“I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm,” senatorial candidate Joni Ernst announces proudly as she advances toward the camera in one of her recent campaign ads.
If that weren’t direct enough, the rest of the ad includes a grisly one-liner about cutting pork in Washington, as well as an assortment of pig shots and superimposed squeals.
This campaign ad, Joni Ernst’s debut into the national consciousness, can at best be called odd and at worst, ridiculous. But it worked. Ernst won the Republican primary with 56.2 percent of the votes, and she is set to face Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley in the upcoming general election this November.
But Ernst’s comfortable win in the primary invites the following question: Why in the world did Iowans chose to vote for a woman whose claim to fame lies in the butchering and castration of pigs? How can this tough, gun-toting, pig-chopping, outspoken woman possibly garner support in a country that prefers their females dainty and ultra-feminine?
The answer is simple. Ernst is following a woman who did more or less the same thing almost six years ago.
Former Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R-Alaska) trigger-happy, hockey mom, don’t-mess-with-Alaska persona was initially wildly successful — before she hit some minor potholes, such as her interview with then-“CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric. However, Republican voters reacted well to her pugnacious attitude and brazen statements.
Though Palin just missed cracking the glass ceiling of the vice presidency, she did manage to shatter that of the traditional female-politician mold. In short, she created another acceptable image for women politicians quite different from the established Hillary Clinton-esque style.
Women like Clinton found respectability by maintaining a cool, strong, professional persona, thereby warding off any accusations of feminine weakness or hysteria. Palin, however, gained popularity by being passionate, outspoken and bold. She was earthy rather than dignified, colloquial rather than eloquent, and it almost worked.
Perhaps Ernst will be more adept at maintaining the popularity this rough-and-ready attitude has gained her. Maybe she’ll crack a glass ceiling of her own in November and become the first female senator of Iowa. But whether you’re rooting for her or not, you’ve got to respect a woman that knows her pigs.