Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Year of the Woman

Having consulted a variety of polls (and yes, I recognize that polls are often hardly authoritative sources) it appears that Obama's post-convention bounce has continued largely undiminished until today. The most interesting aspect of the race I've found, numerically speaking, is the observation that both the Senator from Illinois and the Senator from Arizona actually lost ground after they announced their picks for Vice-President. While Obama's reverse bounce was widely attributed to his refusal to put Hillary Clinton on the ticket. McCain's reverse bounce may well be a mild backlash against his choice of a total dark horse for the second on the ticket, scorning a more conventional pick.

While the media is doing an excellent job of revealing flaw after flaw and scandal after scandal with Sarah Palin, I pause to reflect for a moment about another statistic that jumps out at me this morning. To wit, over 80% of those surveyed believe that this country will see a woman as President within the next decade. I wouldn't disagree with that. Whether it will be a matter of course or a conscious pick on behalf of one party or the other remains to be seen. Hillary Clinton may or may not have put eighteen million cracks in the glass ceiling, but she has certainly established precedent.

Arguably, Geraldine Ferraro's poor performance as Walter Mondale's Vice-President in 1984 set the cause of electing a woman to high office back many years. Hillary Clinton's strong showing in the primaries has done much towards convincing skeptical party leaders that putting a woman at the head of the ticket is a strategy that can succeed. I fully believe that neither sexism nor gender bias were the primary factors for why it took twenty-four years to see both parties willing to place women in high positions of authority. The desire to secure power and attain control is far more potent a force than discrimination. Either party would eagerly run a zebra for President if it was thought that doing so would produce a resounding victory. The most interesting facet of this whole election year, in my opinion, is that Hillary Clinton's reemergence as a scrappy underdog did more to make the case for a woman to be President than had she ascended to the nomination without more than a token resistance. Her failure in the short-term will lead to a net gain in the long term for women in power. Paradoxically, her loss will likely pave the way for future female leaders in ways a victory never would. And in the end, assuming Obama fails to be elected, her close finish puts Hillary Clinton in a far stronger position to run again.

In contrast, it's easy to be cynical about the GOP's selection of Palin. It's quite a bit of an affront to those who have long advocated for women's rights, if one acknowledges that the Republican party likely would have never selected Palin if they had not felt they could win by any other measure. Gender as bargaining chip plays far worse on a national stage than gender as social statement. Thankfully, the American people are not fooled by this kind of empty political posturing. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed in a recent poll understand the self-serving motivation that drove the Palin nomination.

In a less contentious, saturated election cycle, 2008 might be qualified as the year of the woman. Instead, this shining accomplishment has been obscured by more pressing matters, or at least conflicts and fault-lines that attraction attention for more efficiently. A multitude of so many different issues is at stake this go-round that each fights for center stage and open acknowledgment in a public forum. Nevertheless, let's pause to reflect upon that what has been accomplished. For the first time ever, this country has come to terms with many of its ingrained prejudices--so many, in fact, that I can certainly understand those have grown weary and exhausted with the intensity of electioneering. Though the process has been at times harrowing, this kind of mass introspection is the only manner by which reforms will not only succeed, but remain. Ignoring for a moment the potent reforms still in need of cultivation, we might at all do well to reflect that we have made progress, much progress, towards advancing the cause of social evolution. Change is an agonizingly slow process that is best observed from a vantage point of years, not days, months, or hours. When a woman runs again for the top job in the land, whenever that shall be, we'll all take stock of our prior successes and our failures and evaluate both where we've been and where we need to go.

3 comments:

P. E. Nolan said...

Very lucid, coherent writing. You must be feeling more together.

Comrade Kevin said...

Indeed I am. Thank you for noticing.

Lithium has leveled me out and made me feel less depressed. The side effects are pretty extreme (a pervasive, drugged feeling) but I've just got to slog through another month or so of this.

Liberality said...

Very good post. It makes me feel a little better to put things in perspective.