Geraldine Ferraro

March 27, 2011

Yesterday, Geraldine Ferraro died after battling cancer. The 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee, Ferraro was the first woman nominated on a presidential ticket by a major party. Her run--which also made her the first Italian-American nominated by a major party on a presidential ticket--was an interesting moment in the development of our age of confessional politics. A pro-choice Catholic, Ferraro found herself under attack from many--including her own bishop--who felt her political position on abortion contradicted her espoused religious beliefs. This dramatically demonstrated how national candidates are now expected to explain their religious beliefs and justify their political positions in religious terms. On the other hand, Ferraro herself engaged in such religious-political attacks as she criticized President Ronald Reagan for not being a "good Christian" (because she disagreed with his budget cuts to programs that helped the poor). In this regard, Ferraro added to the growing use of religion as a partisan weapon. Thus, she represented the double-edged sword of mixing religion and politics as she was both the attacked and the attacker.