Just for You: Political Office Holders and Campaigners


  1. Text references
    1. Running a Political Campaign – Bella Abzug’s first two Congressional campaigns. 1970-72, pp.86-108
    2. Wielding Power – A Force for Change in the US Congress. 1970-76, pp. 112-133 and 150-166
    3. The National Women’s Political Caucus and a women’s agenda for the 1972 presidential campaign. 1972, pp136- 147
    4. Loss, resilience, and moving on – Bella Abzug’s runs for Senator, Mayor, Congress. 1976-1986, pp.169-193

  2. Thought questions (Download pdf)
    1. What was Bella Abzug’s motivation for running for office?  What allowed her to be upfront about her personal ambition?  What was the relationship between that ambition and her ego and her commitment to social justice?  How did others react to her drive and assertiveness?  To what extent did her ambition and self-esteem enable her to run a successful campaign and be an effective office holder?
    2. What were the strategies she used to win her seat in Congress? 
    3. How did Bella Abzug manage the political and legislative process in Congress?
    4. How did her personality help her? Hinder her? And how did she adjust for it?
    5. Bella Abzug lost 3 elections in quick succession. Why did she give up a safe seat in Congress, and why did she lose the subsequent elections?  How did she deal with each loss?
    6. What in our society today would change the way a modern day Bella Abzug operates, and how would she have to adjust to be effective?
      1. Rise of the right wing and fundamentalism of all sorts
      2. Technology
      3. Changing demographics, and increasing multiplication and fragmentation of identity

  3. In Their Own Words: Quotes for Discussion (Download pdf)
    1. “Well, God damn it, I think it’s overdue.  I will run!” (Bella Abzug, on the decision to run for Congress, p. 82)
    2. “It’s one thing to be an activist.  But it’s another thing to be willing to take that level of activism to governance….  [Bella] was willing to take her activism to another level…taking on a whole other burden of responsibility.” (Ron Dellums p. 111)
    3. “I hadn’t been a club person.  That’s not my constituency.  I come from the movements of change, the labor movement, the peace movement, the human rights movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement.  Those are the people I bring into campaigns all the time.” (Bella Abzug p. 86)
    4.  “…he[Congressman Ron Dellums] chooses to use Congress more as a platform, and I as both a platform and a vehicle to get things done.” (Bella Abzug p.113)
    5.  “You’ve got to be creative, experienced, and know how to use the library to ferret out what you need.” (Bella Abzug p. 122)
    6. “By taking the far forward position, Bella allowed other to move up and look more moderate.” (Marilyn Marcosson p. 166)
    7. “They [the Carter Administration] felt we’d overstepped our bounds when talking about the budget.  A budget wasn’t supposed to be a women’s issue.  She was always walking uphill, bucking the tide …if she wasn’t walking uphill, she’d find the hill that could be walked up.  It’s what made her great.” (Marlo Thomas p. 222)