December 26, 2011 / Leadership, Politics

Women to the Rescue: Clinton, Palin and Bachmann


Over the last two weeks, as Newt Gingrich’s nomination prospects have been falling, voters’ dissatisfaction has been rising, and it has become clear that the presidential contest will likely be between incumbent President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, an amazing thing has been happening.

Three women have been rising in the presidential field. Two are not even running.

Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin are the subjects of media speculations and draft efforts from former supporters (see: Clinton, Clinton, Palin, and Palin). While neither Clinton nor Palin appears interested in joining the 2012 presidential fray, the desire for them to jump into the race seems to be more than what the Los Angeles Times deemed “the silly season” at work. Even though many – especially negative – presidential campaigns include moments of buyers’ remorse, it isn’t often that Americans have hoped their knight in shining armor would be a woman.

Perhaps it’s because, as the Barbara Lee Family Foundation’s research from the 2010 gubernatorial races found, “More than ever, gender has the potential to become a strategic asset for women running for executive office.” Maybe it’s because women in traditionally male dominated arenas like politics and sports are earning rave reviews (Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Women’s Soccer sensation Abby Wambach).

Or maybe it’s because both Clinton and Palin are fighting “good fights,” standing up for Americans in Washington and women around the world. They’re using their voices to take on the powerful and support the underdogs. Who doesn’t want more in their positions to show that kind of courage and leadership?

Whatever the cause of these presidential wishes, the trend appears to be helping Representative Michele Bachmann in Iowa. After having won the Ames Straw Poll in August, breaking that state’s glass ceiling, Bachmann is again on the upswing. And Gingrich’s patronizing treatment of her seems more likely to backfire on him than hurt her in the Hawkeye State on January 3rd.

Should Bachmann best Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Senator Rick Santorum, landing her in fourth place (or third, if Gingrich slips more) behind Romney, Representative Ron Paul, and Gingrich, she’d instantly become the surprise story out of Iowa, and in turn become Romney’s most serious competition in South Carolina. Even though she may not prevail against Mitt’s money and organization, Michele will have shown again that women not only deserve to be in presidential contests, but that they can be tough competitors. This is miles away from five years ago, before Clinton and Palin made their marks on the 2008 race. And it’s something to celebrate as we roll in another election year!

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  • Bes

    Who knows, maybe Americans Elect will offer women candidates for President and vice President. If they do they will have my vote and the votes of many. That would really shake up the corrupt two party male only system.

  • Henrietta

    I don’t think that Palin or Clinton will run and I do not want to see Bachmann get the nomination. Like Santorum, she is just too extreme for most Americans. Still, I appreciate ALL three women’s media presence as they will inspire countless other women. Even with Bachmann, whom I dislike immensely, I can point to pictures of her while in the checkout line at the supermarket and tell my daughter, “SHE is running for President!”

  • ryan

    What about Olympia Snow or Sen. Cantwell to the rescue? where are the moderate women in these election cycles? That’s where the final victories for women in politics will come from.

  • Kathleen Wynne


    I think these 3 women were chosen because they are the women running in presidential campaigns and the resulting sexist/misogynistic vitriol they have had to endure by doing so.

    While I have the greatest respect for Snow and Cantrell, they have not faced what these women have faced (and I believe it’s because they have not been viewed as a direct threat to the patriarchial political establishment.) If either of these women ever decided to run for what appears to be considered the “private preserve” of “male” politicians and a “women need not apply” mentality, I’m sure they will get the same treatment.

    Moreover, Hillary, Sarah and Michelle have that women can go toe to toe with men running for president and in Hillary’s case, outdo them with her breadth of knowledge of the issues, the ability to offer realistic and practical solutions and the ability to communicate this to the American people. Hillary showed the country that running for president has had nothing to do with qualifications and ability, but maintaining power and control by the male run establishment.

    It’s no wonder our country is in such dire straits.

  • yttik

    Ryan, there’s no such thing as a moderate women in politics. I guarantee you, any woman who runs will be portrayed as extreme, evil, stupid, having scary eyes, being too corporate, too left, too right, too hot, too cold. There’s no such thing as a moderate woman in politics.

