“At some point people will have recognize that women displaying strength and confidence aren’t bossy and mean,” says Sonia Ossorio, president of National Organization for Women New York City, which endorsed Quinn for mayor.
Even with women in power across government and in statehouses, these characterizations seem to dog female candidates but not usually their male counterparts. In fact, New Yorkers have backed many a man who could be described similarly, says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics, a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. In recent years alone, think Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani or Michael Bloomberg.
“I grew up in New York and lived in New York a fairly large chunk of my life, and New York elects mayors like that,” Ms. Walsh says. “New Yorkers are comfortable with candidates who have many of those traits.”
She notes: “When attributed to male candidates and male office holders, they’re not impossible hurdles, they’re not a deterrent necessarily.”
So what are the lessons of Quinn’s failure? With just 1 in 10 of the country’s largest cities helmed by a female mayor, what meaning can women candidates around the country extrapolate from her experience? And Clinton’s before her?
And, for that matter, as Clinton weighs another run at the presidency, how might she frame her candidacy differently in 2016?
Identity politics don’t always rule the day. So running exclusively with a “girl power” agenda doesn’t necessarily serve to attract voters. But running away from who you are or, perhaps more specifically, not finding a way to articulate the policies that might woo people like you can be a mistake, Walsh says.