She had her flaws, but her campaign was one more step towards Nancy Pelosi, Speaker… and Madeline Albright/Condolezza Rice/Hilary Clinton, Secretaries of State… and, yes, Barack Obama, POTUS.
Geraldine A. Ferraro, the former Queens congresswoman who strode onto a podium in 1984 to accept the Democratic nomination for vice president and to take her place in American history as the first woman nominated for national office by a major party, died Saturday in Boston…
“If we can do this, we can do anything,” Ms. Ferraro declared on a July evening to a cheering Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. And for a moment, for the Democratic Party and for an untold number of American women, anything seemed possible: a woman occupying the second-highest office in the land, a derailing of the Republican juggernaut led by President Ronald Reagan, a President Walter F. Mondale.
It did not turn out that way — not by a long shot. After the roars in the Moscone Center had subsided and a fitful general election campaign had run its course, hopes for Mr. Mondale and his plain-speaking, barrier-breaking running mate were buried in a Reagan landslide.
But Ms. Ferraro’s supporters proclaimed a victory of sorts nonetheless: 64 years after women won the right to vote, a woman had removed the “men only” sign from the White House door…
Quite a few of you will only remember Ferraro from the 2008 primaries, and there’s a consensus opinion that yelling ‘PUMA’ is a sufficient rebuttal for every argument. Always regard consensus opinions with mistrust. Things have changed since 1984, and not always for the better.
Ms. Ferraro was a co-sponsor of the Economic Equity Act, which was intended to accomplish many of the aims of the never-ratified Equal Rights Amendment. She also supported federal financing for abortions.
“She manages to be threatening on issues without being threatening personally,” Barney Frank, the Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, told The Chicago Tribune in 1984.
Others were less laudatory. “Some see her as too compromising, too ambitious, too close to the leadership,” The Washington Post wrote that same year.
It was Ms. Ferraro’s appointment as chairwoman of the 1984 Democratic Platform Committee that gave her the most prominence. In her book “Ferraro: My Story,” written with Linda Bird Francke, she said that in becoming the first woman to hold that post she owed much to a group of Democratic women — Congressional staffers, abortion rights activists, labor leaders and others — who called themselves Team A and who lobbied for her appointment….
I was in high school during the 1972 Democratic Convention, when it became obvious that “Ladies, wait your turn” was going to be the “Liberal” default / excuse for the foreseeable future. Just as the Republicans were establishing their forty-year death grip on the American political process by setting half the working class at the other half’s throat, the Democrats feebly me-too’ed the trend by taking another leaf from the Gilded Age to set civil-rights activists against feminists. By 1984, it should’ve been obvious that the space the white men “saved” themselves by such tactics was shrinking fast — and the chances of those of us in the bottom 80% of the economic pyramid even faster. But it’s always easier to blame the (minority-intensive) clean-up crew for being lazy and inadequate than to blame the rich Republican looters who made the mess in the first place…
She addressed her place in history in a long letter to The Times in 1988, noting that women wrote to her about how she had inspired them to take on challenges, “always adding a version of ‘I decided if you could do it, I can too.’ ” Schoolgirls, she said, told her they hoped to be president someday and needed advice.
“I am the first to admit that were I not a woman, I would not have been the vice-presidential nominee,” she wrote. But she insisted that her presence on the ticket had translated into votes that the ticket might otherwise have not received.
In any event, she said, the political realities of 1984 had made it all but impossible for the Democrats to win, no matter the candidates or their gender. “Throwing Ronald Reagan out of office at the height of his popularity, with inflation and interest rates down, the economy moving and the country at peace, would have required God on the ticket,” Ms. Ferraro wrote, “and She was not available!”
I was proud to vote for her. Rest in peace, indeed.
Yes, truly rest in peace Geraldine. She inspired me and my wife and we were so proud to support her.
I didn’t mind the PUMA part, running to Fox and the borderline racist statements lost me. Now that I know about the cancer I realize she was desperate to see a woman Prez before she died. RIP Gerri.
She was important, she was energizing and did many good things in her heyday, but I can’t be quite as charitable, and it’s not because things have changed since 1984. Her “you know what it’s like to be married to an Italian man!?” schtick as she pled ignorance about her family’s finances during the campaign kind of, you know, undercut her progressive message.
And, to the extent she is remembered for 2008, the fault is no one’s but her own.
@Jade Jordan: She suffered with this for twelve years. I honestly had no idea. She was not a bad person nor a bad Democrat. But she did cross a few lines.
There is a consensus on this?
But seriously, she sullied her reputation pretty severely in 2008.
This surprises me — 75 isn’t that old for a woman these days.
For me, the high point of the ’84 campaign may have been Ferraro’s debate with ultra-wimp/macho jerk George H.W. Bush. Despite Bush’s crude conclusion that he’d kicked some ass, I thought Ferraro bested him handily in the debate. It couldn’t have been easy being the first woman nominee from one of the two major parties.
It’s a sad commentary on this country that almost 27 years later we still haven’t had a female VP or president and the only other nominee was someone as supremely unqualified as Palin, who was more of a gimmick for McCain than she was a serious candidate. It’s ironic that as much as I’d like to see a woman as president or VP, putting Palin in office in ’08 would have been one of the worst mistakes this country had ever made — and we’ve made some horrendous ones (see Presidential Elections 2000 and 2004).
RIP Ms. Ferraro.
To be a VP candidate, it would have to be the right person, if that person is a woman, then, good.
Although Palin possesses the one attribute that is absolutely necessary for a viable presidential campaign, which is naked ambition.
ETA-Or maybe in Palin’s case, “unadulterated” ambition. Ick.
And Sarah Palin’s fanbots think she was first … Bwaaahaaaa….