  • Bes

    Snowe and Cantwell go without notice because they are from outside the east coast federal political center. They are also from states that are far less sexist than New York, and DC. Unfortunately the Corporate Media is from New York and think that all things New York are the best in the world. Probably the two most backward places in the world in terms of misogyny are the Corporate Media and East Coast Federal politics and the rest of the country is held hostage to their determined backwardness. If either Cantwell or Snowe get in to Presidential politics they will immediately be hickized by the political parties and Corporate Media who are so bigoted they think everyone who isn’t from their narrow circle are stupid rubes.

  • Sandress

    Bes, I’m from WA, and trust me, we’re not winning any egalitarian awards out here. Cantwell has probably never been considered a threat (or Gregoire for that matter). And in addition to not being from out east, it probably has to do with her propensity to play nice with the party machinery. She has shown no inclination to make a fuss over anyone.

  • Greetings:

    This is an update on Bachmann’s chances. It saddens me to say that since I wrote this blog post about a week ago, Bachmann’s campaign has been in a rapid downward tailspin (See:

    What this means is that she could well finish last (or close to it, if Huntsman receives what he is polling in IA, which is about 2%). Should this happen, it will be unfortunate for women. People (read: political pundits) will say that she ran a poor campaign and was not a credible candidate. And because she was the only woman in the race, it will reinforce the stereotype that women presidential candidates are not ones to take that seriously (she’ll likely get lumped in with Carol Moseley Braun and Elizabeth Dole down the road who are often described as “also-rans”).

    What does this mean for the future? It means that as I type, former Senator, now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been the only woman who has credibly run for POTUS (Palin was running for VP, and then she chose not to run this time around). And that means that we, as women, have a lot of work to do to ensure that next time – 2016 – we have a handful of women candidates at the ready to jump in the presidential contest because it’s not going to be easy to re-establish a woman candidate’s substantive appeal, after this cycle reverses the 2008 presidential trend of women making cracks in the glass ceiling all over the country (which Palin did help Clinton do because she was the “first female VP pick” for the Republicans).

    So, whether it is Senator Cantwell (By the way, I still can’t figure out why she wasn’t put on “Supercommittee” – which was supposed to work out both tax reform and entitlement reform. With her impressive business background, she should be a leading voice in Washington’s fiscal debate) or Senator Snowe (She’s been involved in not only economic issues on the Finance Committee, but also foreign affairs as a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence), or Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico, or any of the other women senators and state executives who runs for president makes no difference to me. The only thing that matters, as far as I’m concerned, is that we work together over the next four years to make sure that women have a place in the presidential nomination process.

    And if Bachmann surprises me and places fourth or higher in Iowa (as I had hoped she would last week), I will be the first to shout from the rooftops, “finally, we’re making some progress and we now have another election cycle to build upon!”

    Thanks for reading and commenting!
    Best wishes,

  • Bes

    Sandress: Washington state has two women Senators and a woman Governor, women can get on the ballot here and gat elected and when they do the issues are discussed and there is no load of sexist bullshit from the local WA state media like you see come out of the east coast media. Seriously if local media acted in the sexist manner that the New York media do people would shoot out their windows and all hell would break loose. The only reason the Corporate Media get by with sexism is because they don’t function in a free market, we have zero choice about what channels we pay for and Corporate Media basically force feeds what ever sexist nonsense they choose into our homes while denying a voice to authentic women. Do I think it is perfect in Washington? No I don’t but we are light years ahead of the New York Corporate Media and east coast political parties when it comes to women.

  • Bes

    Women did not make any cracks in the Federal politics glass ceiling in 2008. What was clarified for us was that even if a woman can win the majority of the votes of The People as Hillary did, the Democrat and Republican Apparatchiks will corrupt the democratic process to what ever degree is necessary to keep her from being nominated. If that means throwing out Primary votes, they did it. If that means corrupting caucuses, they did it. If that means threatening the leading candidate to get out of the race before the kabuki nominating convention starts, they did it. Women will never be able to run for President under the current system.

