The XX Factor

Why Martha Coakley Didn’t Make a Play for Women Voters

I think you’re right, Hanna, that the first woman president will announce herself, thrillingly, as our very own bolt from the blue even though we can’t pick her out now. But that doesn’t entirely settle the lingering problem of sexism in the 2008 campaign for me. What about the effect on more ordinary female candidates of the flattening sterotypes that are so hard for women in politics to shake? I’m thinking, of course, of Martha Coakley, because who can think of anything else today? Dana Goldstein at The Daily Beast points out that Coakley doesn’t seem to be running strongly ahead with women as you might expect. Look for harder numbers after the election, but for now she’s polling about even with her opponent among women. And as Dana says, “she has called her gender ‘secondary,’ ” rather than playing up her feminism or any historic aspect to her candidacy given the power of the Massachusetts old boys’ network . Game Change tells us that Hillary didn’t even want to say the words “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” even though it was the best line of her campaign, as far as I’m concerned. No wonder Coakley also presumably thought that playing it safe meant downplaying her gender. Maybe if she loses, the next candidate like her will do it differently. But until we bust through that ceiling, I doubt it.

Photograph of Martha Coakley by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.