Until 2008, I was like most of my college peers—uninterested and unengaged in the world of politics. Politics wasn’t something I could relate to. It seemed like a “man’s world” where deals were struck over golf and cigars. That all changed for me in August 2008, when a woman—who looked like she could be my best friend’s mom, my high school English teacher or any other regular woman in America—walked across the stage to accept the nomination to be the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket. It was refreshing to see a pair of high heels behind the podium when she made her awe-inspiring acceptance speech. Because of Sarah Palin, for the first time I felt like there might be a place for a young, conservative woman like me in the political world.
And it wasn’t just me who felt this shift in American politics. In 2009, we saw the awakening of the conservative woman through the Tea Party movement. Mothers, sisters, college students and retirees—who had never been politically active before—started making signs, calling their representatives and attending town hall meetings. Women wanted their voices heard, and many organized local Tea Party rallies. Two women, Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann, emerged as the biggest supporters of this freedom-seeking movement. But all of these strong conservative women seem to be too much for the Left—especially feminists—to handle.
Some in the media have recently questioned whether there is enough room in the presidential primary race for two women. You may think a story where the question is, “Are they too similar?” would have to do with having more than one governor, more than one congress member, even more than one candidate from Minnesota in the race, but the big headline is the mere potential of a primary with two women. In May, Politico wrote, “And the iron-clad laws of politics suggest there isn’t enough room for the two powerful personalities to occupy the same political space in 2012.” In June, former chief strategist for the 2004 Bush-Cheney presidential campaign Matthew Dowd was quoted as saying, “I don’t think there’s room in the race for both [Palin and Bachmann].” The Los Angeles Times‘ James Oliphant said recently, “Before last week, it seemed like Michele Bachmann had a real opportunity to wrest votes away from other GOP presidential contenders in states that most respond to her blend of Christian-centric values and tea-infused rhetoric, such as Iowa and South Carolina. But that was before a certain brightly painted bus stormed up the East Coast,” in his article “Michele Bachmann vs. Sarah Palin: In the end, can there be only one?”
They are even talking about it overseas. A Guardian article titled, “Sarah Palin vs. Michele Bachmann: Round Zero,” Richard Adams wrote, “Because Palin and Bachmann occupy similar political turf on the Tea Party right of the Republican spectrum, this could be a battle that is repeated over the summer if both do declare they are running.”
The media has adopted a John Wayne, “This town ain’t big enough for the two of them” mentality. Commentators claim their similarities will harm each other’s chance at gaining the Republican nomination. Just look at them. They are both constitutional conservatives who are pro-family and pro-life. They both want to cut taxes and bring about economic recovery through the private sector. Both are tough, God-fearing women, with supportive families, and Tea Party favorites to boot. And wait, they are both brunettes! How will people choose?
But despite having a lot of beliefs in common, it’s a mistake to think Palin and Bachmann are exactly the same. Their expertise, knowledge and experience vary. Palin has executive experience from her time as governor of Alaska, mayor of Wasilla, and a town council member. She has extensive knowledge of energy policy from being the chairwoman of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and through her legislation for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. Bachmann has legislative experience from being a three-term representative of Minnesota’s 6th District, and a Minnesota state senator from 2001 to 2007. She has wide-ranging knowledge of the tax system from the time she spent as a tax lawyer for the IRS. If both women were to run, it would be up to the American people to decide which would represent them best.
The false narrative that there is only one spot for a woman downgrades the accomplishments of those who choose to run for office. The media would like to create the illusion of some sort of catty brawl for the top title. Clearly, there has never been a problem with two men being in the race before, so why is there a problem with two women? The media should focus on these women’s policy positions and records, not how their lack of Y chromosomes may prevent them from the nomination. I can only hope that all political races in the future are filled with more intelligent conservative women, so that more young women like me are inspired to speak out and become involved in our nation’s public policy.