Senator Blanche Lincoln finds herself in the political version of a perfect storm. Her home state of Arkansas is centrist. Predictably, Republicans are chastising her vote for Obama's health care legislation. Progressive organizations, unexpectedly, are throwing millions of dollars behind a male Democrat to challenge Senator Lincoln in a primary. And shockingly, a women's organization dedicated to getting women elected says she deserves it. Despite all the darts being thrown at Senator Lincoln from seemingly every direction, I'll stand with her. And here's why you should too.
Women's representation in the U.S. Government is a national embarrassment. We rank 84th in the world in women's representation in government -- behind such "modern" countries as Pakistan, China and Venezuela. While the governing bodies in countries like France and India are working on legislation that would force gender equality in positions of power, here at home, even under a Democratic president and Congress, we have no such legislation even contemplated.
So what exactly do our organizations that consider themselves "progressive" stand for? Somehow in the rebranding from liberal to progressive, we left something behind: gender equality. How can an organization, or for that matter a political party, consider itself modern, progressive, advanced, or liberal if it does not prioritize gender representation? How can the organizations which are funding a primary challenge to Senator Lincoln ignore the fact that only 17% of our Senate is women? It would be progressive to get that down to 16%?
I know, I know, it's not our culture, it's just that Senator Lincoln is just not the "right woman." She has her faults and that is why we simply cannot support her. We have to wait for the right woman. Well, who pray tell is this right woman? Because the right women wasn't Hillary or Sarah or Martha. Could it be that this "right woman" phenomenon is just a socially acceptable byline for our internalized sexism?
If our country hopes to move forward, then we need to change the status quo. I won't bore you with the numerous studies detailing why so few women run. Or why when women do run they are treated much more harshly than their male counterparts. But, I will proffer this: we start somewhere.
Here's a thought: women's organizations should support women. Does that mean that every women's organization needs to support every woman? No. But as my dear, departed mother taught me: "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." That, at least, is a start.
Here's another thought: having more women in positions of power for BOTH parties is good for women and women's issues. Why wouldn't we work towards getting more women elected in both parties? Don't we see example after example after example of women crossing party lines to vote together for women's issues? And since we'll never be able to control the political headwinds, doesn't it behoove us to have as many women as possible running on both tickets in each election?
True, not every woman candidate has the exact policy profile we desire. Does any male candidate? Perhaps in the short-term, we'll have to be a bit more flexible and forgiving of our women. At least until we can get some semblance of gender equality. And, in the mean time, I'll stand with Senator Blanche Lincoln and hope that you will too!