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Palin and Bachmann -- Glass Half Full

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Michele Bachmann is running for president of the United States. Sarah Palin may be running for President of the United States, too. Okay, that's the bad news.

What's the good news? The fact that there is little, if any, discussion about the fact that women are running for president. For the top spot, not for VP. In three short years, a woman running for president has gone from a contentious, historic, much-debated proposition when Hillary Clinton was running to (almost) a non-event.

Maybe it is too soon to tell. Maybe it is a given that one of the tall white men running (read: Romney or Huntsman) will actually win the nomination and these women are just an entertaining "opening" for the main event.

While the fact that there is no outrage or derision is encouraging, having a woman run for president is long long overdue. America, a progressive, democratic country, where women have had the right to vote since 1920, where 60% of the college students are women, where 58% of grad students are women, will be one of the last countries to have a woman as the head of the government. England was ruled by queens centuries ago -- and, then, by Margaret Thatcher. Even Russia had Catherine the Great. In modern times, where the heads of state are elected and not (necessarily) by divine right, we are behind so many: Germany, Israel, Norway, Iceland, Bolivia, India, the Philippines, to name a few. Pakistan -- a Muslim country! Even Rwanda, for crying out loud. The world's first woman prime minister was Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, in 1960 -- over 50 years ago! I never understood, and still don't, why we Americans are such laggards in this area. There is no logical argument to be made.

Now, back to the bad news. The first woman elected as president of the United States has to be exceptional. Superior. The smartest, best educated and most rational person in the room. So, not Palin, not Bachmann. Why? Because failure is not an option.

I used to work at a Wall St. investment bank. There were diversity programs galore but it was still problematic to find a senior woman to promote to Managing Director in Information Technology. I used to discuss this often with my boss, himself an MD. He finally suggested just promoting a particular (and the most senior) woman in the group to managing director. His argument was "self selection". People tend to like and promote people who are similar to themselves. I get that and I agree. But this woman was not good. If there were five options in any given situation, not only would she not pick the best one, she would almost always pick the worst one. So my worry was that the first woman MD would "represent". She would be the standard bearer. She would have to do a good job, on behalf of her entire gender. If she sucked, the reaction would be "See. Women can't be managing directors". If a guy in that role sucked, it would just be "Gee, John is an idiot" and not "Men are idiots".

Barack Obama carries that burden for African Americans. Happily, he carries it well. Regardless of your politics, you have to admit (really, you have to!) that he is well-educated, competent, rational, even-tempered and intelligent.

So, even if my political views weren't the polar opposite of Palin's and Bachmann's (which they are), I would still say "not Palin, not Bachmann". As women, this is a risk we cannot afford to take.