In 1966 Betty Friedan is said to have scribbled the goals of the National Organization for Women (NOW) on a napkin: "To take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men."
The group Emily's List's mission statement reads, "when women are involved in the political process, our democracy is truly representative. When women make policy, the needs of women and families are not ignored," and later adds "we are making a long-term investment in women to develop their political skills and cultivate resources so that we can bring more women into politics and elected office."
The White House Project, describes itself as "a national, nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization, 501(c)(3), to advance women's leadership in all communities and sectors, up to the U.S. presidency," and notes that, "by filling the leadership pipeline with a richly diverse, critical mass of women, we make American institutions, businesses and government truly representative...The White House Project creates a culture where America's most valuable untapped resource--women--can succeed in all realms. To advance this mission, The White House Project strives to support women and the issues that allow women to lead in their own lives and in the world. When women leaders bring their voices, vision and leadership to the table alongside men, the debate is more robust and the policy is more inclusive and sustainable."
But these groups are not cheering the vice presidential ambitions of Sarah Palin.
"We recognize what a moment that is for women's leadership," noted Elizabeth Hines, of the White House Project. "We are a nonpartisan organization but we are also a progressive organization. What we know so far is her vision of women's rights isn't necessarily on the same page of our vision for the future of women in this country."
Olga Vives of NOW echoes Hines: "There will be people that will look at her favorably but once the campaign starts debating the issues, I think the country will see how extreme she is..."
These and other comments raise interesting questions: Should these and other "women's groups" be seeking to advance women, any and all women, into positions of power or any candidate, male or female, who agrees with their politics?
Gloria Steinem's argument-that women are just as talented and capable as men-has carried the day and brought a woman to the doorstep of the American presidency, but she doesn't seem to be too happy about it.
If the polls are right, most American women are not wedded to any particular ideology but are either centrists or hybrids of conservative and liberal and while abortion is often cited as the issue that will ultimately keep a woman from voting for a candidate like Palin, in fact, most polls like this one and this one, show that women actually tend to be more more anti-abortion than men by between 4-8 points.
For only the second time in American history a woman is on a major American political party's presidential ticket and Sarah Palin is an election and a heartbeat away from being the most powerful person on the planet. Her candidacy is a moment of truth for these and other groups who must decide whether they are going to fight for all women who aspire to hold positions of influence and power, without regard for ideology, or instead work to elect candidates who, regardless of gender, share their political agenda.
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