Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Winning isn't everything, even for women!

Still decompressing from an unforgettable journey aboard the good ship YearlyKos, I awoke this past Sunday morning to more political talk in The New York Times without due mention or recognition of women.

(Yes, the previous Sunday paper contained "Ascent of a Woman" by Anne E. Kornblut, and that was all well and good -- until I picked up the hard copy and realized that Ms. Kornblut's article was not only on the front page of the Sunday Styles section, but accompanied by a large pink purse with the presidential seal. Inside, photos of foreign women leaders were buttressed by a large photo of Hillary Clinton cut off just above the eyebrows. I got it, but I really don't want it...The issue of women being under-represented at decision-making tables is not just about popular culture and the usual reasons put forth by Ms. Kornblut and oft-quoted experts. It's also seriously about sexism at the highest echelons of our political system -- where our political leaders talk equal representation, but do next to nothing to make it happen. Why isn't that ever on the public laundry list of reasons holding women back?)

This Sunday's Week in Review contained a piece by Mark Leibovich entitled "In Politics, Winning Isn't Everything. Running Is" (6-18-06):

"TOM TANCREDO is not well known outside of Congress, a few C-Span junkies and the slab of Colorado he represents. But the four-term Republican representative says he might run for president anyway. Could he win? "No way," Mr. Tancredo says, neatly distilling the prevailing wisdom on his chances.

"But that's beside the point. As a general rule, the only thing a politician loves more than getting attention is getting free attention -- if that free attention isn't too embarrassing. And saying you might run is a surefire way to get free attention. This partly explains why Mr. Tancredo sounds so giddy on the phone, as if he's just stumbled onto a broken slot machine."
Maybe it was a Father’s Day thing that prompted Mr. Leibovich to list only men in his piece about the value of running for President of the United States even if one doesn’t have a glimmer of a chance. Or maybe it was a pretty good indicator that the system is closed to women in actuality. Perhaps Mr. Leibovich didn’t have women’s names at the tip of his pen, but he could have included us in the conversation and suggested that women get with the program!

Running for president does indeed have cachet, which is exactly why several women should throw their hats into the proverbial ring for the upcoming ultimate OPEN SEAT. It matters that more women are seen in the light of presidential aspirations -- and it matters even more that we get off the “right” women thing, which is the very best way to keep a choke hold on who runs for president. (BTW, have you noticed who has managed to get elected president in the last 40 years?)

In 2003, I suggested to Carol Moseley Braun that the reason more women weren’t behind her run for president was that she did not get their permission. Her response was something along the lines of “If I had to wait for permission, I would never have run for anything.” And what prompted her to run for president? Her answer to that was something along the lines of, “Well, I had already run and won several elections including for U.S. Senator, and it seemed natural to go to the next step.” Amen, sister—that is the attitude men have and women should feel free to think the same way. The rest of us need to support that and establish a new paradigm for accelerating the election of women.

Whatever you might think of Senator Braun’s run, many people agree that having her in the race was indeed valuable – especially when she lined up onstage with nine men for a series of televised debates, changing both the picture and the conversation (when somebody actually called on her). In fact, Senator Braun was the ONLY one to talk about equal pay in those debates -- and in the NM debate for and by Latinos, she got a loud response for pointing out that Hispanic women make only $.58 on the dollar, well below the national averages of $.70-.77 often bandied about. Mr. Leibovich interviewed Al Sharpton, but no sign of Carol Moseley Braun.

Despite the fact that women are a bunch of nervous and unreliable Nellies when it comes to backing women, a key to making the issue of a woman running for president a fact of life does indeed lie in more women running. Right away we could make our short list a whole lot longer. How about adding Jane Harman, Diana DeGette, Mary Landrieu, Jeanne Shaheen, Laura Tyson, Aida Alvarez, General Claudia Kennedy, Betty Castor, Denise Majette, Debbie Stabenow, and Christie Todd Whitman to the list of usual suspects? What do they or we have to lose?

It’s not about who exactly we may want or approve of for president. It’s about embracing the election of a woman without a mess of irrelevant strings attached. It’s about political leaders putting their money and political capital where their mouths are. It’s about women being seen in the light of presidential potential and having something to offer, which could be a whole lot more than some of the male candidates we hear about. It’s about broadening the field so we have more choices and fewer testosterone-fueled debates. It’s about making women running for president normal, so we can move our country forward. Women have every right to declare for president, and they have much to offer towards making the USA whole again.

PS: If Hillary Clinton does not run for president or does not become her party’s nominee, it won’t be because the Netroots didn’t approve of her or because she’s not electable. In 2002, they said that Janet Reno could not be elected Governor of Florida because of “Waco, Elian Gonzalez and Parkinson’s Disease.” And if you think that mantra wasn’t promulgated by male Democrat leaders, I’ve got a Coral reef to sell you!


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