Where are all the women in Congress? Hey, Why not ask the Women

Madeleine Kunin served as Vermont’s first female governor, a notable achievement for any woman. No doubt she would do what she could to help push more women into political positions, give them a little Kunin “bump” to help propel more female leaders into bigger, more visible roles. The problem with Kunin and many like her is that their loyalty is to the party first and then to women. Kunin is a prolific writer and there is no shortage of examples where she has lauded the importance of women leaders, while at the same time ridiculing women who do not fall within her party affiliation.

Democrats have been good to her. After serving as the Governor of Vermont, she was appointed Ambassador to Switzerland by President Clinton and lauds herself as being on a three person panel that chose Al Gore to be Clinton’s VP. Yes, I said Al Gore not Geraldine Ferraro or Barbara Boxer or any other choice, because in the end it’s all about winning and not about propelling women forward. You don’t get perks like ambassadorships to Switzerland by putting your sisters first.

A week after the midterms, Kunin posted a story on the Huffington Post entitled, “Where are the Women?” She begins with, “I already miss Speaker Nancy Pelosi.” I think Kunin’s article would have been more authentically titled, “Where are the Women DEMOCRATS.” It remains extremely frustrating to me when women like Kunin mold themselves as protectors of women’s rights, but only if the women fall within her party politics. She is a political bigot and women will NEVER gain the positions of power like they have in other countries while they are allowing themselves to be dictated to by the male establishment. In the end, women like Kunin need to choose who comes first, her party or women.

When the National Organization NOT for Women endorsed Jerry Brown for California Governor, solely on the basis of gossip and rumor, something smells.

“It’s a pattern that’s developing about how Meg Whitman treats people who she believes are beneath her. It’s a cynical game of the Republican Party, putting up candidates who are anti-women to garner women votes superficially,” said Patty Bellasalma, president of California NOW.

“A cynical game of the Republican Party…,” We wonder why there is so much gridlock in congress, why people are not willing to bend or compromise and yet women like Kunin and the NOW organization refuse to endorse any woman outside their party, simply because of the entrenched prejudices against a particular group. Yes, again, political bigotry. Women who cannot see worth beyond party lines, do not have the right to wear the “Rights for Women” banner.  Really, how bad can someone screw up as a U.S. Representative with only a two-year tenure?  Why are we so keen to let men make mistakes and not women?

In Vermont Woman, Kunin states, “You know, in 1984, when I was elected, there were a whole group of women who were eminently qualified, but still their credentials were different from the men who had preceded them. What I was able to do was broaden the definition of qualifications.”

What did she mean by “different credentials?”

She cites her appointments of Betsy Costle, Mollie Beattie and Gretchen Morse to leadership roles in her administration even without direct experience, “Mollie Beattie had no administrative experience when she was appointed to head Forests, Parks and Recreation, but she was an excellent forester and turned out later to head the federal Fish & Wildlife administration.”

A wonderful legacy, but all three women were Democrats, again party first and she can’t claim that they were any better qualified than their female Republican counterparts because she already says they lacked “credentials.”

In Kunin’s recent Op-Ed she suggests that losing Pelosi somehow returns Congress to the middle ages, “It will take some time for me to get used to John Boehner, not only because of his different politics, but also because once again, the Congress is returning to an old boys club.”

I am amazed that her narrow vision doesn’t see that she is not only a part of the “old boy’s club,” she is an advocate.

In 2008, when Sarah Palin debated Joe Biden, Kunin compared Palin to Pygmalion, “who was taught to pronounce the words correctly. It worked on one level, but if you were to uncover it, there would be no second layer.”

She titled the post, “Fake it ‘Til You Make it,” acknowledging that she did well in the debate, but she couldn’t really take her seriously. Why?

“Perhaps it was because she was too well rehearsed,” says Kunin. “The gee whiz quality of her presentation made it clear that she actually was thrilled to meet Senator Joe Biden, was “honored” to be there. A warm smile, a perky voice, and yes, a certain likability are attributes, but these qualities are not enough to project her into the vice president’s chair, and possibly, the president’s. There is no doubt, that Palin looked downright flimsy in comparison to rock-solid Biden. She looked good, she often sounded good, but could she actually govern this country in a time of economic crises?”

That whole paragraph is so demeaning to women that it hurts. “She looked good, she sounded good,” but Kunin just doesn’t think she’s up for the job, especially against “rock-solid Biden.”

Why wasn’t she “feeling it?” Because our society, and very notably women, are not programmed to admire the successes of our own gender. Kunin, like many others in her party, labeled Whitman and Fiorina “Wealthy candidates,” suggesting they were out of touch with the everyday worker. Brown has never even held a job. He has been a politician his entire life and, if one stood back to look at the mess that California is in, Whitman’s business prowess would have been a welcome asset.

Kunin does give some women (of the party that can’t be named) kudos, but she can’t bring herself to actually publish their names.

“News was made in South Carolina, which had the distinction of having zero women in the state Senate, but now has made history by electing a Republican woman of color as Governor,” says Kunin.

Nikki Haley is the new Governor of South Carolina, NIKKI HALEY. Kunin fails to even mention that the retiring House Majority Leader in the South Carolina State House was a woman…but she’s one of them. Republican Representative, Annette Young, retired this year after serving honorably as the first woman majority leader and the first Republican since reconstruction.

Perhaps Ms. Kunin needs to put on her non-partisan glasses to see the women that are trying to make a difference. The current ouster of the Democratic Party had little to do with their agenda and more to do with America’s need to see compromise. As a moderate, I want to see debate and concessions, how else can we hear ALL Americans’ voices. It’s not about the party anymore, it’s about America and as we vote in our representative, they should be heard, and women should not be held to a standard that men are not measured by. Meg Whitman was “not nice” to her employees. Why is that a positive for men and a reason to pull an endorsement for a woman?

Give us a chance. Let us fail. Let us succeed. Let us be Women first. Golda Meir, Israel’s first woman Prime Minister said it best, “Whether women are better than men I cannot say – but I can say they are certainly no worse.”

Photo: International Museum of Women

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