In the Humble Opinion of LittleBill, Socialist, Atheist, and Humanist
U.S. System Trips Up Women Seeking Presidency

Is There Pattern Here?

From Monsters & Critics: When Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni recently suggested Ehud Olmert should step aside and let her be prime minister, nobody batted an eye over the fact she is a woman.

Golda Meir laid that debate to rest in Israel nearly 40 years ago.

Britain had Margaret Thatcher, Pakistan had Benazir Bhutto and India had Indira Gandhi. Women hold high office in a dozen countries around the world, in Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America, from Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines.

So why has the United States, where Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, never elected a woman to the White House?

Andrew Reynolds, a professor at the University of North Carolina. says, Women have tended to have two main pathways to high office:

  • The first is dynastic, which has been the route in developing countries for many women, like Gandhi and Bhutto, who were daughters of prime ministers.
  • The second pathway is seen in wealthier democracies, where more women pursue careers and political positions that act as a springboard to higher office.
The rules of the game are set up to the advantage of the dominant majority bloc, which is not just Democrat or Republican but is wealthy white males.

You get more and more women in parliament and then you get more and more women in the Cabinet, and then you sort of have this critical mass where it becomes no longer surprising that a woman makes it into being president or prime minister.
Reynolds says the USA is on the latter track but lags many of its European counterparts. Only 16 percent of lawmakers in the U.S. Congress are women. Compared to countries of similar wealth, one would expect 30 to 50 percent.

The U.S. political structure is partly responsible. Many parliamentary systems encourage alternative voices by allowing small parties, but the United States fosters a two-party system in which the parties have to appeal to a broader audience.

Ann Gordon, a political scientist who co-edited the book 'Anticipating Madame President.
Women have more difficulty being elected in presidential systems. Historically, some 69 percent of women leaders have been prime ministers with only 31 percent from presidential systems.
It's a piece of the puzzle, she said, but there are greater challenges.
The single biggest obstacle in this country is that voters are uncomfortable with the idea of a woman who is commander in chief. That's due to gender stereotypes.
Susan Carroll, a senior scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics, said women seeking the presidency still had to address the perception that they were less able than men to deal with military issues and international crises. For example, Clinton, a New York Democrat, has tried to address the issue by sitting on the Senate Armed Services Committee and taking a strong stance on terrorism during debates. It also may be a factor in Clinton's refusal to apologize for her Iraq war vote, an issue that has caused her difficulty among many Democratic constituents.
I don't think Hillary Clinton has the options that other candidates have,' she said. 'She cannot for a moment appear to be weak on defense or admit to any kind of failing like that.
Women also have been hampered by media coverage, which often focuses on their viability as candidates rather than their message. And structural issues have made it difficult for women as well as minorities to pursue the presidency. Carroll:
One of the biggest barriers is simply that we haven't had one. People have to get used to the idea.
Women have been seeking the U.S. presidency since Victoria Clafin Woodhull ran on the Equal Rights Party ticket against Ulysses S. Grant and Horace Greeley in 1872. Despite the difficulties, Gordon says the United States would eventually elect a woman.
It's not a question of if but when. And yeah, I think the time is now.


an average patriot said...

Hi Yellow Dog and Little Bill
I believe the atmosphere in America is still anti woman as far as the Presidency goes. if any woman today stands a chance it would be Hillary but I really don't think so.
You may remember I think Hillary's big plus would be Bill because with her you get him a proven winner in my book.
I do happen to think that Pelosi would be as equally up to the job as Hillary would. The verdict is still out for me as to the viability of Hillary as President.
I would really prefer Gore and not because he is a man but because I think he is supremely qualified to try and clean up after Bush.

Vigilante said...

I don't understand how gender should effect qualification for the Presidency. A strong case can be made for either a law degree or a military career as being an indispensible preparation for presidential consideration. Neither are sufficient; both are preferred. The current occupant of the White House has neither. On the other hand, neither did Reagan.

LittleBill said...

I have to admit that Al Gore is my favorite. (What the Republicans did to him was like throwing this country's greatest treasure down a sinkhole.) Probably he would still be most valuable as Secretary of the Environment.

As for Hillary, she sounds rather strident on stage, but when she is on a Senate Committee, her intelligence and expertise really shine through. I could easily vote for her.

pekka said...

This is a damn nice, interesting and informative post, doggie dear! Personally, I have wrestled with this, the "invisability" of women in American political hiearchy, quite some time, and your post helped me tremendously. In my home country, the new ministerial cabinet has twenty members of which twelve are women. President is also the same gender on her second six year term.

Oh, one more thing! If Zippi Livni would have been the "man" in charge, the Lebanon war fiasco would have never taken place. Despite, that she is a woman, she has bigger balls than Olmert, has the functioning brains, looks better, is straight worward, charming and is the most respected politician in Israel. So, how come an asshat such as Ehud got play the leader?

Vigilante said...

Lil'Bill, I'm not about to vote for Hill in the primary. But, in the general election, I expect to be able to vote for her more enthusiastically than I voted for Kerry in 2004. By far!

Vigilante said...

BTW, Hillary does not want to be compared to Sego!

Beach Bum said...

I would be far more supportive of Hillary if she looked at least half as good in a bikini as Sego. Such as it is she will need to win the nomination first.

Barbara said...

Average Patriot, Believe me, I'm the first to blame President Bush for anything and everything, but the unpopularity of the Republican Party is not his fault alone. Do the names DeLay, Cheney, Lott, Armey, Hastert, Frist, Cunningham and Inhofe ring a bell? The Republicans let their party be hijacked by the neocons and religious nuts as they stood by and did nothing. And now they're crying that it's Bush's fault?

LittleBill said...

You added a lot to chew on, Barbara. Bush is certainly not alone in deserving blame. He is the most dangerous, though, because not changing his mind under any circumstances is his major value. Welcome to my site.

Messenger said...

I am truly surprised at the attitude of the Lexington Parrot-Head. Truly surprised!