Gender and the Mass. Election
“Raise your hand if you are nervous about the election in Mass tomorrow? My hand is up!” tweeted the National Council for Jewish Women’s Sammie Moshenberg yesterday.
Indeed, all eyes are trained on the great state of Massachusetts today as the special election for Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat threatens to turn the tide or even derail healthcare reform. Squaring off at the center of the storm are Martha Coakley, a seemingly- ackluster Democratic candidate who got the support of all the big name women’s groups like NOW and more, and Scott Brown, a state senator who has campaigned using his pickup truck and once posed nude in the pages of Cosmo. And it looks like Brown might win. The combination of an uninspiring campaign from Coakley, an overwhleming wave of anger from the right, and a mix of indifference and discomfort with filling Ted Kennedy’s long-held seat may be combining to spell Coakley’s doom — although of course, we won’t know the outcome until tonight.
As much as fault lies with Coakley, and the Democrats at large, for mishandling aspects of healthcare reform process and this election (as Dana Goldstein reports, even women aren’t flocking to Coakley’s camp, it’s hard not to see some gender dynamics at play here, in a state that has never popularly elected a female senator or governor. Imagine if a competent but somewhat uncharismatic man were running against a small-time female politico relying largely on her folksy charm, and imagine if said politico had once posed in her birthday suit in Maxim with pictures freely available online. There would certainly be more outrage and controversy, if not a direct effect at the polls.
The point is that in America, female candidates, no matter how well-credentialed, have to work twice as hard and be twice as willing to do whatever it takes to win — and then, like Hillary Clinton has done, they will have to deal with the stereotypes that follow. While the double-standard means the women that are elected tend to be competent and well-vetted, the threshold to get there is most definitely higher. Unless of course, we’re talking about Sarah Palin.
Have any Sisterhood readers been following the election, and if so, do you see gender issues at play or is it simply a matter of who’s out-campaigned whom?