Links we recommend
Link to us
Free email update
What's New & Interesting
Link to us
How Not to Build a Female President
Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift’s decision not to seek re-election certainly got the talking heads chattering. Those supporting the Governor (presumably wishy washy, pro-deficit Republicans) seemed to back Swift’s claim to choosing parenthood over politics, an announcement that was at best spin, at worst a blatant lie. Swift was being slapped around in the polls by Mit Romney, the State’s financial house is in pigsty conditions, she was not going to win reelection. (I pictured three Republicans ambling through the Statehouse on the way to the Governor’s office to deliver the consensus of Republican thought, ala Hugh Scott, John Rhodes and That Old Turncoat.) Seeing the writing on the wall is a valuable trait more politicians should possess; Swift took the logical way out, evoking the well being of her children. This was meant to be graceful and non-transparent. Better luck next time, Governor.
As for the Left, there began (and concluded rather quickly, within about sixteen hours) a furious examination of Swift’s failures and root motivations, combined with the standard sly celebrations. At the opening of the NBC evening news, Tom Brokaw teased the upcoming story with the term “Swift departure.” (And you thought Republican humor was rigid. Brokaw might want to consider a joke writer; I hear Paula Poundstone is available.) Whenever a Republican disintegrates in spectacular fashion – Bob Packwood and Newt Gingrich are examples – the Left will make a fair amount of noise. Here a liberal could be divided; what do they recognize, the Republican failure (good) or the working mom failure (bad)? The Republican failure, because no random liberal gives a damn if a woman stays home with her kids or not, as long as it’s not them.
Not yet mentioned, Swift’s dedication to motherhood is commendable but it’s not how effective government is run, someone with their priorities so savagely divided can’t do both jobs well. Her concern was about birthing and raising children first and governing second, which is fine if you’re a short order cook. Right minded governance requires a dedication far apart from motherhood, in both tone and execution; you cannot have your staff babysit the State of Massachusetts, and you cannot expect the business of the State to wait while you take off to have more children. The voters didn’t turn on Jane Swift because she wasn’t a caring and attentive mother, they turned on her because she wasn’t a caring and attentive Governor. Rather, Massachusetts was her hobby.
Now here’s the tough part: not everyone can lead, and not everyone should be given the opportunity, most especially the majority of American women, as long as they are primarily emotionally driven creatures. There’s a reason Jane Swift will be an excellent mother and was not an excellent Governor, it’s because to parent takes a tenderness and kindness that cannot translate into politics if any substantive progress is to be made. Most of the men who ascend to the Presidency cannot lead effectively, and in careful examination you see the percentage of ineptness increases as the importance of the office diminishes.
All of feminity should note, this is not how you go about creating Presidents. Hillary Clinton is an intellectual barbarian; but the reason she continues to garner so much presidential consideration is because she gives the impression she could hang with the big boys. (And could probably physically beat most of them up, given means and opportunity. I exclude JT Watts from this note; he would lay Hillary out like an old newspaper, having played football for Oklahoma.)
There’s a reason so few women raise to the highest levels of power in any business or level of politics: they’re women, and they act like women. What’s the difference between, let’s say, Jane Swift and Golda Meir, Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Margaret Thatcher? Swift is a woman, and acts it. The first female President cannot leave her feminity out there to be looked upon or questioned, because men don’t want to be lead by women who aren’t their mothers or, even more regrettably, wives. Let’s face it: men don’t want their President nagging them, either.
Why is this relevant now? We’ve got a mid term election coming up, which means about a year or so from now, people are going to begin announcing their candidacy for President. There are going to be women who want to run, they’re not going to do well (e.g. Elizabeth Dole in 2000) and they, and various critics, are going to wonder why. Jane Swift is why. In order for women to succeed in national politics in the following years, they must strive to be the exact opposite of what Swift became as Governor of Massachusetts.
Send email to Brian - [email protected]
See all of Brian's columns