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Madeleine Kunin On Clinton, Sanders And Gender Stereotypes In Leadership

madeline-kunin-talbot-ap-2013.jpg
Toby Talbot
/
AP/file
Former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin, pictured here in 2013, joined "Vermont Edition" to talk about her support of Hillary Clinton's campaign, Bernie Sanders' message and how gender stereotypes affect leadership roles in the country.

There’s been a lot of attention in recent weeks about Sen. Bernie Sanders' bid to win the democratic presidential nomination. In states with early primaries, Sanders is beginning to rise in some polls and is drawing big crowds.

There’s also a large group of Vermont democrats who are supporting the candidacy of Hillary Clinton: Gov. Peter Shumlin and Sen. Patrick Leahy are some of the political leaders supporting Clinton.

Former Gov. Madeleine Kunin strongly supported Clinton in 2008 and is enthusiastically backing her again this year. She joined Vermont Edition to talk about the campaign.

On why Hillary Clinton is her choice for 2016

“I think if you could be partisan-blind, and just objectively look at her qualifications, there’s no doubt in my mind, and I think many people’s minds, that she is most qualified person to be president of the United States. Her experience in foreign policy, her experience as a senator, her experience even as a spouse who witnessed everything that happened, if not first-hand, certainly second-hand.

“I know her both personally and from – I hope – an objective political perspective. She’s smart; she’s a quick study, she’s much more sociable and warm than can be put across sometimes on television and the media. And I guess as a footnote, I have to add, I’ve always wanted to live to see a woman raise her right hand and take the oath to become president of the United States. It would be a huge historic moment; it would be a justified historic moment. A lot of people think, ‘Hey, it’s about time we have a woman president.’”

"I've always wanted to live to see a woman raise her right hand and take the oath to become president of the United States. It would be a huge historic moment; it would be a justified historic moment." - Madeleine Kunin, former governor of Vermont

On Hillary Clinton’s 52 percent favorability in polls recently

“She’s been around a long time, and when you’re around a long time, you make some enemies, especially if you take action. But I think it depends where that 52 percent comes from. I’d like to see the [polling numbers] amongst Democrats. Because what we’re really talking here is the first step – winning the Democratic nomination. And I think as the campaign unfolds, as people realize what a capable woman we’re talking about, those figures will change.

“You know, we’re living in a very cynical time where politicians aren’t trusted by anybody like they used to be. There’s a suspicion abroad … and I think this cloud hangs over every candidate who sticks his or her neck out and says, ‘I want to get your vote.’ [People ask,] ‘Are you really genuine?’ I think that’s the major question and with all the negative signals we’re getting, and all the bad stories about corruption, people start out with suspicion and you have to prove to them that you’re clean.”

Is she surprised Sanders is rising in polls and drawing big crowds?

“Yes and no. In a way I’m surprised because none of us knew how his message would resonate outside of Vermont. But I think he is a very good speaker and he is very direct. He tells you what he thinks and he’s hitting the issues, which Hillary will put in center place as well. The economy, the growing gap between the rich and poor; Bernie has been saying that ever since he ran against me – I think it was 32 years ago, in my second term. What’s changed is that the economic climate has not only caught up with his rhetoric, it’s exceeded his rhetoric. So while he’s been saying the same thing, the situation has actually become more acute. The rich are even richer and the middle class – not only the poor – is falling behind. So that message resonates. I think a lot of people like to hear that message.

"The economy, the growing gap between the rich and poor; Bernie has been saying that [for 32 years] ... What's changed is that the economic climate has not only caught up with his rhetoric, it's exceeded his rhetoric. So while he's been saying the same thing, the situation has actually become more acute."

“He’s making a lot of promises. The question will be, is he really qualified? I’m glad he’s running, I think he’ll liven up the debates, certainly, and I think he’ll really underline and emphasize these central issues, which is good for the country.”

On the idea that Sanders will move Clinton’s beliefs more to the left

“I don’t think she needs anybody to move her, frankly, I think she’s already there … Hillary has to do two things, of course: She has to win the primary and she has to win the general election. Bernie is focused on the primary and he is not looking, he may be, but my observation is he can go as far left as he wants and worry later whether he can attract the middle.

"[Sanders] can be flamboyant, but if a woman had that kind of style, we'd be very put off. I mean again, there go the gender stereotypes. A man can shout, a man can be extreme, and not be considered hysterical. If a woman had that same kind of style, she would be considered hysterical."

“Hillary still has to attract some centrist positions and voters. And also, [it’s] a matter of style. [Sanders] can be flamboyant, but if a woman had that kind of style, we’d be very put off. I mean again, there go the gender stereotypes. A man can shout, a man can be extreme, and not be considered hysterical. If a woman had that same kind of style, she would be considered hysterical.”

On what it’s going to take to end these stereotypes

“I wish I knew the answer to that. The broad answer is the more women we see in leadership, not only in politics, but in business and education, the less that stereotype will have to stand. Because women, like men, do have different styles; we’re not in cookie-cutter shape. So I think the more you see, the more you get. And I think we also have to kind of remind ourselves, even women, ‘Am I stereotyping this person? Do I expect something different from a woman than [from] a man?’

“I think deep in our subconscious we have a photo that’s similar to the photos on the front page, that’s similar to the photos that are in statehouses and courthouses, that leadership equals male. And that male picture is the first thing we visualize and then we have to blink and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, here’s a different kind of leadership.’ Would that person be as capable as the men who have lead us for thousands of years? So it’s kind of a click that has to occur in your mind and you have to broaden your mind and say, ‘Yeah, we can do it effectively with a different cast, with a female cast.’”

On the role she’ll play in Clinton’s campaign

“My plans are fluid right now. We have 18 months to go, but I will do everything I can to help Hillary Clinton get elected president of the United States. In the past I have gone to New Hampshire and I have gone to some other parts of the country, so will do that.

"I really believe deeply that [Clinton] is right person for us at this time in history and that the time has come ... I believe she is the strongest woman and the most capable, and I would add the word compassionate."

"Again, as much as I’m able, because I really believe deeply that she is right person for us at this time in history and that the time has come – not to elect any woman – I would never vote for just any woman at all, but I believe she is the strongest woman and the most capable, and I would add the word compassionate. Her concentration on children’s issues, on education, on early childhood, on childcare, on paid family leave – these are now the gut issues for families and with her at the helm, we will get them done.”

Update 2:45 p.m. An earlier version of this story misspelled former Gov. Kunin's first name. It is Madeleine, not Madeline.

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