Karin Agness

Both Presidential candidates are fighting vigorously to win over women voters, recognizing women could decide their fate on November 4th.

How does Barack Obama plan to win over women voters? By highlighting his pro-choice record? By promoting his healthcare policies? By promising to make America more secure?

No. No. No.

In 2000, the candidates fought over an important voting block of women labeled “soccer moms.” In 2004, this influential voting block of women was relabeled “security moms.” In 2008, Obama’s campaign is trying to turn these women and others into “equal pay moms,” women who will vote for him because they think Obama will solve the pay disparity among men and women in the workforce.

Obama plans to win women voters by informing them of the pay gap between men and women, firing them up about the issue and then encouraging them to vote for him because of it. He is creating an issue to win on.

I recently attended a “Women for Obama” Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia to observe the atmosphere, identify the important issues being discussed and investigate the question, “What does the Obama campaign think women really want?”

As soon as I arrived, I noticed a variety of signs. Standing out from the many signs reading, “Change We Need,” “Women for Obama” and “Yes We Can,” were poster-size cut-out letters spelling, C-H-A-N-G-E. The signs focused on the generic message of change, not the divisive issues of abortion, healthcare or security. I was curious to discover the priority issues for Democrats. There were three featured speakers at the rally. As expected, one was Michelle Obama. Not surprising, another was Jill Biden. The third? Lilly Ledbetter.

To many students at this rally and many Americans, Ledbetter is an unknown figure. As soon as she was announced, a few people around me whispered, “Who is that woman?”

Ledbetter is an Alabama woman who lost her equal pay case against Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. before the Supreme Court because of statutory timing limits. At the Rally, she said, “My story could be anyone’s story. It could be yours. What happened shows what can happen when America’s ideals of equality and fairness are betrayed.” She also was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Ledbetter has become the flag bearer for Obama’s attempt to win over women voters. She symbolizes a new direction in Democratic politics: a significant move away from focusing on the divisive issue of abortion to the economic issue of pay discrepancy. Obama’s campaign is pushing the equal pay issue in all forums, trying to make it a decisive campaign issue.

Karin Agness

Karin Agness is President of the Network of Enlightened Women.
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