- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 17, 2008


At the Washington School in the Mississippi Delta where Jane Elliott Crawford teaches history and economics, each of the four class presidents is a female student.

“The girls are getting in leadership roles and giving the boys a run for their money,” Mrs. Crawford said.

The “girls” and grown women, too, continue to break barriers as witnessed by the likes of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. That never-say-die candidate, who will undoubtedly remind her angry supporters that boys don’t play fair, just won’t stop running for commander in chief even after she lost her 2008 presidential bid to Sen. Barack Obama.

In a natty nod to their core constituency and the largest voting bloc in the nation, women, the Democrats will allow Mrs. Clinton’s name to be entered into nomination for a roll-call vote during their convention in Denver next week.

It seems no small coincidence that the party planners scheduled their fete to coincide with the 88th anniversary of the passage of women’s suffrage. But the DNC planners must have called the wrong psychic hot line way back when they obviously assumed that history would be made for their party on the basis of sex, rather than ethnicity, as it turned out.

So much for cosmetic political gestures. Politicians don’t get it that the electorate, especially women, can look straight through the pink powder puffs and see there is noting there but smoke and mirrors.

“Truly, neither candidate is really addressing women’s issues, and we’re not going to hear it because both are trying to move to the center,” Mrs. Crawford said.

Women’s issues are too progressive, she reasons, and neither candidate can afford to be seen as too progressive. Still, she intends to give her lukewarm support to Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. His record is more conservative than Mr. Obama’s in her view, and folks in her neck of the woods are bred to be very conservative.

Mrs. Crawford, 56, says she’s “lily white,” a moderate Republican, and lives in Greenville, Miss., where she also jokingly added: “We hunt and fish, and look at road kill.”

Naturally, as a high school teacher and a mother with two children in college, she wants to hear more about education reform during the presidential campaign. But she also cares greatly about the rising cost of energy and fuel consumption.

As Liz Shirley, director of the Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus, told the Associated Press last month, “You can’t say ‘women’s issues’ anymore, but ‘issues important to women.’”

Exactly. Long gone are the days when most women simply hankered for a female face to represent them in leadership positions. Today’s women and working mothers say they need substantive, long-term solutions that will assist them as they attempt to hold their homes and their families together in these trying economic times.

“I’m not talking about equal rights because we already have the laws for that on the books. Family, children, schools, but [the candidates] are not talking about that,” Mrs. Crawford said.

Mr. Obama backed Senate legislation that would make it easier for women to sue for unequal-pay discrimination. Mr. McCain opposed it, although he told a group of Minnesota businesswomen that he would work to make sure than any barriers to their advancement are eliminated. Mr. McCain touts his economic plan of business tax cuts, lower spending and expanded trade as beneficial for women.

Mr. Obama, who is pro-choice, fares well with single women of every race. He lags behind with older, white women, many of whom supported Mrs. Clinton and are still smarting about her primary defeat.

Mr. McCain, for his part, has also angered some women in the past for some off-color remarks he has made about women, including Mrs. Clinton, her daughter Chelsea, and his wife (most recently at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, where he suggested that Cindy McCain enter a biker-babe contest). Receiving zero ratings from pro-choice groups like NARAL, Mr. McCain voted against a Senate amendment requiring insurance companies to cover birth-control pills although some of those companies pay for Viagra.

However, the presumptive Republican nominee, who is pro-life, also raised concerns among the party’s conservative Christian core last week when he campaigned in Pennsylvania with former Gov. Tom Ridge, who is pro-choice, and floated him as a possible running mate.

Mr. Obama supports expansion of child and family leave, while Mr. McCain says it should be subject to negotiations between management and labor. Mr. Obama proposes giving tax breaks to seniors. Mr. McCain wants to offer private savings accounts to younger voters in lieu of Social Security benefits in the future.

As for the spouses of both candidates, working mothers in their own right, have weathered blistering criticisms during the petty presidential campaign. However, each woman can point to successful projects she has completed on behalf of women and children, which are bound to continue no matter which moves into the White House.

Michelle Obama travels the country touting her husband’s efforts to reach out to working women, particularly single mothers. Her husband frequently talks about being raised by a single mother who once needed food stamps. Mrs. Obama also concentrates on the economic struggles of military families, who have an even harder time making ends meet and meeting child-rearing obligations during the disruptive deployments of mothers as well as fathers.

Mrs. McCain does not take as an active role in championing her husband’s policies during the campaign. Nonetheless, the wealthy heiress, who adopted a Bangladeshi orphan, has established an impressive track record in decades of humanitarian work with poor, hungry and sick children and with Third World women.

Affordable health care for uninsured Americans is another big concern for Mrs. Crawford. As for the candidate’s energy policies, including the drumbeat for offshore drilling, the well-informed Mrs. Crawford picked them apart and concluded that they offered only Band-Aid solutions.

“It’s all pie-in-the sky promises, and being a realist, I don’t know that they said anything concrete,” Mrs. Crawford said. “We need a game plan, not just rhetoric … because the price of gas affects how much money women will have in their pockets to provide for their children and to educate them, and how many jobs that a woman has to work to bring home the bacon.”

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