In the coffee shops, grocery stores, beauty salons, and on the streets I hear, "Finally, a chance to vote for a woman!" "We're part of history!" The selection of Governor Sarah Palin as Senator John McCain's running mate is historic in that this is the first time a woman has been on the Republican ticket. Have we forgotten Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984? A look further back in history reveals Marie C. Brehm as the first legally qualified female vice-presidential candidate. Just four years after women were allowed to vote in federal elections, she ran in 1924 for the Prohibition Party receiving 56,289 votes in 16 states.
I also hear a lot of talk speculating that women will now vote for Palin merely because of her gender. Women who were previously undecided or who had been supporting Senator Hillary Clinton are expected to vote McCain/Palin. I just don't get it. The early suffragettes who truly suffered in order to win the right to vote would be puzzled. In 1917 Lucy Burns, Dora Lewis, and Alice Paul were among the women who endured beatings, jail, and torture. They were fighting for the rights of women to make choices. Compared to their struggles, the feminist wave of the 1970's was tame. This time media savvy women used words and images to get the message out. We fought for equal opportunity, equal reward, and still the right to make choices.
Since then, political activists have strategized to place qualified women and minorities in key positions in order to give people more choices - choices other than the same old white guys from the "old boys' network". Of course, Palin is not the presidential candidate. If the Republicans win this election, John McCain will be sworn in as president. There are those who believe that because of his age he will not complete his first term in office. I watched his 96-year-old mother at the convention and think that genetics are on McCain's side.
To think that women would blindly vote for a presidential ticket merely because the second slot has been given to a woman is appalling; especially if those women formerly professed support for Senator Hillary Clinton. Senators McCain and Clinton don't share the same views on many issues; their management styles are completely different; and their records demonstrate clear policy differences. Clinton and Palin are so completely opposed in their political views, it has been said that the only thing they share is their gender.
If gender is the deciding factor in this election, then perhaps these women should be taking a closer look at the Green Party where Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente are the candidates for president and vice-president.
This is a historic election year for several reasons. This is also a time in history that calls for all people to make informed choices. Too often America's citizens vote based on political party or personality or even the ethnic sound of a candidate's name. Not this year - the future of our country is too important. There are two men who each want you to go to the polls and cast your vote for them. They have each chosen running mates perceived to add strength to their political team. We each have a duty to study the candidates' stands on issues, a responsibility to decide who will best lead our government for the next four (or more) years, and a choice based not on race or gender or political party but on qualifications.
Through history, people have literally fought and suffered to bring broader political choices to voters. It hasn't been about carrying picket signs or burning bras. In the novel "The Women's Room", one of the characters states, "A woman is a person who makes choices." If women truly study the candidates and believe John McCain is going to be the leader to pull our country out of the quagmire we're in; if women share Sarah Palin's views, then they will have made an informed choice in casting a McCain/Palin vote. If they mark the ballot based on gender alone, women's rights have been pushed back hundreds of years into history.
Sonja Kosler, Dent