What women bloggers think: Hillary, Obama and the pink elephant in Election '08

BlogHer Original Post

Meet Emily, an Illinois blogger whose online diary this week veered sharply away from pop culture and launched into presidential politics:

"I was watching CNN this morning as I woke up, as I do every morning, and I heard the most amazing and exciting news that has honestly made my day. Hillary Clinton has decided to run for the presidency in 2008. First Barack Obama, which I'm just as excited about, and now this....I never thought I'd be blogging about politics, but this just has me very excited."

Emily is just one of many women bloggers I found turning away from their usual topics this week and tuning in the landslide of American presidential history-to-be. I took a tour of women's blogs to see what they think of the first-ever entry of a former First Lady into the race, on the heels of the very popular junior senator from Illinois. Anyone who cares about getting women to vote should read on for some encouraging news....

What I found confirmed that women bloggers are farther than ever from Kevin Drumm's question -- "where are the women bloggers?" -- that inspired me, Elisa Camahort and Jory Des Jardins to launch BlogHer.

Because while BlogHer's list of Politics & News blogs by women is 379 strong, in this case I found sudden and serious grassroots engagement everywhere, from mommyblogs to myspace diaries. These races are catching fire with women immediately, well outside the cabal of political bloggers at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that I blogged for the Los Angeles Times.

Here's a round-up of this week's alluring political news; so much erupted in the past seven days that you didn't have to be inside the Beltway or a political blogger to get excited about it:

  • Sen. Hillary Clinton's in by Marianne Richmond
  • Sen. Barack Obama's in by Morra Aarons-Mele
  • Congressional Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, delivered on their agenda for the first 100 days, although the speaker's outfits got nearly as much press, by Morra Aarons-Mele
  • The Sen. Judiciary Committee isn't letting up on the Bush administration by Kim Pearson
  • Al Gore's nowhere to be seen on the presidential front, although his anti-global-warming cause is getting play, by Dana Tuszke
  • Out among women who don't blog this stuff every day, these two candidates are packing the punch of serial celebrities. Case in point: To Sen. Clinton's news, Lizzy on LiveJournal said only, "YAY!" and posted the Clinton campaign press release.

    Other bloggers got to "yay" via their personal history Clinton, from her time as the former First Lady to today. Blogger Alejna, for one, ws surprised by her own positive response to Sen. Clinton. In "feeling optimistic," she writes:

    "I have to admit that I’ve had mixed feelings about her. I loved her during Bill Clinton’s administration. I was excited about her commitment to issues such as national healthcare. But then she’s seemed to move more and more into the center since those halcyon days. I was disappointed in her support of the the war in Iraq. I’d come to like her a lot less. And whenever I’ve heard people say that she’d be running for president, I’ve thought, “there’s just no way.” No way she’d run. And no way she could win. But now I’ve read a few things that make me think again. Like this article. And this one, from a couple of years ago. And suddenly, I’m feeling a tingling of optimism. That after these dark political years, we’re once again moving forward as a society. Not only can people imagine having a woman as president, they believe it can happen. Soon."

    Still others want to vote for Sen. Clinton, but feel her pro-war vote prevents them. Writes Jen of Jen's Green Journal: "It's now official. As an anti-war, pro-peace person, I will not be able to support Hillary, as much as I'd like to see a woman president." But some of this enviro-blogger's readers are having none of it: One anonymous reader commented, "I am totally frustrated with the argument "I can't vote for this Dem on principle" (pick the principle). That is the attitude that has resulted in eight years of George W. Bush. Sorry, but there is no way to rationalize your way out of this. It is what it is." (Click through on Jen's blog to read her response about living in Utah.)

    Therein lies a major difference between Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama, whose vote against the Iraq war has become a major calling card for him and a possible liability for her, since she voted for the war. (At this point, polls state that more than two-thirds of Americans oppose President Bush's plan to add 20,000 troops in Iraq; see Bloomberg's report).

    Another point of difference is that as of 2 p.m. PST, I can't find Mrs. Clinton's announcement on YouTube, and when I search "hillary for president" on http://youtube.com, I find lots of homegrown Hillary videos (pro and con, nothing unusual) AND Mr. Obama's announcement that he will announce his decision to run for president on Feb. 10.

    Aside: If the senator from New York is going to make the most of her impassioned, video-enabled speech, her Web team needs to make sure her site offers her fans the ability to embed her video on their sites. According to Thinkprogress, her online presence hasn't completely joined what Phil Noble of PoliticsOnline calls the first YouTube election.

    Still, according to this Jan. 18 Gallup Poll, Sen. Clinton is the front-runner among Democrats. And if Gallup's numbers are any indication of how Sen. Clinton will appeal in her state-by-state primaries, key to her appeal and her success will be women who identify as conservative Democrats (and, my guess, socially liberal Republicans).

    I think it's important to stop talking horserace right there. For while women are the majority of voters, and many a pundit loves to talk of "soccer moms" as a monolith, we certainly don't all vote alike. I can see many of the Democratic candidates appealing to any number of women for a variety of reasons. And this is the pink elephant in the room for anyone who's "in to win."

    In conclusion, we -- BlogHer's Politics & News team -- would like to ask for your help. As BlogHer's contributing editors pull together our Election 2008 community journalism initiative, we want to know: How do we make sure this election stays about you the voter? We know the press will cover the horse race in excruciating detail. We know that talk shows and blogs of all kinds will sling data and mud.Our goal, however, is a different: How do we best create an opportunity for women online (and our friends who aren't) equip ourselves to make our voices heard in 2008?

    We have many ideas -- but first we want to hear yours.

    Please -- comment below?


    Lisa Stone is a BlogHer Co-Founder. Her personal blog is Surfette.


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