ELECTION IN FOCUS: Women contemplate possibility of first female VP
Liz Harter | Tuesday, October 28, 2008
For the first time in the nation’s history, the United States could see a woman in a position of power in the White House after next Tuesday’s election.
Gov. Sarah Palin would make history as the first female vice president if Sen. John McCain wins the election. Palin has been governor of Alaska since 2006 when she defeated an incumbent governor in the Republican primary and a former two-term Democratic governor in the general election.
The possibility that Palin could become the nation’s first female vice president has been a topic of discussion at meetings of the Notre Dame club Feminist Voice.
“I think it’s a big step to have a female on a ticket like this,” said senior Mary DeAgostino, the secretary of Feminist Voice. “The idea of having a woman in a position of power like this is a great idea. I think it’s a really important step for women in America.
DeAgostino does not think, however, that Palin is the right woman to make this historic step.
“I think the bigger issues that people need to look at are where different candidates stand on issues that are important for everyday women in America right now,” she said. “I think it’s important to be critical of different candidates’ stances on women and gender issues, instead of just ascribing meaning to someone’s gender.”
Notre Dame junior Colleen Moran, co-president of the Notre Dame club Women in Politics agreed that it is important to look at the issues, but she is happy that women have been active in the election this year.
“While I do not necessarily support those policy measures Sarah Palin would endorse as vice president, I am encouraged by the more active role women have assumed in this presidential election,” she said.
Moran said she is impressed that Palin has been able to rally so many people from different backgrounds to the Republican platform.
“In the weeks immediately following her nomination, she was able to generate a great deal of enthusiasm for the McCain campaign,” she said.
But Moran is disappointed that Palin has not allowed the media much access because, she said, dealing with the media is a necessity in the national political arena.
“I believe both a level of comfort with the media and an ability to respond eloquently and intelligently to public criticism are essential qualities for a national political figure,” Moran said.
Notre Dame senior Sarah Lyons, the vice president of Feminist Voice, said Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the presidency should not be overlooked.
“While Sarah Palin’s vice presidential nomination is a critical step in women’s political participation, I also think recognizing Hillary Clinton and how far she went for the Democrats is really important and should be kept in mind,” Lyons said. “I think that was empowering and inspirational for many people.”
Lyons does not think Palin supports the issues women are interested in, like where candidates stand on equal pay, reproductive rights and violence against women.
“Personally, I’m not sure if Sarah Palin stands for my personal interests,” Lyons said. “I don’t think she does.”
DeAgostino added: “I don’t think she stands for feminists’ interest.”
But, DeAgostino added, Clinton and Palin have contributed positively to the political discussion.
“I think this election year has been critical in promoting women’s political participation, and raising these issues,” DeAgostino said.
Moran said Clinton and Palin have different leadership styles, tailored to appeal to different types of people.
“Hillary Clinton has, in large part, tailored her leadership style to appeal to voters at the national level,” she said. “Her husband’s election to the presidency thrust her into the national spotlight, and she seized the opportunity to hone her own leadership skills. Clinton comes across as – if at times harsh – both intensely focused and articulate.
“Palin, by contrast, has developed a leadership style geared towards voters at the local and state level. She demonstrates an ability to relate to everyday Americans as well as a freshness and enthusiasm at times lacking in Washington. Palin comes across as – if at times inexperienced or uninformed – someone Americans can connect with.”
Kaitlynn Riely contributed to this story.