Thursday, May 22, 2008

dissing thatcher and defending hillary

Marie Cocco writes again about the Hillary Clinton campaign, her point this time being that people are using the "not THIS woman" line to hide the fact that they are not willing to consider ANY woman.

She does so by comparing our sorry record to that of other countries where women have risen to the top of the political heap, and pointing out how their rise to the top wouldn't play in America.

And she makes a strange comment about Margaret Thatcher that I find puzzling. You remember Maggie - the tough conservative and Reagan pal who famously told George H. W. Bush not to go all wobbly after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Cocco dismisses Thatcher as a model for an "acceptable" example of a woman leader in the US by writing: Thatcher, for instance, never ran for executive office on her own. She became the first (and only) female prime minister of Britain by reaching the leadership of the Conservative Party. That is how many female heads of state have risen -- through parliamentary systems that often use quotas to guarantee women legislative seats. Americans don't like quotas much.

How is that wrong? Let me count the ways.

First, the statement "Thatcher ... never ran for executive office on her own" is purely disingenuous. Britain has a parliamentary system - there was no Presidency for Thatcher to seek. In any case, after winning the leadership of the Conservative Party, she first became Prime Minister by leading the Tories in a successful election in 1979, and led her party twice to re-election. If that isn't running for executive office on her own, I don't know WHAT would be in a parliamentary system.

And let me assure you, there is NO quota system in the United Kingdom to assure women seats in Parliament - although the political parties themselves may enact such systems internally if they wish. And even if the UK DID have quotas for women in Parliament, that wouldn't guarantee one of them the chance to lead the country. The Conservative Party does not choose its LEADERS based on some quota. Whether you like Thatcher or not (I have mixed feelings about her), to make any such allegation does that skillful and tough-minded politician a real disservice.

Anyway, Cocco goes on to make the case that no other female politician, domestic or foreign, had anywhere near the name recognition or qualifications of Clinton. And from that she draws the conclusion that, by having rejected the very very best woman option ever to exist in the course of human history, we have proven as an electorate that we don't like women and don't want them to lead us.

That is an absurd argument. This primary process wasn't only about Hillary Clinton. It wasn't a referendum on her. It was a series of tests to narrow a field of eight, which included several very well qualified politicians, down to one. Clinton has finished second, behind a very attractive candidate who was frankly better organized than her. Clinton didn't lose so much as Obama won. Clinton's and Obama's success does not mean that Americans don't like white or Hispanic men, who finished third through last.

If the current situation were reversed and Clinton clung to a narrow lead, would Cocco be pleased if Obama supporters said that Clinton only won because it was "something about blacks"?

I didn't think so.

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Anonymous Jeff said...

Brilliantly put.

2:16 PM  

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