“I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’ I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!… You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it.”(Peter Finch as Howard Beale in the 1976 movie “Network”)
The women of America are angry in this election year, and rightfully so. And it’s not the professional “women’s advocates” this time; it is, for the lack of a better description, the “silent majority of women.”
It is women across the political spectrum. It is women who are single, or married or divorced. It is women who are homemakers and in the workforce or both. Women who are professionals, and merchants and factory workers. But mostly, it is women who are only tangentially interested in politics.
I learned from my friend Barbara Wilson who was, during my twenty years in the communications business, my client, my witness, my boss, and my colleague, that there are times to sit quietly and listen uncritically when looking for answers in unfamiliar territory. So I have been — listening that is — and last week, during a gathering of friends, the light came on about why women are angry about the political process.
I want you to meet a good friend of mine. Her name is Paula. She has been a working mother, and now a working grandmother, her whole adult life. She has raised three children — including a stint as a single mother after her divorce. She is now remarried to a man who can only be described as the “salt of the earth.” Most of her business career has been in the grocery industry and she has risen through the ranks, been “surplused” as the result of mergers, passed over in favor of men that she has had to subsequently train, hired, fired, promoted, lateraled and emjoyed many of the successes and suffered most of the indignities that employment imposes on all of us.
She is a registered independent. And Paula is mad as hell and she isn’t going to take it anymore.
Paula says that she tries to begin each day with the belief that things are balanced, equal, and that people will be judged by their performance and not some other criteria. For the most part Paula believes that is the case but she recognizes that often times life isn’t fair and she sees that in this year’s presidential selection process.
Paula’s anger began with the treatment of Sen. Hillary Clinton during the Democrat primary. There are few issues upon which Paula and Hillary Clinton would agree but Paula admired Hillary greatly for her courage, her work ethic, her abilities and her mental toughness. She felt that Hillary held herself back in 2004 in order to prove herself — to demonstrate by her work in the United States Senate that she had a command of the issues, a demonstrable policy agenda, and a record of success. Paula recognized a similar trait among working women who must prove themselves repeatedly before they are ever accepted as a peer. And Paula saw repeatedly the fact that nobody demanded a similar demonstration of competency from Sen. Barack Obama — a freshman senator with virtually no accomplishments by which he could be measured.
Her anger continued when she watched as the press and pundits critiqued Hillary for her dress, her hair styles, and her appearance. They made snide remarks about her preference for pantsuits speculating that they were designed to hide a large derriere. Her voice was shrill, her laugh was contrived, and she seemed to be “hard”, “brittle” and “calculating.” Nothing was ever said of Obama’s appearance. And in this she recognized experiences that she and other women executives had endured in their own careers. She remembered the tightrope they had all had to walk when, in meetings, they had to appear knowledgeable and decisive without being “overbearing.”
And Paula was dismayed as she watched as Hillary rolled out policies and positions, defended them, and held fast to them, while Obama was allowed to criticize them without having any policies of his own. She was particularly incensed that, in the end, Obama has adopted virtually all of Hillary’s policies and been accorded acclaim as if they were his own. Paula recognized the number of times that women have been passed over for promotion and been forced to train the persons who got it — to watch as the men take credit for the very ideas given them by these same women.
But the final indignity for Paula was that Obama did not even ask — did not even consider — Hillary for his running mate. The fact that Obama vetted scores of other potential running mates without doing the same for Hillary is viewed by Paula as the ultimate slap in the face. She recounts that John Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson as a running mate because of his strong vote in the primaries. Ronald Reagan chose George H.W. Bush for the same reason. Neither was particularly fond of their choice but they recognized the importance of honoring those who supported their rivals.
It was an emotional day for Paula when Hillary suspended her campaign and conceded the nomination to Obama. She may have never voted for Hillary but she still admired her — and she was angry at the treatment she received.
But Paula went from angry to “mad as hell” in the aftermath of Sen. John McCain’s selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. The echo from the microphones had barely died before the press and pundits went after Palin with a vengeance. And, for Paula, it was the same thing all over again — they talked about Palin’s appearance (hair up or hair down), her husband, her family, and her life. They speculate about her ability to be a wife, mother and public official. The denigrated the fact that she is a product of small towns and rural states. They made jokes about the fact that she is a “hockey mom”, or that she is a hunter or that she fishes with her husband. Precious little time is devoted to her policies, her accomplishments or her career — all of which are superior in time and experience to those of Obama. In Paula’s words, “How can you argue about Sarah Palin’s qualifications if you are prepared to accept those of Barack Obama?”
Paula states that Sarah Palin doesn’t represent the values of the “women’s advocates” that have monopolized the political stage for so long. But, for Paula, she does seem to reflect the values of many women today who are primarily concerned with their families, with their nation’s security and with the prospects of a good job in a stable economy. And those, folks, are the issues that are near and dear to their hearts and they are sick and tired of watching those issues ignored while women candidates like Hillary and Sarah are denigrated for everything else but the issues.
Rep. Linda Flores once told me of a survey that indicated that women voters were “shoppers” as opposed to men who were “brand loyalists.” In other words, women seized upon issues that were important to them and migrated to candidates who reflected those views regardless of party affiliation while men tended to support their party’s candidate regardless of issues.
America’s politicians may be just about to get an education from the American women who are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.