The XX Factor

Mama Bear Tally: Super Tuesday

The results of Tuesday’s primaries are in, and Sarah Palin’s so-called mama grizzlies “-women who have thrived in Tea Party leadership positions-fared in the races with mixed success. In California’s Senate primary, Palin favorite Carly Fiorina soared to a win . Scandal-proof frontrunner Nikki Haley  (barely) failed to take more than half the primary vote in South Carolina, but she leads her runoff opponent by 27 points and has already been declared the “clear choice” of South Carolinians by the director of the Republican Governors’ Association. Palin’s only outright defeat was in Arkansas, where mama grizzly Cecile Bledsoe lost to Steve Womack. But even there, Palin’s influence seemed to have helped her candidate: Bledsoe trailed her runoff opponent badly in the primary election but closed the gap significantly after Palin’s endorsement.

Along with the former Alaska governor’s endorsement, the mama grizzlies have inherited the media fallout from Palin’s legacy of error-prone, folksy elocution. And it is worth looking at the differences in rhetoric describing men and women in the Tea Party’s ranks, as women candidates seem to be called “crazy” more often than men. The bulk of 2010 primary coverage showed female Tea Partiers as nonsensical zealots (bested only by the defeated Orly Taitz’s screwball “birther” antics ). In the Texas gubernatorial primary, Debra Medina was painted as a fumbling, backwoods ideologue ; she even said, “I am not a crazy person” in defense of her anti-tax stance. Though they’re just as extreme as their female counterparts, male candidates affiliated with the Tea Party like Rand Paul are shown (in a far less head-scratching spirit) as Ayn Randian , spear-carrying individualists. Whatever you think of their political beliefs, mama bears don’t deserve to be hit with the tired “hysterical woman” stereotype.

Photograph of Sarah Palin by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.