Gender and race in politics

Politicians were on parade all over the state on July 4th. The primary’s now less than two weeks away.

One of the early surprises to me has been the inability so far of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cathy Cox to project her instinctive ability to connect with speech audiences to the broader campaign. She’s trailing Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor in polls at the moment.

It’s an interesting race. She has very feminine leadership style, I think, while Taylor is — or was — typically masculine. Attempting to preside over a Senate controlled by Republicans may have brought out his feminine non-confrontational side, but if so, I’ve seen little of it.

Women are not necessarily feminine in management or leadership style nor are males necessarily masculine. Some female politicians — Margaret Thatcher was a famous example — have very masculine goverming styles. Some males — Jimmy Carter comes to mind — have more feminine. Some governing situations need one, some another. Clearly, for example, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s consensus-building feminine style was a disaster in the Katrina emergency. But for Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, it’s been just what Atlanta needed following a bully mayor, Bill Campbell. For what it’s worth, I associate a feminine governing style with Democrats — often called the “mommy party” — and a masculine style with Republicans — the “daddy party.” The mommy party expands government; the daddy party applies discipline — or so it once went, anyway. Spendthrift Republicans have confused the equation.

Party distinctions aren’t useful guides, though. Among Democrats, take the Clintons for example. On the day leading up to war, I’d choose Bill. Once the bombs drop, I’d choose Hillary. She’s the warrior. He’s a consensus building pleaser.

Does gender matter anywhere anymore — or is governing style more important? I was once inclined to vote for women, reasoning that they were outsiders and less likely to be part of the good ol’ boys club. Now I see no difference. Conventional political wisdom a few months ago was that Cox had the advantage because she would appeal to women. Now I’ m not so sure that advantage exists. Are we past the point where gender — and race for that matter — are considerations that tempt us to favor one candidate or another?

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By Jim Wooten
Wednesday, July 5, 2006, 06:44 AM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Comments

Love said…
You would think women were not that tough. But then there is Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher.