Eleanor Clift discusses women in Washington

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Political reporter, television pundit, and author Eleanor Clift gave a talk on the history of women in politics to a nearly full auditorium at CSUN Tuesday.

In “Women in Washington: From the Past to the Present,” Clift offered a history lesson on the suffrage movement and her observations about the current election and political climate.

Clift highlighted Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony as suffrage movement’s pioneers and their dogged persistence in winning women the right to vote.

Moving forward in time, Clift said the mid-twentieth century representation of people in the popular show “Mad Men” is not far from accurate.

“When many of us of the female persuasion got started in our careers it was a very different atmosphere than today. People smoked and drank at will – the ‘three-martini lunch’ was a real phenomenon,” Clift said.

“Women who were highly educated at that time were frustrated. The first rumbles of discontent happened in the 60s,” she added.

CSUN sociology professor Helen Dosik has been following Eleanor Clift for decades.

“She’s articulate and well researched on political topics. She represents an era when women were really fighting for equality,” Dosik said.

Clift, who has covered every presidential election since 1976, described how she started as a secretary at Newsweek Magazine and eventually became a reporter, covering Jimmy Carter’s election.

“That’s how I got to Washington,” Clift said. “I like to call it my Cinderella story.”

“My real life is really at Newsweek Magazine,” Clift said.  “I’ve been there nearly my whole life.  I got there because of what I call the contemporary women’s movement.”

Clift said there are several reasons women have not been as engaged as men in politics.

“In part it’s because women have so many alternatives.  Politics is an arena where you have to stand up and could fail publicly, which women are less inclined to do.  Women are not asked as much (to enter the political arena) and they seem to need that encouragement more (than men),” she added.

Segueing into the upcoming election, Clift said, “We’ve had political commentators making us believe all candidates, like Bachmann and Cain, had a chance,” adding that Romney has probably always been the only viable candidate.

“I think Romney looks like a president, and looks matter,” Clift said.  “But Romney is part of the 1 percent at a time when 99 percent are feeling arrested.  People don’t resent wealth—we’ve elected plenty of wealthy presidents.  Romney’s challenge is to get voters to believe that he is going to represent their wishes,” she added.

Although Clift believes it will be a close election between Obama and Romney, she is betting on Obama.

“Both these men are hostage to outside events.  Two things are going to be critical—unemployment, and the debates,” Clift said.

Clift strongly encouraged the audience to vote.

“In other countries in this world people would crawl over broken glass to vote” she said, adding that voting is a freedom taken for granted in this country.

Michelle Elmer, CSUN sociology student and treasurer of CSUN Young Democrats enjoyed Clift’s talk.

“I thought it was an interesting take on the subject. I appreciated her insight on the current election and that she remained neutral.”

Clift believes that the status of women is improving and America will see a female president this century.

“Things have changed.  Women have really achieved equal status in public life.  Hillary Clinton probably still has another race in her.”


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