So, How'd the Female Candidates Do?

Nikki Haley Makes History; the California Girls Don't
What women really think about news, politics, and culture.
Nov. 3 2010 12:26 AM

So, How'd the Female Candidates Do?

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Nikki Haley
Gov.-elect Nikki Haley

It's not a big surprise that Nikki Haley will be the new Republican governor of South Carolina; she's led the polls for months. But it's still meaningful. Haley had a tough primary, where she was accused of lying on her taxes and cheating on her husband. She could have easily gone down in history as the first person to force Americans to deal with a cheating scandal involving a major female politician. (How French!) Instead she is the first female Indian-American governor, and the first female governor of South Carolina.

On the campaign trail, Haley never missed an opportunity to say that she was not running as a woman and that her gender didn't matter. But that doesn't change the fact that she just won the governor's race in the state that has the worst record in the entire country for women in elected office (Oklahoma is second-worst). One of the big questions in this election, across the country, was whether voters would hold inexperience against women more than they did against men. In South Carolina they didn't. Haley's rise is most parallel to Marco Rubio's; he won his Senate race in Florida. They are both 38-year-old newcomers to politics with compelling immigrant stories. She may be anti-feminist, pro-life, and want to destroy any government-subsidized child care, but still, her victory has symbolic meaning for women just as his does for Cuban-Americans.

Advertisement

Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, not so much. Those two Republican CEOs, running for governor and Senate respectively, were really supposed to carve out a new path for women in politics. They were supposed to show that women could behave exactly like men—move freely from corporate power to political power, buy their way into office. But at the moment of this posting, both of them are headed for losses. Whitman turned out to be a real dud of a candidate, as our own Libby Copeland explains. She failed to come up with a convincing story or connect with the voters, and the personality void got filled with mini scandals about her maid and her frat boy son. If Fiorina loses to Democratic veteran Barbara Boxer, it will be a testament to the staying power of the old feminist establishment. (That said, in Washington state, Patty Murray is not looking like a sure bet at the moment.) 

By tomorrow, we will have a better sense of which new models for female candidates got traction and which did not. But in the meantime, let's pause to show some sisterly support for Nancy Pelosi, the historic first female speaker of the House no longer. Throughout this campaign Pelosi, as much as Obama, served as resident demon. At one point, conservatives Photoshopped her into the pit of hell. I have no doubt that if this were the 17th century she would have been burned at the stake, and not just in effigy. Who will they burn now? Barbara Boxer? Michelle Obama?

Hanna Rosin is the founder of DoubleX and a writer for the Atlantic. She is also the author of The End of Men. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 29 2014 3:10 PM The Lonely Teetotaler Prudie counsels a letter writer who doesn’t drink alcohol—and is constantly harassed by others for it.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.