    Also our “democracy” is a joke. Yeah I am registered to vote and I would like to vote in the Primary but the presidential candidates are picked by the “more equal” people back east. It’s nothing but a farce. So I’m curious, when do the people in Washington and other western states get to vote? Who thought up this plan because it’s not democracy in my book.

  • ryan

    My state of Oregon is very much like WA. We have a bit more work to achieve gender parity though. It was unfortunate that the two groups so brutally oppressed historical had to compete to break the same glass ceiling.

  • Henrietta


    I was disappointed to see Santorum surging this week while Bachmann descends. Santorum, like Bachmann, are to the right of most Americans so I didn’t feel that either would do very well. But if it has to be one or the other doing well, I would rather Bachmann who could at least be a positive political presence for women and girls. I’m not sure if Santorum’s surge versus Bachmann’s decline has anything to do with sexism though. Could it be that Bachmann just peaked too early? Timing is always so crucial in politics. Bachmann has received some sexism during her campaign but nothing compared to what Clinton and Palin endured. But perhaps the big guns only come out when one is truly a threat…

  • Kathleen Wynne


    Backmann has consistently been ahead of Santorum in the polls in Iowa until the last week and a half when it was leaked to the press that a pastor had supposedly asked her to bow out of the race (not Santorum) and then her Iowa State Chairman resigned and joined Ron Paul’s campaign. Coincidence? I think not.

    I don’t agree with many of Backmann’s policies, but she has been consistent and she has led the way in helping the Tea Party catch fire in D.C. during its early inception. Let’s not forget that Iowa is so conservative that they have never elected a woman to the House, Senate or as their governor and so this treatment of Backmann is reminicent of that they did to Hillary in trying to get her to bow out of the race too, despite being imminently more qualified than Obama.

    They’ve learned how to make sexism a little more “subtle” in their treatment of Michelle, as opposed to all of the guys in the race, but it’s there and you can see it and feel it by the way the press reports on her campaign, as opposed to the guys. Who in their right mind thinks Rick Perry has shown himself to be more qualified, much less an able debator, than Backmann? But he still gets treated with respect.

    I’ve learned by what they did to Hillary, who is was an extraordinary candidate, that any woman, no matter how qualified, or articulate, or exhibiting excellent leadership qualities, the MSM and the pundits, predominantly male and their female enablers, will always find fault with the woman and make excuses for the men.

    Women have to come to terms that men more than not will support a man (no matter his faults and failures) over a woman 99 out of 100 times. As far as I’m concerned, any woman willing to take on the patriarchy and say she is more qualified than the boys running against her, deserves our support. Otherwise, and history has proven this, lesser men will win every time.

  • Kimble

    I admire Bachmann for her tenacity throughout the campaign, and even for jumping in in the first place. I am sure that people told her to run for senate first, or to sit 2012 out because Palin was expected to run, and heaven forbid there should two women in the republican race!

    She stuck to her guns. She has had some messy moments–but male candidates make gaffes, have finance issues, staff turnover, etc.–all the time! Doesn’t stop them. I think MB’s presence in all of those debates has been important.

    With all of that said, I do believe that Bachmann’s politics keep her from having a broader appeal. I saw today that Nicki Haley endorsed Romney. Ayotte as well. Women who rode the 2010 TP wave in to office are steering clear of a TP favorite, I guess because they don’t see her as electable.

  • Kathleen Wynne


    I agree with all that you said above, but if it’s true that MB’s politics limit her appeal, please explain Rick Santorum’s appeal! His fundamentalist beliefs don’t seem to hurt him the same way they hurt MB. Why not?

    Maybe we should ask ourselves, if any of the men running were women and all had the same beliefs, record, gaffes, ethical and moral issues, would they be treated in much the same way MB is and has been treated? If we can say yes to that question then we have to accept that sexism is still alive and well and no matter what a woman believes, she will be scrutinized to an impossible degree and be held to an equally impossible standard than any of the men running.

