Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s campaign collapsed to it inevitable death on Wednesday, following her dismal performance in the Iowa Caucus. Coming in last, she announced that she was suspending her presidential campaign. It’s been an interesting, and colorful, run that gave late night comics plenty of material as Bachmann steadily provided punchlines and soundbites with a succession of political gaffes.
But as enjoyable as her political failure is for us on the right, I still can’t help but notice that yet again, a female candidate’s attempt at storming the White House has been stymied. Now, I’m not arguing that Bachmann would have been a good candidate – she would’ve been terrible. But let’s be honest, even when good-to-great candidate ran like the late Shirley Chisholm, former Illinois Senator and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, their ambitions were met with failure.
Are we as a country ready yet for a female commander-in-chief?
The question is a good one because we are living in a world where many of our allies have or have had female heads of state. In fact, arguably the biggest player in the Euro Zone crisis has been German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. And in the past decade, Latin American countries like Brazil, Peru and Argentina have elected female leaders.
So what is happening with the United States? Is it a case of cultural sexism that seems to inevitably drop an impermeable block against female candidates? Or is it a case of the U.S. lacking strong female political figures? Is it both? Is it something completely different?
Women running for president isn’t a new phenomenon – since the 1860s, over 70 women have run for president – now, admittedly none have been nominated by a major party, and the women that have been nominated by a party, often represented fringe groups that never had a spitting chance of winning.
Of course 2008 did chance some perceptions of women in politics, thanks mainly to the campaigns of Clinton and Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin (only the second woman to be tapped by a major party as VP on a ticket). The question is, did the presence of Clinton and Palin change the rules of the game as well as common perception: are we now more receptive toward female politicos because of Clinton’s narrow loss and Palin’s VP candidacy?
When Michele Bachmann ran she was decidedly running on a conservative platform that seemed hostile to many women and not receptive to women’s issues. That doesn’t mean to say that she was spared some of the ugly sexism that Clinton and Palin had to endure; because women haven’t inserted themselves in the presidential wrestling ring, pundits, opponents, and the media often don’t know how to cover and handle them. The language that covered Bachmann often slid into safe, sexist-talk, depicting her as a harpy, a “Queen of Mean,” and a harridan. There was also commentary on her physical appearance, as well, which is a safe-bet for a lot of misogynists who don’t like seeing women take on political guises.
And I’m not saying all this because I think Bachmann’s even remotely qualified to be president – because she’s not. Her initial burst of popularity was more akin to a talking dog syndrome (which unfortunately, is fed by the novelty of female presidential candidates). She had a tenuous grasp of the issues and her idea of a presidency was more aligned with a schoolmarm’s sanctimonious preaching of morality than actual policy making.
Still, her failure in reaching her goals is just another notch in a growing number of women who have run for president only to be thwarted or defeated. After 2016, when Obama bows out as president after his second term, there will be a new raft of names jostling for the nomination on both the Republicans’ side and the Democrats. I’m hoping that there will be at least one woman (preferably a Democrat), and I’m also hoping that she will be qualified. I also hope she’ll have a better time than her predecessors.