There's been a lot of talk about whether "Hillary's Women" will refuse to support Obama and instead choose McCain. I don't know why this topic won't die. I refuse to believe it's real. Am I being obstinate? Mary Katharine Ham asks, will Hillary's women swing? I say no way, if Obama keeps doing what he's been doing and corrects some misinformation, such as the impression many women have that McCain is a moderate. Many attribute Obama's success to his campaign's unique ability to give supporters a feeling of being in the driver's seat, after years of feeling our government ignored our wishes and acted with unilateral abandon. From my.barack.obama.com to "Yes we can," Obama successfully conveyed we're all in this together. He needs our help, we need his. Obama gives us, the voters, a sense of control and voice in our future.
According to a new book, this is the best way to win over women. I don't know about you, but reading lots of stories about how I'm part of a generic pack of women voters does NOT make me happy. I'm not one of Hillary's women, though I supported her for a long time. I'm my own mind.
Let's try out the argument. Here's a quick poll: How many of you belonged to "Women for Hillary"? How many of you, as women, identified with Hillary's particular battles? I would suspect most of us answer no to the first one and yes to the second question.
In their fantastic new book the She Spot, Lisa Witter and Lisa Chen point out that women aren't a niche market, we're the market. That's why trying to reach us with lip-service only efforts like Women for Hillary, when the rest of the campaign tries to avoid any discussion of the candidate's femininity, didn't work. A soft-around-the-edges web page aimed at women won't earn our votes, but a committed effort to achieve social change will- as long you enlist our help. Hillary the candidate, when she talked of her 35 year commitment to making people's lives better, resonated. When Obama talks about his struggle to pay off student loans I'm all, "sign me up."
Why? It's reality, and it's a practical for me. Women, state Witter and Chen, want to feel empowered and in control, and this includes their political activism (this also has a generational component, with Gen Y and the Millennials also enjoying control). If we feel a candidate is out there working on the things we need, we're ready to jump in and support him. On our on terms.
Women, who manage so much at work and home, try to feel competent and in control. If we decide to champion an issue, we want to do it our way. The Clinton campaign didn't let us do this. We were on Clinton's terms, under the famously rigid message control of Hilllaryland and its glossy web pages. Now, the Obama campaign does a fantastic job of giving a sense of control back to grassroots supporters. He can make us believe we're all in this together. If he can continue to do this while resonating on the major issues of today, he'll win women's votes.
So that's one way to look at it. It makes some sense. The truth is, "Hillary's women" is a media-generated catchphrase much as "NASCAR Dad" was. The actual percentage of female, Democratic leaning swing voters, in reality, must be very small (Pollster.com, please come to my rescue and give me a number!). Last election, swing voters were less than 10% of the electorate.
PS: Here's a women's vote-getting angle I think we're just seeing the start of: I think the Obama organization has a silver bullet in the Michelle-Barack relationship dynamic, no matter what Maureen Dowd says. When I see Michelle and Obama together, I see an idealized version of who I would like to be and what I want my marriage to be like. Michelle, the Harvard Law graduate managing kids and a high-paid job, who supports her husband but stays herself. I'm excited to learn more about them. I'll be watching the View on June 18. Will you?
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