Hot Topic Debate
Talking About the Campaign
BettyConfidential.com’s Managing Editor and Political Editor, Kelly Keenan Trumpbour sat down with the President of Running Start, Susannah Wellford Shakow to discuss some of the hot topics in Election 2008.
We wanted to hear their reactions to the New York chapter of the National Organization of Women criticizing Senator Ted Kennedy for supporting of Barack Obama. Last week, the group lamented that “Sen. Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard.” The group lamented that his support of Obama “is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability—indeed, our obligation—to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a president that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.'” Meanwhile, the national organization distanced itself from the remarks saying “though the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee has proudly endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton for president, we respect Sen. Kennedy’s endorsement. We continue to encourage women everywhere to express their opinions and exercise their right to vote.” BettyConfidential.com wants to know; can you call yourself a feminist and not vote for the only woman running?
Kelly Keenan Trumpbour: I think it is essential for any woman who considers herself a feminist not to cast a vote that is only motivated by gender preference. I am an avid advocate for women’s participation in all levels of politics. I want to live in a society that expects women to hold our highest office. To suggest that the first woman who shows promise should automatically get the feminist vote is to undermine that candidate and any other woman who runs after her. It also does a disservice to women as voters. What about encouraging women to think for themselves as opposed to using peer pressure when exercising their rights under the 19th Amendment?
Would it help if we imagined all the remaining candidates as women? Does anyone really believe that there is one person among the frontrunners who only has their gender to recommend them? Absolutely not. It is one of the reasons that this is such a great election. The stakes are high and so are each candidate’s qualifications and track records. This is what politics is supposed to be about. At a certain level, gender, race, ethnicity and religion should evaporate and we should get down to the nitty-gritty of who is the right person for the job.
Susannah Wellford Shakow: Of course you can call yourself a feminist and not vote for the only woman running, but there are plenty of people out there who will disagree. Many people, men and women, will say that if you don’t support Hillary Clinton, you are abandoning feminism. Personally, I think there is so much more that goes into the decision of who you will vote for. It does a disservice to the office of the president to think otherwise.
I run a nonprofit with a core mission of getting young women elected to public office. People might think that it’s a contradiction for me to say voters should put gender aside when making their decision, but it’s really not. Running Start is about opening the door to women in politics, and keeping it open. That is what is so important. I have heard so many times that women’s rights will take a hit if Hillary Clinton doesn’t win, but I disagree. She has already shown that a woman running for president will be taken very seriously. It’s interesting that in her own campaign she has not played up the historic aspect of what she is doing for women. She could, and that might raise significant support from women who want to see her as their champion. The fact that she hasn’t taken this approach may reveal her own standards of what it should take to win the election.