Is she the best?


Do you ever struggle with deciding who the best candidate is? When one of the candidates is a woman, how does gender factor in to your decision?

Opinion: Is she the best?

If two candidates are close in qualifications and one is a woman, those of us who want to elect more women to political office may feel inclined to choose her over him. But if he’s clearly more qualified or more progressive, that’s a no-brainer too – we certainly won’t support unqualified female candidates. But what if she’s a good candidate but he’s better – say, he’s an “A” and she’s a “B” or even a “B+”? That’s where it gets sticky for some of us. If a man is our friend, someone who’s with us on the issues, “I’m not going to penalize him for having a penis,” my friend Jane once said.

Hmm. That’s an interesting perspective. Another one would be that if a woman is acceptable, we should support her because the playing field is not close to being level – because, in the words of my 6-year-old, “all of the governors and governments are mostly men.” If we don’t work to change that, who will? There are a diversity of views and experience among the men who represent us in public office, so why shouldn’t there be a diversity of those traits in women?

My personal view is that it’s condescending to say, “Well, she’s almost as good, and because she’s a woman, I’ll vote for her.” If we do, we may elect less qualified candidates who won’t serve us well. But by the same token, let’s look at the whole person when we consider political candidates. That may mean considering that less-traditional backgrounds can provide a different kind of experience that may be just as valid. For example, having been a struggling single mother can give a candidate insight into social programs and family-friendly policies; those may be valuable experiences for an elected official to possess.

Another way to elect women is to support the organizations that train and groom future leaders. And we can be on the lookout for potential candidates. Why not ask that dynamite woman at the next desk who’s passionate about books if she’s ever thought about running for the library board? And if she does, spread the word among friends who can spend a few afternoons stuffing envelopes or making phone calls, and a few dollars on a contribution to her campaign.

There is a saying that we get the government we deserve. I think we deserve the best. In my admittedly biased view, that means encouraging women to be that government.