.

Anonymous said...

If the comment says “Freeman Hunt” you know it’s going to be stupid, and sure enough:

This is silly. Imagine a man saying "Vote for dad," or "Vote for the man."

This might be hard to imagine because, historically, maleness has never been a differentiating factor in U.S. presidential elections.

On the other hand, if you don’t think that Republicans have made a living off appeals to macho manliness, you’re nuts (or just stupid). Republicans=warlike alpha males while Democrats=French homosexuals/girlie men was the subtext of just about every RNC ad in 2004.

Have I mentioned that I’ve never found Freeman Hunt especially persuasive?

vbspurs said...

Have I mentioned that I’ve never found Freeman Hunt especially persuasive?

Here we go again -- always targetting people for abusive comments, following them around Althouse like a dog worrying a bone.

FFS, grow up, you big baby. You're like Al Franken sniffing Bill O'Reilly's jock.

SteveR said...

True to form, I suspect this approach, "tests" well.

Of course Bill could pull this schitck off like no one else, but Hillary, like anyone else would, will wear us out with this crap. Lets's have a conversation because you know, I'm in it to win it.

As I told someone on the job, awhile back, my mom died 35 years ago, I don't need another one.

hdhouse said...

The motherhood angle is actually fairly shrewd. We have suffered though 6 years of god knows what relationship between parent and child...we all remember Bush first came to washington during the transition and one of his daughters had emergency surgery (minor but urgent) and he did not go home to even say "how are you".


the kids get tossed out of south america for again, god knows what, and all the stuff inbetween. hillary putting up the "i'm a good mom" statement is actually a pretty stark contrast to "i'm a god knows what dad".

Pogo said...

Re: "I’ve never found Freeman Hunt especially persuasive"

I like her approach. She argues well, unlike Doyle, whose only debate tactic is the ad hominem ad nauseum, or some form of 'yer stoopid'.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again -- always targetting people for abusive comments, following them around Althouse like a dog worrying a bone.

I go where the stoopid is.

vbspurs said...

Golda looked the quintessential grandmother.

Grandmothers are good. Mothers suggest discipline and judgement, especially to older kids.

Also, if there is ONE thing that makes men bristle, it's being told their leader is going to act like a mom:

Gentle + protective + conciliatory = Weak

Iron Lady, yes. Diaper Lady, no.

Not saying it's not a shrewd move on her advisor's part, but as Zeb Quinn said, we're overthinking it, like media types always do.

Most ordinary folk just hear her newfangled "mother" angle and go "huh".

Cheers,
Victoria

Anonymous said...

Also, if there is ONE thing that makes men bristle, it's being told their leader is going to act like a mom

And if there's ONE person with their finger on the pulse of American men, it's a British woman.

Most of the country right now, males included, is "bristling" under the worst kind of leadership possible, the kind of belligerent tyranny that makes Hillary look like a better replacement than McCain. Maybe that's why she's leading him in H2H polls!

Pogo said...

Doyle
So Hillary is really just a belligerent tranny?
Crikey! My suspicions confirmed!

John Kindley said...

“I’m going to be asking people to vote for me based on my entire life and experience,” [Mrs. Clinton] said.

The only reason we even know who she is is because she was and is married to Mr. Clinton. And the most famous fact about that marriage is that Mrs. Clinton very publicly was cuckolded by her husband. We don't like that old word so much because it unfairly and cruelly stigmatizes the victim, but what would we think about a man (particularly a candidate for President) who many suspect knows that his wife is cheating on him but turns a blind eye, and then when his wife is publicly caught red-handed meekly takes her back (because he "luvs" her, or worse, is dependent upon her power and prestige)? We might pity or even sympathize with such a man, but I think we'd naturally question his backbone (an important qualification for President), and rather than give him extra points for suffering through his ordeal, question his judgment for marrying such a slut in the first place.

There's a double standard for you.

I can't believe the American public would ever stomach the idea of Bill Clinton back in the White House as First Husband.

Hillary in my opinion would have a much better shot if she'd divorced the scumbag. Her decision not to do so calls extra attention to her lack of cajones.

Revenant said...

"This is silly. Imagine a man saying "Vote for dad," or "Vote for the man.""

This might be hard to imagine because, historically, maleness has never been a differentiating factor in U.S. presidential elections.

That's funny, because I've heard from all sorts of people, particularly on the Left, that gender discrimination is to blame for the historical lack of women in US politics. Which necessarily means that maleness WAS the deciding factor in many elections.

