Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Anna Belle Pfau: Christine O’Donnell & Today’s Delaware Primary

What members of Christine O'Donnell's own political party have been doing to smear her in the Delaware GOP primary for the U.S. Senate is nothing new. It's the same old sexism that we've seen in attacks on Sarah Palin, argues Anna Belle Pfau at The New Agenda:
Delaware has never elected a female senator. The state is among seven of the original thirteen states that have never been represented in the Senate by a woman. Delaware may get its first real shot at correcting this oversight should polls bear out in the primary between Christine O’Donnell and Mike Castle today. O’Donnell, the Tea Party favorite, is slated to beat Republican party favorite and 30-year office-holder, Mike Castle. O’Donnell is among a slew of Republican candidates endorsed by Sarah Palin this election season, and Palin’s recent endorsement has breathed life into what was once thought to be a predictable race among Republicans in a traditionally blue state. The seat was once was held by Vice President Joe Biden.

O’Donnell and Castle have been at the center of a nasty campaign that has grown increasingly sexist in recent weeks. I started paying attention to this race a couple of weeks ago after I saw some fishy rhetoric being thrown around in an online spat between Mark Levin and Jim Geraghty...


Right after that Sarah Palin endorsed O’Donnell, and I knew the sexist rhetoric would ratchet up. It was only a matter of time...


O’Donnell is portrayed as crazy, greedy, and disloyal. These act as dog whistles to the profoundly, if latently, sexist culture so common in the mid-Atlantic and New England. It’s a slightly different kind of sexism than exists in the South, Midwest and Western states (in case anyone thought I was picking on the East Coast).

O’Donnell has also been excoriated for being unemployed and poor, and for losing her house. And yet, given the economy and the demographics of her time and place, these are unsurprising facts. Many people have lost homes; many people, especially women, are poor or have trouble climbing the ladder of success with so many barriers in their paths. She has occasionally misspoken on the campaign trail, which has been used to paint her as a liar and thus unreliable. Many of us remember some of these same tactics being used against Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in 2008.


I’m not a Delaware voter, and I don’t agree with some of O’Donnell’s politics, but I do defend her right to take a chance getting elected without being targeted because of her gender.

O’Donnell’s candidacy has seen a 17 point surge in support over the last month, with over 60% of Delaware’s registered Republicans supporting her. She may very well win today, and that may carry with it an important lesson in and of itself. Perhaps we can’t eradicate sexism right now, today, but we may be able to find strategies to win in spite of the presence of sexism in the media and on the campaign trail. As Sarah Palin has demonstrated so well this election season, working together and supporting women is one way to do that.
Read this opinion piece in its entirety here.

- JP

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