I’m inclined to view Shirley Chisholm & Barbara Jordan far more favorably than Ferraro. Chisholm, of course, ran for POTUS before anyone thought of Ferraro for Veep, and although more than a few elitists have written Chisholm off as a fringe “peace” candidate, she had about as much overall electoral success as, if not more than, Ferraro when you consider how badly the Mondale/Ferraro ticket was blown out, and the fact that G.F. flopped as a Senate candidate. As for Jordan, she was on Carter’s shortlist in ’76 & President Clinton said the only thing keeping her off SCOTUS was her MS (all this I knew beforehand, but Wiki it for backup).
If Ferraro gets a lot of ink over the next few days, it’d be interesting to measure it against Chisholm and Jordan’s, given that the former died six years ago and the latter sixteen.
She should be lauded for her accomplishments, but she also basically said Obama is where he is because he’s black. Sorry, but that to me is just a bit more than a blip in her overall history. Still, I do think she helped pave the way for women and minorities in politics, but so did many other female and minority politicians. I wouldn’t attribute Obama as President or Hillary’s success strictly to Ferraro.
It’s a gross oversimplification to characterize the criticism of GF’s statements in ’08 as “yelling PUMA.”
Ferraro’s atrocious behavior during the 2008 primaries was a really sad near-ending to a life that otherwise had a lot of inspiration in it. I didn’t get as angry as many others did; I watched in abject horror as she continued to dig, dig, dig. It’s too bad that a lot of younger people will only remember her for this, but it didn’t have to be this way.
@TFinSF: There is a consensus on this?
But seriously, she sullied her reputation pretty severely in 2008.
Bella Abzug was much more of a pioneer for women in politics than Ferraro. She, like, WORKED for the things she stood for — and she wasn’t a closet racist either.
What exactly did Ferraro do, other than be chosen as a running mate? Cuz shit, even Sarah Palin did that.
I hadn’t known that.
People in (to various degrees) marginalized groups who refuse to acknowledge what people in other marginalized groups are up against/going through — racist white women, homophobic black people, gay misogynistic men, etc. — make me want to weep with frustration.
Agreed. Here’s her comments about Jackson (sorry, it’s a link to Politico):
There’s so much hindsight on this thread that you assholes better be on alert you don’t run into some fucking tree.
What are you referring to? She took hits for every one of the flaws noted in this thread at the time the relevant events took place. She’s always been complicated to anyone paying attention.
@dr. bloor: Exactly. I do not think this word means what SteveinSC thinks it means.
She got her start in politics by opposing busing, repressing the Archie Bunkers of Queens is pretty much who sh always was
And Another Thing...
I remember vividly watching her speak at the convention when she was nominated for VP. It was probably the first time I emotionally “got” the value of role models. There was someone like me running for VP. There were still very few women in high elected office..one woman senator in the state legislature, hadn’t been female governors, and I think Margaret Chase Smith had been the one woman in the Senate. I was working for a governor at the time and the power lunches were at a private club that women could not belong to. There was a separate entrance for women – which I refused to use. Mondale deserved a lot of credit for choosing her.
What the fuck are you talking about, muthafucka?
shit. Poor woman is hardly cold and already Palin is out there yapping about her on FB.
Whatever Ferraro’s faults, surely she didn’t deserve THAT.
@AxelFoley: Oooo, kickin’ it Detroit style!
I actually have to side with the O-bots on this one. Ferraro in ’08 was a pretty sad and mildly disturbing sight…
@Resident Firebagger: Sir, I will collect your badge as you exit the arena.
She cynically exploited racial cleavages in the 70s, 80s, and recently in 2008. I ain’t all that teary eyed.
I’m inclined to view Shirley Chisholm & Barbara Jordan far more favorably than Ferraro.
Bella Abzug was much more of a pioneer for women in politics than Ferraro.
Many, many thanks to both of you for drawing attention to 3 female politicians who were far more impressive than Geraldine Ferraro.
Angry Black Lady
For me it was the delicious racism.
Angry Black Lady
@shortstop: me too. it’s always been my beef with mainstream feminism.
I rooted for Shirley Chisholm for President and Cissy Farenthold for VP in 1972, both of whom would have been better candidates than McGovern and both of the guys McGovern chose for VP, and Cissy came in second at the convention on her own merits, not because she had been elevated by the Presidential nominee.
Sorry for Ferraro’s passing, but underwhelmed with her career and performance as a candidate.
Left Coast Tom
How so? The self-described “PUMA”s seem to have been Republican ratfuckers, not Democrats.
I’m sorry to read of her passing, because of what she meant to a lot of people. I will not praise her because of her history of unapologetic bigotry, already described and linked to by others here. Her comments about Jackson in 1988 (about which I either didn’t know or had forgotten) make clear that her comments about Obama in 2008 weren’t a mistake, and weren’t a result of desperation from her disease coupled with a desire to see a female President.
And I agree with eemom regarding any input from Palin at this point.
Left Coast Tom summed it up for me.
If this racist whitewashing by Anne Laurie doesn’t earn her the axe, I don’t know what will.
Am I the only one that’s upset that a writer at BJ is trafficking in the same “blacks have it so easy” line that was considered unacceptably racist in 1988, when Ferraro first brought it out?
I mean seriously, Laurie is defending a gaffe made over 20 years ago, which was considered ridiculously offensive then, as being not only not at all offensive a generation later, but completely accurate — and saying that calling it out as racism is being a traitor to the progressive movement and an anti-feminist.
Anne Laurie, white person, is here to tell you that you’re just being a dumb uppity negro if you find Ferraro’s remarks to be racist.
What the fuck? Anne Laurie’s white privilege FTL. Aren’t there plenty of other know-nothing racist shitholes she could be writing for instead of here?