There they were on the front page of the New York Times on Thursday, Bush and Rummy, stooped and graying, while below the fold is a smiling Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi, her honey-brown coif blown-dry to perfection. On an inside page, under an umbrella to keep her frosted blond locks smooth and dry, Hillary was shown sidestepping the puddles and the reporters’ one-and-only question (“Are you running yet?”) as she went to thank her supporters. No answer from Hillary, but I don’t suppose she is capable of standing still, especially now that Nancy is getting so much attention. Yes, guys — as every female who ever attended high school with the queen bees and mean girls knows, women are just as ambitious and competitive as men.
It is the year of the experienced woman, and they touched up their roots last week to be ready for their election day red-carpet moment. The experienced Democratic women did, that is. While Nancy Johnson in Connecticut and Sue Kelly in New York and Ann Northrup in Kentucky — all good, experienced women — were defeated in seats that will be hard for Republicans ever to win back, the Democrats not only elected more women, but the most prominent faces of their party are wearing blusher these days.
Another dismaying development is that the gender gap in voting, which had been eroding, especially in the last two elections, is on the rise again. Exit polls showed that, in congressional races, women voted 55 percent to 43 percent for Democrats. (Republicans didn’t do so hot with men either this time. They voted 50 percent to 47 percent for Democratic candidates, which is amazing and sobering.) And though I don’t know for sure that more women than men consider themselves independent voters, I have a suspicion that this is the case. Republican congressional candidates really got slammed by the independents, who, according to exit polls, voted 60 percent to 38 percent for Democrats.
The election was a national, not a local mandate, and one wonders if, with a 24/7 news cycle, there ever can be a local midterm election again. Pollster David Winston noted that 64 percent of Americans had heard of Judge Alito in less that a week after his nomination. (No doubt they have forgotten his name since he was confirmed.) In an even shorter amount of time, in the first week in October, 87 percent of Americans had heard of Mark Foley, and you know what they thought of him and the Republican leadership.
The increasing influence of the media is also important when it comes to women. Women are the primary consumers of television, even of the network news programs. And, besides Rosie’s commentary on The View, women’s magazines chimed in with an anti-Bush message this month. The lead article in the November Vogue, for example, was a woman’s reminiscence of her childhood president, FDR, and her wishful “what a difference it would make to trust the president.” Women’s magazines won’t be shy in boosting Democrats in 2008, especially if that party’s candidate is a woman.
The issues that are really important to most women weren’t discussed in this election. Yes, we heard about the war in Iraq and the losses of our troops, but we didn’t hear enough about how this congress and this president were keeping our children safer at home. We didn’t hear enough about our strong economy and our lower taxes. (Remember, in many families, it is women who pay the bills — and start the small businesses.) We didn’t hear that our welfare rolls have shrunk, that our children’s schools are better, and that — whether conservatives like it or not — our parents have stopped complaining about the cost of their prescription drugs during every “How are you feeling, Mom?” conversation.
While there were a lot of women running in this election, too few of them were Republican women. Of the twelve women who ran for the Senate, eight were Democrats, and of the 139 women who ran for the House, 97 were Democrats. There will be a record 16 women senators in the new congress, but only five are Republicans. Democrats and their donors have spent years recruiting women to run. Republicans have just not done a good job that way either.
But that’s enough of my mother-of-two scolding voice. I am going to do what women tend do before a really good day or after a really bad one. Yes, I am going to the hairdresser’s.
— Myrna Blyth, long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness — and Liberalism — to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.