"New York Times Editorial
July 3, 1984, Tuesday, Late City Final Edition
On one side, Walter Mondale has been hearing some infuriating demands. If he wants to win in November, feminists are saying, he has to nominate a woman to run with him. Otherwise, as Judy Goldsmith, president of the National Organization for Women, said the other day, ”I don’t know how we can go out to women and say ‘Here’s something to work for.’ ”
On the other side, traditionalists sputter at what sounds like imperious presumption. The test of a candidate, they pronounce, should not be gender but qualification to be President. It’s a dismaying dialogue on both sides.
The feminists suffer from a crippling coarseness of style. They may sometimes feel embattled, driven to shrillness. But if, as a matter of pure political arithmetic, they are right about putting a woman on the ticket, that should be obvious to any serious Presidential candidate. If not, issuing threats sounds even more shrill.
Yet to be shrill is no worse than to be righteous, like the people who insist that the women Vice Presidential candidates so far proposed lack the requisite standing and experience. Why, it is said, none of them is even a senator.
Where is it written that only senators are qualified to become President? Surely Ronald Reagan does not subscribe to that maxim. Or where is it written that mere representatives aren’t qualified, like Geraldine Ferraro of Queens? Representative Morris Udall, who lost New Hampshire to Jimmy Carter by a hair in 1976, must surely disagree. So must a longtime Michigan Congressman named Gerald Ford.
Where is it written that governors and mayors, like Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco, are too local, too provincial?
That didn’t stop Richard Nixon from picking Spiro Agnew, a suburban politician who became Governor of Maryland. Remember the main foreign affairs credential of Georgia’s Governor Carter: He was a member of the Trilateral Commission.
Presidential candidates have always chosen their running mates for reasons of practical demography, not idealized democracy. One might even say demography is destiny: this candidate was chosen because he could deliver Texas, that one because he personified rectitude, that one because he appealed to the other wing of the party.
On occasion, Americans find it necessary to rationalize this rough-and-ready process. What a splendid system, we say to ourselves, that takes little-known men, tests them in high office and permits them to grow into statesmen. This rationale may even be right, but then let it also be fair.
Why shouldn’t a little-known woman have the same opportunity to grow? We may even be gradually elevating our standards for choosing Vice Presidential candidates. But that should be done fairly, also. Meanwhile, the indispensable credential for a Woman Who is the same as for a Man Who - one who helps the ticket."