By Sally E. Smith
For close to a year, many of this year’s presidential candidates have been pounding the campaign trail and debating until they’re hoarse, yet many in the electorate are just now sitting up and taking notice. The flip of the calendar to 2008, combined with earlier-than-usual primaries, has energized voters while stymieing political pundits. Polls are unreliable, voters are largely undecided about which candidate to support, and the clock is ticking. Iowa, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina, Florida… and then it’s off to the races on February 5, when voters in 23 states will participate in what’s been dubbed, “Super Duper Tuesday.”
This year’s primaries and general election are electrifying and historic for so many reasons. This is the first primary season where an African American candidate and a female candidate are considered not only viable, but are the front runners for their party’s nomination. In addition, it’s been 60 years since neither an incumbent President nor an incumbent Vice President ran for our nation’s highest office.
Although political pundits have been wrong in many of their prognostications, they’re probably right that women voters will determine the presidential nominees for each party. We’ll most likely also be the deciding factor in who runs our local governments, state governments, and Congress. Yet, although plus-size women make up a sizeable voting bloc (pun intended!), candidates will not seek our endorsement, nor will they address critical issues that affect our lives – such as size discrimination in employment, education, access to public accommodations, and access to health care.
If, as a community, we were to make a candidate’s commitment to size-related issues a litmus test, anti-discrimination legislation would be signed into law in the blink of an eye. That’s the potential of our combined power. Unfortunately, our community isn’t politically organized, and many plus-sized women would gladly give up their proverbial membership cards to join the club to which our thinner sisters belong.
The bad news is that, regardless of our numbers, we’re as invisible in the political process as we are to the advertising and media industries. The good news is that, as individual plus-size women, we can make ourselves seen and heard.
The first step is to stand up and be counted during the 2008 election. Whether we’re first-time voters or lifelong voters, whether we support Candidate A or Candidate Z, 2008 will be a banner year for women voters. For those of us who are so inclined, it’s not too late to volunteer to work on behalf of a candidate – even if that candidate is running for the school board. Planting the seeds of size awareness early in a politician’s career and helping to nurture that career will ultimately bear fruit.
For those of us who are passionate about issues affecting plus-size women – or any issue, for that matter – running for local office can give us the opportunity to both promote our agendas and to become role models for other plus-size women and girls.
Ultimately, it is up to each one of us to make our own voices heard in our towns and states – and ultimately, to decide the course of our great nation.