She must find a happy middle ground between the trumpet-like triumphalism of Margaret Thatcher, Iron Lady of the Falklands War, and the swooning cult of personality of Evita Peron, dangling boons and bribes before the masses. She should show consistency of ideology, avoiding poll-driven flip-flops. How she manages her campaign signals her executive competence to run the labyrinthine federal bureaucracy.
She must be statesmanlike, pursuing women’s progress without playing victim or bashing men. She must deal forthrightly with the news media, a political reality since 18th-century Great Britain. In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice-presidential nominee of a major party, held a high-stakes, two-hour, no-holds-barred press conference that was a bravura display of tough, courageous candor. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s exuberant promise as a national figure was short-circuited by her thin-skinned inability to handle the hostile press. Current GOP candidate Carly Fiorina, though ultimately limited by her lack of government experience, is remarkably nimble in jousting with the media.
Former cabinet secretary Elizabeth Dole’s bold GOP presidential run in 1999 was torpedoed by her too rote and chirpy Southern belle delivery, leading to her withdrawal for lack of funding. Dianne Feinstein has a grande dame gravitas as well as nerves of steel, demonstrated by her heroic composure after the 1978 massacre in San Francisco City Hall.
But today’s best model for aspiring women politicians is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who combines a take-charge persona with engaging spontaneity and zest for life.