It may not be what you think.
Sen. John McCain’s strategists hoped that Palin would mobilize women and tilt the election in their favor. It didn’t happen.
According to the exit polls, 53 percent of women voters supported Sen. Barack Obama. The hope of capturing feminists and women who may have felt slighted by Sen. Hillary Clinton not winning the Democratic nomination did not materialize. A whopping 83 percent of people who supported Clinton’s nomination voted for Obama while McCain captured a narrow 16 percent of those voters.
Unmarried and working women voted overwhelmingly Democratic as well, 58 percent and 60 percent respectively. (And Palin made no inroads among racial and ethnic minority women: 96 percent of black women and 68 percent of Latino women voted Democratic.)
So what happened to the Palin factor?
The truth of the matter is it never really existed.
While women across the country were eager to support a woman candidate, they were more interested in supporting the right woman candidate.
After the smoke cleared following the announcement of Palin’s candidacy for vice president, it became clear that gender alone was not enough to pull women from one side of the fence to the other.
Palin’s positions on important issues like the war, abortion, the economy and health care were also significant factors. She was also viewed by many women as divisive and unqualified for the second highest post in the free world. This was not about internalized sexism; it was the truth.
In short, she was not every woman’s woman.
The narrow view of gender that the GOP tried to sell in this election cycle not only to women but also to America fell short. In the end, women voted the issues.
I believe one day very soon we will see a woman elected to the office of the president, but we have to be sure she will be the right one.
C. Nicole Mason, Ph.D., is a political scientist and the executive director of the Women of Color Policy Network at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University. She is also a senior research fellow at the National Council for Research on Women. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.