Six crucial questions for all presidential candidates
Welcome to the campaigns, press conferences, and nonstop media coverage for the 2016 presidential elections, already in full steam (sigh). On one side: the possibility of making history. On the other—well, a whole new meaning to the word “surreal.”
Woman have registered and voted at higher rates than men every year since 1980, and we comprise an even larger majority of swing voters. Seventy-two percent of women are registered voters compared to seventy percent of men. Still, the number of articles bylined by women on the last presidential election was only twenty-six percent. This is one reason why inclusive questions never get asked.
So, toward the practice of good journalism, I would ask journalists—men as well as women— to field questions that include the female more than half of this country and the world, questions that have a major impact on the male half as well. All issues are “women's issues.” But a lot of solutions elude us because most of my media colleagues still treat women as an auxiliary rather than a central—in fact transformative—factor on every issue.
Look how the whole picture changes if the following six questions were put to the candidates regularly in press conferences and later on in the debates. I suggest them; I urge them for use.
1) Equal pay for equal work alone would cut the poverty rate of two-income couples by 25 percent. It would cut the poverty rate for single mothers by half, and put 200 billion dollars more a year into the economy, yet we go on discussing “the economy” in the abstract without mentioning equal pay and connecting the dots. So let’s ask every candidate, “How would your administration transform that discussion and that inequality?”
2) The U.S. is the only modern democracy without a national system of childcare. How would you help us catch up with other countries? (Love to hear Ted Cruz on that one.)
3) Ninety percent of the most used health-care plans are gender-rated, meaning that a female non-smoker may pay higher premiums than a male smoker. How would you remedy such discrimination? Would this include the Equal Rights Amendment to recognize that sex discrimination finally is as unconstitutional as discrimination regarding race, religion, and national origin?
4) Many U.S. women are concerned about the impact of our foreign policy on women and girls in other countries. Afghanistan is the most blatant example, but others, from the Congo on, have witnessed rape used as a weapon of war. Still, raped women who depend on U.S. foreign aid are denied the choice of an abortion. So let’s ask the candidates: “How would you include the female half of other countries in your foreign policy?”
5) The Republican Party was the first to support the Equal Rights Amendment, and the Democratic Party back then didn’t benefit from the gender gap as it does now. What do you think caused this reversal and should there be any such division? (That’s a fun one.)
6) Valerie Hudson’s major book from Columbia University Press, Sex and World Peace, blends a mountain of scholarly data with detailed analysis, and proves that the security of women is the central factor in the security of the state and its incidence of conflict and war. So, candidates: “How would you use this new evidence and have it affect your foreign policy and peace efforts?” (We know how Hillary Rodham Clinton would answer that one because she read the book and applied its tenets to U.S. foreign policy when she was Secretary of State.)
Oh, if only we could get them to answer such questions!
But first we need to get such questions asked.