    Now I have to ask, knowing that the double standard is keeping women back and it has raised its ugly head again and again and overtly expressed against extraordinary women like Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and yes, Michelle Backmann and others (women who are all political different on many levels), why then do women continue to engage in it against each other? Is the conditioning imposed upon us from birth by a patriarchial run society so powerful and prevalent that it is impossible to break from oppressing ourselves and other women for fear that we might offend our male oppressors?

    If we could honestly figure the answer to this question, I believe we could then figure out the solution in our rising above it, and have no problem facing the onslaught of criticism and push back by those men who still want to keep us in our place, which will surely come when we do.

    A small price to pay for breaking free of the chains that continue to bind us, if you ask me.

  • Henrietta

    Thank you, Kathleen. I did not know about the Iowa pastor so now I am convinced that it is indeed sexism that has Bachmann behind and the equally, if not more egregious Santorum ahead. This troubles me. As I said, I’d rather a Bachmann than a Santorum!

    In regard to Perry, I don’t watch television but from what I read and observe it seems a lot of people in the public and the media consider him a joke now.

  • Kimble

    Of course there is sexism at work in the dynamic between Bachmann and Santorum. I think Bachmann has had to work extra hard emphasizing her economic and nat’l security bona fides because of her gender. She also has not emphasized social issues as much, less she be called a “whacko” or somesuch.

    Santorum, meanwhile, has succeeded lately by throwing social-issue red meat to the Iowa base. In the last few days, every time I check the headlines there is something about Santorum and sodomy laws or Santorum and birth control.

    And of course their are folks who flat out won’t vote for a woman. Santorum was endorsed by the Duggar family–you know, the people with 19 kids and the reality show. They seem like genuinely friendly people, but really, their views on women seem to be straight from the 19th century (no pants (!), no real careers, must go straight from parents’ house to husband’s house, etc.)

  • Great article and comments Lara. Was just reading that according to Wasserman Schultz:

    “I’m a hundred percent confident that Joe Biden and Barack Obama are gonna run together as a team,” the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee said Tuesday on MSNBC.

    She said “no” directly in response to a straight question as to whether Clinton would be on the ticket instead of Biden.

  • ryan

    It is truly difficult to understand how such a large part of the electorate (women) have such a difficult time unifying. If women responded the way African Americans do when one of their own reaches the top, Women presidents would be so common no one would even be talking about its novelty. It is a political emergency for women and for your daughters that this union happen. TNA is clearly trying very hard to achieve this goal but sometimes it seems like it’s up against a political tidal wave in the opposite direction.

  • Kathleen Wynne


    Yes, it is an anomoly as to why women have a difficult time unifying. The reasons I have been able to come up with are:

    1. Conditioning of girls, which starts at birth and continues throughout their lives. For example, By age 11 children are aware that the female gender role is less valued than the male role. They believe that there are greater restrictions on behavior for females and that there is gender-based discrimination (Intons-Peterson, 1988). Girls more often have lower expectations of success than boys (Ruble, Gruelich, Pomerantz, & Gochberg, 1993). Girls may be more stressed by the burgeoning of their sexuality and their sexual desirability. (Astin, Korn, Sax, & Mahoney, 1994.

    2. POWER held predominately by men, giving them more options to create laws and influence society in a way that favor them over women.

    When women have tried to unite, the viseral response by the patriarchy is devastating to those women who do try to stand up to the status quo of male dominance and control. It’s easier said, than done, to overcome these overwhelming obstacles, which have had thousands of years to solidify and this misogynistic attitude is pervasive in every culture — some more than others — just ask the women of the Mideast, China and Africa, to name just a few.

    I hope someday women will finally come to the point where they have no choice but to unify, because the way things stand right now, there is very little time left to stop the world from going over the cliff into a sea of violence, greed and corruption.

  • Anita Finlay

    I think too many women grade themselves very hard, and as a result, project that grading system onto other women, expecting the perfection they expect of themselves. I don’t see that they have those expectations of men –certainly not in the political arena.

    Thank you for this article!