WHY AND HOW WOMEN WILL ELECT THE NEXT PRESIDENT by Eleanor Smeal
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WHY AND HOW WOMEN WILL ELECT THE NEXT PRESIDENT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A call-to-action"" from NOW's politically astute ex-president--in two systematic parts: 1) why women ought to vote against Reagan and the New Right in '84, and are likely to; 2) how women can organize for political action and run for office. In the first part, Smeal reviews the Gender Gap in recent elections, as conclusively demonstrated by exit polls. I.e.: regardless of income, age, and so on, women are voting differently from men; that demonstrated difference gives them clout, can produce the margin of victory, is greatest ""when issues of concern to women are highly visible and polarized""; a candidate who backs women's interests ""does not risk losing men's votes"" (most men support them too, though less avidly). Specifically, fewer women than men support Reagan, and more presently vote Democratic; in the large, ""the causes of the Gender Gap are primarily the real differences in the experiences of women and men."" Any of three ""clusters"" of issues, Smeal maintains, can trigger the Gender Gap: ""women's rights, economic survival, war and military."" Her discussion of their merits and viability is the core of the book. Under women's rights, Smeal restates the basic argument for ERA--the impractibility of erasing sex discrimination ""state by state, law by law, and issue by issue."" In her view ""an increasing consensus"" favors abortion and birth control; Reagan is hurt by his extreme opposition; and a ""political windfall"" awaits outright supporters. Her brief against the insurance industry is leas clear-cut, and more difficult to sustain in this agenda-format. And weakest of all is her argument for day care--as beneficial not only to working mothers, but to full-time homemakers (""she also knows she will go mad if she doesn't do something besides watch Jimmy or Suzy grow"") and to all children. On issues of economic survival, she wisely notes that women tend to look to the government for help, men to espouse independence. In actuality: women feel the effects of inflation more keenly; poor women have been most penalized by budget cuts; professional women fill the helping professions. Women's opposition to defense spending and war-mongering is ascribed, by Smeal, to their traditional exclusion ""from the military and from consideration of military matters."" (No rites-of-manhood, etc.) So it is somewhat jarring to turn next to the ""Economic Hardships of Women's Exclusion from the Military."" There then follows a dossier on Reaganite backpedaling; an argument for women officeholders and for interest-groups; and the political-action manual--detailed, up-to-date, practicable, pragmatic (re, for instance, negative independent expenditure campaigns to defeat a leading opponent). Smeal doesn't believe that the Gender Gap will disappear until equality is achieved; she does believe that women have the political wherewithal now to achieve it. Directly aimed, immediately and variously applicable--by contrast with Bella Abzug's personal testament (above).

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 1983
Publisher: Harper & Row