But in any case, if saying "vote for me because I'm a woman" is acceptable, as Hillary is claiming here, then what possible objection can there be to a candidate saying "vote for me because I'm NOT a woman"? He's just distinguishing himself from the opposition, after all, and maleness is part of who he is. I somehow suspect, though, that if a male candidate ran against a woman and ran adds saying "vote for the man, not the woman", we'd never hear the end of it.

Anyway, the reason Hillary focuses on her gender is that if she was male nobody would dream of considering her a Presidential contender. Her gender and her husband are her only selling points.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe the American public would ever stomach the idea of Bill Clinton back in the White House as First Husband.

Oh I would think they would in a NY minute. At the height of Re-pubic jock sniffing contest, he was twice as popular as the dolt in there in now. Sorry to rain on your little wingnut parade, but Americans hate Bush, and love Clinton.

If a pest exterminator can be Leader of the Republican House, I should think Hillary will do fine.

Pogo said...

Re: "Her gender and her husband are her only selling points."

True. And she'll make the village run on time, too, so doubleplusgood.

Proposed Campaign Hillary! motto:
Le village est moi.

Revenant said...

Most of the country right now, males included, is "bristling" under the worst kind of leadership possible, the kind of belligerent tyranny that makes Hillary look like a better replacement than McCain. Maybe that's why she's leading him in H2H polls!

Could you link to some of those polls, please? Because she's statistically tied with both McCain and Giuliani in the most recent poll I've seen. She also (a) does much worse than the generic Dem-vs-Rep results and (b) is less-liked by Democrats than either Giuliani or McCain is by Republicans.

Here's a hint -- if voters really are as angry as you think they are, and really have been living under "the worst kind of leadership possible", the fact that Hillary *still* can't convince a clear majority of them not to vote for the Republicans again should tell you something!

bearbee said...

... if voters really are as angry as you think they are, and really have been living under "the worst kind of leadership possible",...

Hillary aside, you don't think the recent mid-term elections signaled that message?

SteveR said...

NL:"If a pest exterminator can be Leader of the Republican House, I should think Hillary will do fine."

Was that supposed to:

a) make sense
b) be funny
c) make you look smart
d) make sense

LoafingOaf said...

I'd been warming up a teensy bit to Hillary Clinton because she seems more like a normal Democrat than all the "progressives" trying to take over the party.

But I decided today that there's no way I'll ever vote for her, for two reasons.

The first was an op-ed in the LA Times last week that got me worried about the "unnatural aristocracy". After the son of a prez for 8 years and the possibility of the wife of a prez for another 8 years, we'd be going on three decades of rule by two families, with two presidents elected simply because of their last names. That's unamerican.

The second reason...I feel silly admitting who changed my mind, but I listened to Rush over lunch today and he was having a field day playing "then and now" clips of Hillary on the war. People can say whatever they want about Rush (I'm not a big fan), but he reminded me that Hillary is a liar on matters of war just by playing her own clips.

Any candidate disqualifies themselves automatically when they've been shown to form their positions, or their changes of positions, on the war based on nothing more than their own lust for power. Hillary believes she's owed the White House because of her last name. She should be shamed out of the campaign due to her insincerity on the war.

There's a lot of discussions about whether Obama is black enough or white enough, and about Hillary's gender. These are not issues for me. I'm voting on the war, personal character, ability to unite the country more than it is today (an unnatural aristocrat is a problem here), and economic policy. Hillary fails the first three and is a mixed bag on the fourth. She can't win my vote.

Revenant said...

"if voters really are as angry as you think they are, and really have been living under "the worst kind of leadership possible"

Hillary aside, you don't think the recent mid-term elections signaled that message?

If you filter out the hysteria and hyperbole. The midterm elections indicated that Americans were dissatisfied with the job Republicans had been doing -- they lost 30 House seats and 5 Senate seats. If that signifies "bristling" under "the worst kind of leadership possible" and "benevolent tyranny", as Doyle asserts, what are we to make of the fact that the Democrats lost nearly twice as many seats in 1994? Were Americans "absolutely furious" with living under "worse leadership than it is possible to imagine", in "a kind of fascist dictatorship" or something?

My point, anyway, is that the worse you think Americans' opinion of Republican leadership is, the worse Hillary's failure to poll better than the likely Republican candidates is for her. Doyle wants both "Americans are angry with Republican leadership" and "Hillary's a good candidate" to be true. But Hillary's tied with the Republicans, so both of those statements *can't* be true. Polls show that a large majority of Americans are sick of the Iraq war and would prefer a Democratic president to a Republican one. Yet Hillary's tied with a couple of pro-war Republicans. It has to be conceded that that doesn't bode well for the Clinton campaign.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Uh, this doesn't bode well for the Clinton machine! On the NY Times comments, no less!

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/01/29/clinton-romney-ping-pong/#comment-23030