LatinaLista — With news today that yet another high-profile Latino politician has endorsed Clinton, there is bound to be a new wave of attacks targeting the only female presidential candidate.
Candidate attacks are part of the game but when those attacks target gender rather than issues, then that’s going below the belt â€” so to speak.
In an op-ed written earlier this month for La Politica, I discuss this backlash against Clinton and how the men throwing the attacks are too many times backed up by women.
In a Halloween poll conducted by the Associated Press about which presidential candidate would make the scariest costume, four in 10 men chose Clinton, while one third of women did. Overall, Clinton garnered 37 percent of the vote while the runner-up, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, came in second with 14 percent. None of the other candidates exceeded 6 percent.
Why does Hillary Clinton scare so many men and women? It’s not a trivial question to contemplate, especially for Latinas.
The National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) released a study in January 2007 that found Latinas are increasingly entering the political arena. The study noted that in 1996 there were 907 Latinas in elected office; eleven years later there were 1,574.
Given the successful election of women to the presidencies of Chile and Argentina, it would stand to reason that a woman running for president would be more acceptable in a society that sees itself as the leader of the Free World.
Yet at times, it feels like Hillary inspires almost equal measures of rejection and support.
However, regardless of the poll or pollster, when it comes to Latinos the results are the same. Most Latinos would like to see Clinton win the Democratic presidential nomination.
She enjoys the support of seven Hispanic House members, four of them women. In fact, according to a June Washington Post-ABC News poll (http://www.washingtonpost.co m/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/11/AR2007061102216.html), Clinton’s 15-point poll lead over her opponents was not just attributed to her female support but to specific women her campaign strategists term as “women with needs” – low-income, lower educated.
It is a category overrepresented with Latinas.
To top it off, it’s even acknowledged by the Clinton campaign, pollsters and political analysts that if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination it will be because of the power of the female voter.
Yet, if Clinton really has all this female support, how come women, Latinas or non-Latinas, are not lining up to support her against the petty insults on her wardrobe, accusations of “pulling the gender card” and critics who seem to think the phrase “female presidential candidate” is an oxymoron?
As the presidential debates continue, all are witnessing the “good ol’ boy network” in action. Unfortunately, women are supporting it. For example, after the Philadelphia debate in which Clinton observed how her opponents seemed to delight in “piling on” her by excessively attacking/questioning her stand on issues, Obama accused her of pulling the gender card to deflect political criticism.
His attempt to reduce her remarks to whining that she wasn’t treated fairly carried over to the press where female columnists were just as severe in criticizing Clinton’s performance.
In one column, titled “The pants vs. the pantsuit,” columnist Kathleen Parker stated, “Sorry, but when girls insist on playing hardball with the boys, they don’t get to cry foulâ€¦”
Why not? Male candidates do it all the time and there are no second thoughts about it. Why should a female presidential candidate have to be taken to task for it?
“We tend to hold other women to higher standards and scrutiny than we do men. One big way to help change (the behavior) is to NOT do this,” said political scientist Georgia Duerst-Lahti during a State Department sponsored webchat.
It’s obvious that a woman infiltrating the topmost-tier of political influence is unsettling, not just for her opponents but for a society that prides itself on claiming it’s the land of gender equality and on the other hand routinely sees successful females in a lesser light.
The negative reaction to Hillary Clinton on the basis of gender is a flashing yellow light to the many Latinas on the threshold of entering the political arena in greater numbers.
As of now, NALEO notes that Latinas hold a greater share of elected positions in higher offices in the United States when compared to the level of representation for all female officeholders.
The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University found that while women hold 21.5 percent of the nation’s State Senate seats and 24.2 percent of the State lower house seats, Latinas comprise 33.3 percent of the Latino State Senators and 25.4 percent of the Latino State lower house members.
It’s appalling that women candidates must continue to be distracted from the real issues at hand in order to defend themselves because of ethnicity or gender or both.
It is offensive, outmoded and discourages aspiring Latina candidates from running for office.
Isn’t it time we mujeres had each other’s back?