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Notes from the Cracked Ceiling by [Kornblut, Anne E.]
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Revisiting recent political campaigns led by women, Washington Post White House correspondent Kornblut measures the progress of female politicians and wonders whether, with women filling just 23 percent of statewide and 17 percent of Congressional offices, the political gender gap can ever be closed. Beginning with the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, Kornblut examines the consequences of candidates' choices amidst the conflicting demands of gender politics and personality politics: Clinton embraced toughness until it overshadowed her maternal appeal; she then exposed her vulnerability, famously crying on the campaign trail, only to be condemned for weakness and insincerity. Palin managed to balance strength and sensitivity, but her weak grasp of the current events proved the electorate's worst assumptions. Kornblut follows with other, more successful campaigns, including Janet Napolitano, former governor of Arizona; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, one of the few businesswomen ever to run for office. Through research and original interviews, Kornblut recounts scandals, strategies, and skepticism on the trail, and also sources a number of female operatives. More historical context would have helped illustrate change (and its lack) in the electoral landscape, but Kornblut's dedicated fieldwork makes a strong microanalysis of the political moment.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Although neither Hillary Clinton nor Sarah Palin managed to pull off the historic achievement of becoming the first woman president or vice president, they have added to the debate about the likely prospect of a woman ever reaching the highest office. Washington Post reporter Kornblut reviews the campaigns of Clinton and Palin from the perspective of how the media and voters reacted to female candidates. Based on her own observations, as well as those of campaign consultants and advisors, Kornblut explores how the candidates wrestled—or not—with gender issues from appearance to the role of their husbands and children in the campaign. Clinton was determined to downplay her gender in favor of her experience, while Palin apparently was unconcerned about the issue but more willing than Clinton to use gender to her advantage as Republicans and Democrats reversed themselves on traditional feminist issues. Kornblut analyzes the double standard applied to Clinton, Palin, and a number of other female politicians, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and self-made billionaire and Republican California governor hopeful Meg Whitman. Kornblut concludes with an analysis of the long-range implications of the two historic campaigns for the future prospects of women in public office. --Vanessa Bush

Product Details

  • File Size: 1180 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (December 15, 2009)
  • Publication Date: December 29, 2009
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0030P1WPY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #706,613 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. K. Johnson VINE VOICE on February 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an impressive work for two important reasons: first, my compliments to Kornblut for her non-partisan assessment of the problem of sexism in politics, and second, despite her being a thirty something, an age where most young women abjure feminism and believe sexism is a thing of the past, Kornblut brings to light that the double standard for women is alive and well in Washington, aided and abetted by the media and political consultants who don't understand how to showcase women candidates.

Ironically, in this world turned upside down, the only "woman" candidate to succeed in the 2008 presidential election was Barack Obama. According to Kornblut's claim, while Clinton and Palin had to downplay their femininity to appear strong and "ready on the first day," Obama was praised for showing his feminine side, being sensitive, relaying personal family stories of single mothers, absent fathers, breast cancer, and love for his grandmother, wife, and children.

While not personally a fan of Palin, I sympathize with her now for being thrust into an impossible position by operatives unable to understand both a woman candidate or women voters, setting her up for failure by misreading her strengths and weaknesses, and then abandoning her when things turned sour. (I now think Palin's "going rogue" might have been the most sensible decision she has ever made.)

The book is very well researched and her analysis of "what it will take for a woman to win" is thoughtful and should be number 1 on the reading list for any woman thinking of finally breaking the ultimate glass ceiling.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is a lot to like about Anne E. Kornblut's first book--she excels in framing quotes--but my essential dissatisfaction with it starts with the title. For one thing, everyone Kornblut interviews appears to agree that party allegiance matters more to voters than the candidate's gender. This undercuts the "what it will take for a woman to win" premise that must have been part of the book proposal. One does not get a strong opinion while reading "Notes From the Cracked Ceiling" whether it particularly matters whether women win elections; that sense of urgency is strangely absent from Kornblut's prose. The title also suggests that Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin are comparable political figures. They aren't, of course, and to suggest that "a woman"--any woman--might be the preferable candidate blurs the enormous gap both between the politics and the educational/professional backgrounds of Clinton and Palin. Though both were headliners in the 2008 Presidential election, Hillary slogged through the Presidential primaries nationwide before conceding defeat and vowing to support Barack Obama. Sarah Palin was brought into the campaign (officially) as candidate for Vice President just nine weeks before Election Day. While conceding that the spouses of female candidates tend to undergo greater scrutiny than male candidates' wives, Kornblut says almost nothing about the controversial Todd Palin. Kornblut doesn't mention Todd Palin's membership in the secessionist Alaska Independence Party, for example, or his role as a virtual co-governor to his wife, as detailed both in the daily press and by e-mails released by MSNBC months ago.Read more ›
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Anne E. Kornblut, a White House reporter for the Washington Post, is impatient to see a woman in the White House -- and not another First Lady, either. Her book, Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win, is easy (yet purposeful) reading. But lest her novelistic tone deceive you, let it be clear that her views on the necessity of recruiting more female political candidates are never in question. Having personally followed the two aforementioned presidential hopefuls during their campaigns, Kornblut has seen firsthand the unique abuse lavished upon female candidates. In her introduction, she argues that Clinton and Palin "may not have lost because they were women...but their sex played an outsize role in the year's events." She then closes that section with the observation that "the glass ceiling may be cracked...but it is far from broken."

What, then, is keeping women from breaking through that glass? History is an obvious culprit, but Kornblut is disinclined to let the present off the hook so easily. More specifically, she faults the candidates and their large teams of handlers, who often waged behind-the-scenes battles over their candidates' public self-portrayal. Should Hillary exude toughness, or feminine restraint? How about a combination of the two? Would it help if her daughter, Chelsea, campaigned along with her? In one potent example of poor decision-making, Kornblut details the various Christmas commercials the presidential candidates aired in December 2007. While Obama focused on his home and family, Clinton devoted her airtime to wrapping Christmas presents with labels such as "universal health care" and "bring troops home." "It was hard," Kornblut wryly notes, "to quit being tough.
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