Saturday, November 18, 2006

"Women, War and Darcy"

Lynn Allen:
There was a brouhaha a couple of days ago over on Postman's blog due to an email exchange between Postman's fill-in, Jim Brunner, and Darcy Burner. Brunner made a big deal of Darcy's talking about the difficulty that female Democratic candidate faced in this race in trying to ride the blue wave. He titled his post, "A Glass Ceiling for Darcy?"and laughed about the absurdity of that idea in this state where women are so prominent in politics.

A bunch of Republican-types piled on in the comment section, no doubt glad to have somewhere they could crow in a week where they were otherwise badly cut off at the knees.
Anyway, as I've thought about this, I think Darcy is correct. Darcy is at bottom a wonk and she did her homework before bringing this possibility up. She looked at the 20 Democratic challengers who had raised $1 million by the end of June. Of those, 13 won and 7 lost. Of the 13 who won, Ed Perlmutter (CO-6), Joe Courtney (CT-2), Chris Murphy (CT-5), Ron Klein (FLA-22), Brad Ellsworth (IND-8), Baron Hill (IND-9), Heath Schuler (NC-11), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY-20), Charlie Wilson (OH-6), Joe Sestak (PA-7), Nick Lampson (TX-22), Peter Welch (VT-at large) and Steve Kagen (WI-8), all but one were men. Of the 7 who lost, Burner (WA-8), Diane Farrell (CT-4), Tammy Duckworth (IL-6), Patricia Madrid (NM-1), John Cranley (OH-1), Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15), Lois Murphy (PA-06), all but one were women.

So, the statistics are with her. Now, let's look at why this might be.

We are in a time of war and this election was arguably about the war and getting America out of the war. I have been saying to friends who asked that I don't think that this is a good time for Hillary Clinton to run for President because I don't think that Americans will vote for a woman for President in a time of war. Just bad timing for Hillary because otherwise I think she'd be a fine President and likely our best shot to get a woman as President in a decade. I may be wrong but I don't think so. (In fact, it's why I think the Democratic candidate is likely to wind up being the dark horse, James Webb, the biggest, baddest fighter the Democrats could possibly put up and luckily a smart and articulate economic populist in the bargain.)

I don't think this war-angst and need for leaders who exude male strength applies to elections or candidates at the state level. The voters know that states are about education and transportation and jobs and services. Women are more than fine there.

It's at the federal level that voters want people who will get us out of Iraq with some shred of dignity and some consideration for what we leave behind.

Jim Brunner also held up Cantwell's win over McGavick. Well, as I think about it, I think that McGavick lost for much the same kind of reason that the women candidates did. He comes across as an affable, slightly tipsy uncle who shaves the truth for a good story. At another time, McGavick's image, along with his political legacy, might have carried the day for him. But, that's not what we want or need now.

Cantwell, on the other hand, played it masterfully. She talked about fighting for the people of Washington - against the large energy companies, against Ted Stevens (practically one and the same), against anyone who would do Puget Sound wrong. She never talked about fighting the war in Iraq, since that was clearly a personal quagmire for her, but we all now see her as a fighter, just what we want in a time of war. Especially given the alternative.

In Darcy's race, she was up against an icon of a fighter, the sheriff. Reichert played that to the hilt. In fact, he never talked about any subject without bringing the discussion around to his time on the beat or his time as sheriff. Never. Darcy was a much more nuanced candidate with well thought out ideas, who came very close but couldn't manage to get enough voters to look past that sheriff image. It's a shame but I think it's correct.

No comments: