- Anticipating Madam President
Co-editors Robert P. Watson and Ann Gordon have compiled a collection of essays written primarily by political scientists, with several essays authored by individuals from the fields of communication and national security, organized around the central theme that someday women will be elected president. Overall, this volume is strong in its breadth and coverage, with accessibility for a general readership.
The essays in parts 1 and 2 focus on "the struggle for political equality" and the quest for political office; the essays in part 3 focus on the challenge in winning political office, with a focus on the media, voters, and public opinion; and the essays in part 4 examine "governing," which is relevant to women whether or not they are successful in achieving the title of "Madam President." This last point is probably one of the stronger features of this collection, but at times gets lost in an attempt to focus mostly on the more fascinating parlor game of "when will we see Madam President," ignoring the many contributions to governing that women are already making.
By the end of a political campaign, institutional features of the elections process can supplant the "governing process," thus weakening the gains made by women in the political system in terms of substantive policy outcomes. Throughout the volume the editors could emphasize the choice that may present itself between "governing" and running for the White House. In the first two sections the "run for the White House" could include more discussions of the impact of women as participants in party coalitions or the changed nature of party coalitions in the nomination process and the subsequent impact on women candidates.
Carole Kennedy, a political scientist, provides a useful compilation of survey results addressing the question of the public's support of a woman president. She notes that while support has grown from 33 percent responding favorably to the question, "If your party nominated a woman for president, would you vote for her if she were qualified for the job?" in 1937 to 92 percent of the population in 1999, Kennedy goes on to note that the margin of recent elections makes this question relevant to political scientists today. "The fact that six out of the past thirteen presidential elections were decided by a margin below 7 percent suggests that the figure is far from insignificant" (132). Other polls cited have produced more discouraging results. In 2001 the White House Project, a nonpartisan organization working to reach the goal of a woman president, reported its Internet poll found 15 percent of 46,000 respondents stating they would not vote for a woman to be president (133). (Kennedy does discuss problems with the use of Internet polling and sampling error.) [End Page 170]
Dianne Bystrom provides analysis of a wide range of media coverage and poll data experienced by Elizabeth Dole on the campaign trail. Dole's run for the Republican nomination in 2000 and Pat Schroeder's run in 1987 for the Democratic nomination, and especially an analysis of support for women and men candidates on issues such as law and order, handling of crises, but also, over the issues of the presence of young children at home, add depth to the issues usually covered in looking at women as candidates.
In part 1, Max J. Skidmore's essay provides historic overview of the "struggle for political equality" by broadly surveying 200 years of history with glimpses of the struggle for suffrage and rulings of the Supreme Court that would restrict women's full political participation until the latter half of the twentieth century. Skidmore also identifies a series of firsts for women, as do the editors in another essay—accomplishments that would pave the way for a woman to be elected president. Skidmore also briefly mentions the nomination and appointments of women to newly created positions in the lower federal courts by President Carter with a supportive Democratic Congress. He also briefly mentions the appointment made to the Supreme Court by President Reagan of Sandra...