I’ve borrowed the name for this column. It’s been 30 years since I first used the title and 10 since I revisited the issue, so I figure it’s okay. You see, back in May 1988, when I was an ambitious, opinionated legal columnist, I wrote a column with this title. My point at the time was that people should vote for women candidates and hire women employees and employ women lawyers and appoint women judges because they are qualified to do the job, and it was time for discrimination to stop. I opined that the only reason not to vote or hire a woman was pure gender allegiance. I posited that no one should vote for or hire any person simply because of their gender, without regard for their qualifications.
In order to compel controversy and promote readership, the column’s title was the provocative “Why Not to Vote for A Woman.” My editors and I believed that readers would consider the title in the context of the article and understand that it was not a call to boycott female candidates. No such luck. Instead, the bulk of the readers read the column in the context of the title and missed the point entirely (despite the fact that the introductory paragraphs of the article were all about the dangers of taking titles and headlines too literally). An outpouring of anger ensued. Judges, lawyers, politicians all penned strongly worded letters to the editor, and a couple of Women’s Law Associations issued officially sanctioned condemnations.
Surprisingly, there also was a large bloc of readers who were offended despite getting the point. Their point was that the article was demeaning and insulting to women because it assumed that there was even a possibility that American women would elect, vote for and/or appoint a woman who was not qualified — or with views they did not actually share — simply because she was a woman. “Today’s woman is not so shallow, naïve or uninformed,” they said.
Twenty years later, I revisited the issue in the Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin era. A poll had showed that the McCain candidacy received a 20-point upward “bump” among white female voters because of Gov. Palin’s addition to the ticket. His spokesman openly stated that they believed former supporters of Hillary Clinton would vote for their team because of the Palin addition, despite the fact that her positions on issues were the total opposite of Clinton’s. Sen. Obama’s polling numbers showed he enjoyed 92 percent support among black voters, even though 86 percent of those who said they would vote for him didn’t know his position on the issues. I opined that such allegiance-voting would be dangerous.
Now, another 10 years later, divisiveness and allegiance voting has not gotten better, but worse. Now people not only vote on gender, race or religion but on blind pro-Trump or anti-Trump teamism. Issues continue to be afterthoughts, if considered at all. At the 20-year mark, I noted that I had learned by then that titling columns to invoke controversy may at times cause your point to be lost. I wasn’t sure if I, or the world, have learned much else. I now look around and once again ask. Is it really possible that nothing has changed?
©2018 Under Analysis LLC Charles Kramer is a principal of the St. Louis, Missouri, law firm Riezman Berger, PC. Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison group. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent to the Levison Group c/o this paper or direct via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.