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September 18 2015

Fiorina Doesn't Play the Gender Card

Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Day:

Carly Fiorina isn’t Margaret Thatcher, just as her Republican rivals aren’t Ronald Reagan. Yet Ms. Fiorina has a bit of Thatcher about her—and in one way in particular. She isn’t a woman running for president. She’s a presidential contender who happens to be a woman.

--Kimberley Strassel in today's Wall Street Journal

Recently, I've began to wonder if it is just slightly possible in this political season of surprises that the GOP will run a female candidate for president and the Democrats will run a white-haired man (Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders).  It would certainly turned Mrs. Clinton's prime talking point (elect me because I am a woman) on its head.

But if Fiorina were to make it to the top of the ticket, still a long shot but not as much of one as it was a few weeks ago, it would not be because she is a woman and likes to whine about it. It would be because she made it onto the ticket as a candidate with ideas and a persona (yes, Donald) that gave GOP primary voters  the confidence that she could be a good president. She will not play the woman card, as Strassel remarks upon in today's Wall Street Journal:

Women have made remarkable inroads everywhere, but there still may be no tougher realm than Republican politics. This isn’t, as the press suggests, because conservative voters are old fogies who’d chain their wives to sinks full of dirty dishes. It’s because conservative voters demand more from their candidates.

Women Democrats pander on gender issues—abortion, birth control, the myth of unequal pay. They promise female voters special handouts. They pitch their womanhood as a qualification for office. And their base loves it.

Women Republicans don’t get to engage in such vote-buying. They are expected to be principled, knowledgeable, serious. They are expected to propose policies—sometimes unpopular ones—designed to help all Americans. And, because the general public (both right and left) is still new to the idea of a woman president, they are expected to do all this twice as well as men.

This was Elizabeth Dole’s problem in her fleeting 2000 presidential bid. Ms. Dole ran on her gender, arguing America ought to elect its first female president—which was no argument at all. It was a problem in 2012 for Michele Bachmann, who loved to claim special insight as “a mother of five” and a “homemaker.” It was a problem for Sarah Palin, whose occasional flubs allowed late-night comics to undermine her seriousness as a vice-presidential candidate.

The Iron Lady didn’t do identity politics, and Ms. Fiorina doesn’t either. At the debate she offered unadulterated substance. She was informed, focused, specific. Want to know what Carly thinks of Putin? Here. Need Carly to explain how hard it is to alter the 14th amendment? Right at ya. Curious if Carly is familiar with Gen. Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force, and where he’s traveled lately? Boom, boom, boom.

Ms. Fiorina had the opportunity to play the gender card, but she didn’t. Asked about Donald Trump’s comments on her appearance, she might have derided the billionaire as a misogynist. She didn’t. When Chris Christie essentially told her to shut up, she might have looked wounded and wilted. She didn’t.

When Fiorina talks about being a woman, Strassel observes, it is matter-of-factly. I loved her answer as to what woman we should put on the $10 bill:

“I wouldn’t change the $10 bill or the $20 bill. I think, honestly, it’s a gesture,” she said. “We ought to recognize that women are not a special interest group.”

Instead of talking about being a woman, Ms. Fiorina talks about rebuilding the Sixth Fleet. She does know, as the piece pointed out, that a woman has to demonstrate her fitness to be commander-in-chief in a way a male candidate doesn't.  I would disagree with one point Strassel made: I don't think the GOP base has to get used to the idea of woman's running for president.  But the GOP base, to its credit, doesn't think that gender should determine a vote. Neither does Fiorina.

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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