September 24, 2010 - That so many women are “getting in the arena, being engaged and mattering” during this campaign year would make the early suffragists proud, political writer and commentator Eleanor Clift told a Samford University audience Sept. 22.
The presence of viable women candidates in many gubernatorial and U.S. senate races around the nation is a far cry from the early suffragists’ struggles described by Clift in her talk, “Women in Politics: From Suffrage to Shattering the Glass Ceiling.”
Even after women voted for the first time in 1920, Clift said, it was assumed for a long time that they would vote like their husbands, or that their vote would simply cancel out their spouse’s. Things began to change with the “gender gap” in 1980 and the “year of the woman” in 1992, when the first major influx of women, mostly Democrats, won elections.
This year’s label, “the Palin effect,” reflects the endorsements that former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has given to female candidates, said Clift, a longtime observer and writer about the Washington power structure and the influence of women in politics.
A contributing editor of Newsweek magazine since 1994, Clift appears as a regular panelist on the syndicated talk show, The McLaughlin Group. Her column, “Capitol Letter,” is posted each Friday on Newsweek.com. Her books include Founding Sisters and the 19th Amendment and Madam President: Shattering the Last Glass Ceiling.
Dubbed “Mama Grizzlies,” the Palin-endorsed campaign hopefuls include Delaware senate contender Christine O’Donnell. “She looks like a young version of Palin, and the media is taken with her,” Clift said of O’Donnell, adding that although some parts of her history make Republicans uneasy about her, “They need Delaware.”
Republicans also have female nominees in senate races in New Hampshire, Connecticut, California and Nevada. GOP contenders for governorships are headlined by California’s Meg Whitman, who has spent $129 million of her own money in the race against Democrat Jerry Brown, said Clift.
There is no doubting Palin’s impact, said Clift, who finds no comparable “queen or king maker” on the Democratic side and sees Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as too controversial for that role. “I don’t see a Pelosi effect,” said Clift.
Former Democrat presidential candidate Hilary Clinton is off the playing field as an endorser because of her position as Secretary of State, though Clift notes that Clinton is getting rave reviews for her diplomatic work, including her attempts to bring peace to the Middle East.
One future scenario involving Clinton, said Clift, has president Barack Obama switching roles for her and vice president Joe Biden. Given that a president likes to set up his successor through the vice presidency, such an arrangement would position Clinton for that to happen.
“It’s something to think about,” said Clift, noting Biden’s previous service as chair of the senate foreign relations committee and the fact that he “would love to be secretary of state.” And while Clift said she doubts that Clinton would ever challenge Obama, “I think she still wants to be president.”
The nation won’t know until election day what effect Palin’s endorsements will have on voters, said Clift. “But we’re seeing her influence shaping the field. It is interesting to see her turn every deficit to her advantage.”
Clift’s lecture was part of the continuing series of A. Gerow Hodges Lectures in Ethics and Leadership hosted by Samford’s Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership.
Clift was at Samford Sept. 20-22 as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, a program of the Council of Independent Colleges that brings prominent artists, diplomats, journalists, business leaders and other professionals to college campuses across the U.S. She spoke to a variety of Samford classes and seminars during her visit.
September 23, 2010 - Newsweek magazine contributing editor Eleanor Clift was on Samford's campus Sept. 20-22 as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. She presented a lecture, spoke in classes and participated in various other activities with students and faculty. This video includes a few clips of her time on campus and a conversation with Dr. John Knapp, Director of the Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership, about women in politics and what young women can do to begin a career in leadership.
For more information on the Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership, visit www.samford.edu/ethics.
Eleanor Clift also was interviewed on Samford's student radio program, Spotlight Samford. For the full interview between Clift and student Lauren Womack, visit spotlightsamford.blogspot.com.
September 8, 2010 - Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow Eleanor Clift of Newsweek magazine will present a free public lecture at Samford Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 6 p.m. in Brock Recital Hall. Her topic will be “Women in Politics: From Suffrage to Shattering the Glass Ceiling.”
Clift, a Newsweek contributing editor, writes about the Washington power structure, the influence of women in politics and other issues. Formerly the magazine’s White House correspondent, she also served as congressional and political correspondent and as deputy Washington bureau chief. Her column, “Capitol Letter,” is posted each Friday on Newsweek.com.
The Samford program is presented by the Frances Marlin Mann Center and its Andrew Gerow Hodges Lecture in Ethics and Leadership. Clift will be in residence at Samford as a Wilson Fellow Sept. 19-24. She will speak in classes and meet with groups of students and faculty.