MOMENTUM; Women in American Politics Now, by Ronna Romney and Beppie Harrison, Crown Publishers, 1987, 229 pages. $18.95.
What is it that draws women to politics? The same thing that draws men. And in "Momentum" the lure is described for us, simply and clearly."The most addicting quality of political life . . . is the fact that it's permanently challenging. You can walk into headquarters and absolutely be guaranteed a different set of problems from the ones you had yesterday. Whether yesterday's were solved or not. . . .
"There are always us and them. The good guys are the people who support your issue or back your candidate; the bad guys are the ones who oppose you. . . . Moreover, since the issues over which the wars are fought are more often than not genuinely important issues - choosing who gets to decide tax issues or, at the national level, plan military readiness, for example - there is unspoken license for emotional excess. Political opponents can, and do, wade into each other with undisguised public enmity that would be totally unacceptable in more polite conflicts of ordinary society."
Their straightforward style is the strong point of the book. Ronna Romney and Beppie Harrison have set out to describe what is happening with women in American politics now, and they do, concisely.
"In 1973, there were 16 women in the House and 419 men. In 1986, 23 women were elected to congress, and 412 men. If this rate of change continues, women will reach representation fully proportional to their numbers in the population in a mere 406 years."
So where is the "Momentum"? Not at the national level, though Romney and Harrison present some interesting interviews with Elizabeth Dole, Geraldine Ferraro, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and others. Not in fund raising, either. The big givers are men (omney says women will vote for another woman and they'll work for her, but women haven't learned how important it is to give money to political candidates) and they tend to give to other men.
But there is "Momentum," especially at the local and state level. Romney and Harrison learned that the electorate increasingly accepts the idea of female politicians. They learned women have worked themselves into the system at all levels and are doing a good job. The momentum as Romney and Harrison see it is a more encouraging climate. Women who would have hesitated at being the first to run for a certain office can be the fifth to run for it and feel comfortable. They conclude that it won't take 406 years, after all, for women to become a significant part of the political system.
The book is accurate, not inflaming, a textbook about what is happening with women in American politics rather than a treatise about what should happen. "Momentum" should by read by high school and college political science students. And, as Pat Schroeder says on the dust jacket, "Any woman thinking of running for political office, from a seat on the city council to one in the U.S. Senate, should make `Momentum' a first campaign stop."
Ronna Romney came to Salt Lake City recently to promote her book. "Momentum" is the second book for Romney, who is the Republican National Committeewoman from Michigan and daughter-in-law of former governor George Romney.
Her book is proof of something that the women she interviewed said: Whether they are Republican or Democrat, women in American politics today support each other. (`I really liked all the women I interviewed, though we were miles apart politically," she says.) In spite of the fact that "Momentum" is written by a Republican, it is apolitical.
In person, in an election year, Romney is much more obviously a Republican chairwoman, however. She tells several anecdotes about what a warm, caring man George Bush is and said, "I don't think having Susan Achrich as a campaign manager is going to do anything for Dukakis."
For the most part, though, she talked about the
book."It was written to be non-intimidating. When the average woman finishes reading it she will know she could do this. She's not too old. She may not end up being presi-dent but she can make a difference."
Romney talked about feminists. She doesn't consider herself one but adds, "I wouldn't be sitting here today without that radical voice of the '70s."
She takes an equally soft stand on the roles that should be open to female politicians. Romney said she'd been on a talk show with a man who told her he'd never appoint her as his chief of staff or campaign manager because they would have to work together too many late nights, she was too pretty, and it would cause people to talk.
"And I'd never thought about it before, but I decided I agree with him. So I guess the message to women about waiting for a powerful appointment is `You better get elected.' "
And, her most important message is that women are getting elected. She says, "Out of 7,500 total state legislators in 1973, there were 362 women. Today there are 1,200. In cities of more than 30,000 there were seven female mayors in 1973. Today there are 94."