Wendy Davis—More Than Just The Filibuster?

Robert Draper, writing for The New York Times Magazine:

That her opponents would hyperbolize any errant move by their foremost Texas enemy should come as no surprise. Still, the scrutiny of her back story speaks to more than simply a politician’s bumpy quest to win an office that no one in her party has held since Ann Richards left it in 1995 (and, in so doing, provide a road map for how Democrats could succeed in other solidly Republican states). It also calls into question whether Sheryl Sandberg’s exhortations for women to “lean in” to their careers are transferable to the more hidebound and judgmental world of political campaigning. As former Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm of Michigan, a Democrat, told me: “Politics is so far behind the other sectors, I guess because in a democracy you have to appeal to the broadest spectrum in order to get elected. People still expect a more traditional thing from female politicians. Calling a man ambitious is seen as a positive thing. With a woman, it’s a negative.”

Former Gov. Christie Whitman of New Jersey, a Republican, put it this way: “It’s not that the questions about the accuracy of her narrative are illegitimate. It’s the intensity of the questioning that’s so disheartening.” Whitman recalled having herself been chided for spending time on vacation with her children after her primary race for governor — proof of lacking fire in the belly — just as Davis is now being condemned as a maternally deficient careerist for not spending enough time with hers. The persistence of a gender-based double standard, Granholm said, “is the oldest story in the book.”

Several narrative threads are tugged in this piece and I’m not sure that they are all brought to a fulfilling conclusion, but the questions asked are all important. It felt good to put some actual context to the name/face that many liberals/Democrats are all in a tizzy over. The gender-related stuff was most appealing to me, probably because of my negative reaction to finding out about these fuzzy biographical spots in her “story” and because I don’t claim to much understand Texas politics, which seems to operate in its own sphere of weirdness.

I think the biggest mainstream question is this: can a female politician who has built her national recognition on, like it or not, a Pro Choice foundation, gain traction. The theorist in me thinks so.