Posts Tagged US Election

Women and the 2008 Vote

Now this is the kind of news analysis we here in the US could use from our press.  A well traced and comprehensive analysis of what impact women are and will have in this year’s presidential election – It’s not just about the electorate-at-large, but the intelligent, courageous and esteemed surrogates in the news media, entertainment and political circles who are making the strides…

From The Independent (UK):

The high heel vote: How women are winning the US election

 

Rachel Maddow, Samantha Bee and Tina Fey aren’t household names in Britain, but they’re at the vanguard of the feminisation of American politics. Sarah Hughes celebrates an election year in which women have finally moved centre stage – and asks: what next?

Monday, 22 September 2008

Every US election has a series of defining images, a collection of moments where, after the chads have stopped hanging, the votes have been counted, and the President-elect has been named, you can look back and say: “Yes, that was it, this was what that election was really about.”

 

In 1960, it came down to television versus reality. Richard Nixon’s fate was sealed under the unforgiving studio lights as John F Kennedy ushered in a new media age. In 1988, one snapshot of Michael Dukakis looking uncomfortable in a tank was enough to seal his fate as a peace-loving refusenik who would have no idea what to do in a Cold War crisis. And, in 2004, Fox News repeatedly told Americans that John Kerry “looked French”, sealing the Massachusetts senator’s image as an out-of-touch elitist with fancy ways and a foreign wife.

Yet, so far, this election has had no such clear moment. Yes, the John McCain camp have tried to brand Barack Obama as Kerry redux, just another country-club elitist making promises he can’t keep – and yes, the Obama camp have hit back hard at McCain, tying his name to that of President George W Bush in an increasingly tighter series of knots. But neither claim has really struck a resonant chord with the electorate.

Instead, it increasingly looks as though the 2008 presidential campaign is not about the candidates, the gaffes they might or might not make, or even about the issues. This election is really all about women.

And not only in the sense that the Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, is the Republican Party’s vice-presidential candidate, or that New York senator Hillary Clinton narrowly lost the Democrat presidential nomination to Obama. Rather, it is in the growing realisation that the most interesting punditry on both the left and the right is female; that the best political commentary and comedy is female; and so too are those much-fought-over “defining images”, from Palin herself, surrounded by her family on the convention stage, to the Alaskan women who lined the streets to protest at her nomination.

Nowhere are these changes more apparent than on the US cable news channels. Traditionally the home of a type of chest-beating masculinity in which anchors compete to see who can be the most indignantly self-righteous, cable news might seem an unlikely place for a feminist revolution. Yet that’s exactly what’s taking place. The good ol’ boys – Fox’s Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer – are still there, hollering their views, but the most interesting reporting is coming from women.

Leading from the front is MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who was recently handed the coveted 9pm slot. Maddow, who also has a radio show on the progressive station Air America, is an avowed liberal with a background in prison reform and HIV/Aids activism. But it is her style of reporting, rather than her viewpoint, which makes her stand out from the pack.

Maddow doesn’t hide her political opinion – “I’m a liberal, I’m not a partisan, not a Democratic Party hack,” she has said more than once – but nor does she feel the need to berate her audience or her contributors, as Matthews does, or to dress them down in the manner of her mentor Olbermann. Instead, her show, which is climbing up the ratings (recently beating even CNN’s Larry King Live), prefers to gently mock its targets, sending them up with a sarcastic turn of phrase and relying on its host’s congeniality to ensure that there are no hard feelings when she agrees to disagree.

“Everyone always says that Americans vote for the candidate they’d like to have a drink with, and I think the same thing remains true of news anchors,” says Megan Carpentier, who writes for Glamocracy, a political blog aimed at women, in addition to covering politics for the influential feminist website jezebel.com. “It’s not that I wouldn’t like to have a drink with Keith Olbermann or Jon Stewart; I would. But I’d really like to have a drink with Rachel Maddow.”

There’s something about Maddow that inspires otherwise level-headed women to, as Carpentier puts it, “extreme fangirldom”. It’s partly that she comes across as being very down-to-earth – her website proclaims both her hatred of Coldplay and her love of her red pick-up truck, while admitting that she “loves arguing with conservatives and shakes a mean cocktail” – and partly that she is obviously smart, yet so very unshowy with it.

For many female fans, there’s a sense that she could be your sister, if your sister was a former Rhodes scholar with a mean line in wit and a doctorate in political science.

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