A recent article in the Knight Ridder Chain reports that Emily’s List is worried about the prospect of “losing” women in state government, thanks in part to term limits.
They point the finger at all sorts of factors, but fail to realize as they point the finger at others, four more are pointing back…at Emily’s List, as well as the whole self-appointed Women’s Political Mafia that has evolved over the last 20 years.
Remember the “Year of the Woman” in 1992? We were supposed to ooh and ahh at all the women getting elected to office. Groups like Emily’s List, which once operated out of basements in Washington DC moved into the spotlight, as they helped underdog women candidates with early money, and provided support to their campaigns to try and “level the playing field” for (liberal) women candidates.
Which is fine. Many great people got elected to office, including my perennial favorite, Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn of Washington State (whom I count as a friend and former client). And I’m all for a level playing field so that the best candidate wins, based on merit, not on bullshit, even though I really tire of “identity politics” and the crap such phony baloney brings on in our system. That’s another column.
Back to the point: The problem is, after 1992, Emily’s List became as much a part of The Problem in Politics as it was once The Answer. Once the secret weapon of underdog candidates, it quickly evolved into an incumbent protection system for women elected in the early 1990s.
A few years in the corridors of power during that brief time in the Clinton Administration when “Democrats” (real and corporate) ran everything, and suddenly Emily’s List was no longer interested in taking chances with women running for Congress, or elsewhere. It was All About Protecting The Small Gains instead.
So while a wealthy Corporate Sponsored Democrat like Jane Harman (D-Venice Beach) or another millionaire, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) could count on Emily’s List to beat the drum for their candidacies, other women could not. And if two women ran against each other? They’d stay out. Rather than try and make a decision as to who the best candidate would be, they’d sit it out. Usually the corporate PAC money backed candidate won in those cases.
As the 1990s wore on and the GOP gains in 1994 clearly weren’t going away, Emily’s List and other similar “mainstream” women’s groups spent more time in Washington DC, still pretending to be in power, when in fact they were getting their asses kicked. Sure, Senator Boxer won in a landslide. But guess what? They’re passing all sorts of legislation these women’s groups claim to be against in the US Senate. And I didn’t see Emily’s List taking many chances in the Congressional or US Senate races this time around.
Most people don’t know that the majority of my clients have been women clients, primarily by accident or referral, but nonetheless I’ve ended up on the side of underdog women candidates more than once, mostly because I’m good at what I do and I’m not nearly as nasty as I seem in print.
So I’ve seen first hand the kind of shenanigans I describe, and there is nothing more sad than having to tell a client the reason they’re not going to get the support of some Big Women’s Political Group has nothing to do with their campaign’s strength, their stand on the issues, or the years of hard work volunteering for said causes, but instead a back door deal cut by interest group leaders and Corporate Democrat leadership types.
Even on a local level, “women’s political groups” often make decisions based more on the politics of accommodating power, instead of standing up for the people (women) and politics they claim to believe in. Last year, while working in San Francisco in the supervisorial races, I was astonished to watch local women’s political groups endorse men in races where supremely qualified women were running.
Here I was, in a supposed bastion of liberalism and feminism, with a plethora of well-qualified candidates running for office – people like Christine Linnenbach who came damn close to winning the election – lose out on endorsements to lesser qualified men, from women’s groups.
It was stunning. Here was an intelligent, thoughtful and highly qualified candidate with hundreds of endorsements, losing out to a no-name man, just because of some civic politicking that had nothing to do with helping women get elected, and more to do with sucking up to The Man. Great job, girls For an encore, why don’t they just give up, and put on some aprons and let all the men do the hard work?
Harsh? Yes, but so is seeing the cynicism of these kinds of groups at work. I like to make a note, and the next time I hear some local self designated Arbiter of What Women Think from these politicos, I take it about as seriously as a crank email from a nut like Hal Netkin or Jimi Hahn.
If Emily’s List, and the many other members of the Women’s Political Mafia are truly concerned about the status of liberal women in the political world, they’ll take their heads out of the sand, and their hands out of the pockets of corporate Democrat incumbents and go back to the reason they were founded in the first place.
Local and national women’s groups need to stop licking the boots of male corporate politicians and assert themselves a little more. Sure it may be risky, and they may have to go to some new sources of funding since the credit card PACS might not like them.
But if they don’t, they’re going to remain a part of the problem with the political system, and not a solution. I, for one, won’t take them too seriously when they make their latest complaint, knowing that when they’ve had the chance, too often they chose status quo power over real change.
UPDATE: Emerge, yet another groups that purports to be about helping women get elected had a big fundraiser in San Francisco with Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, who, apparently, used to live in the Bay Area.
Great PR for the group, and always a lot of talk, and the interviews with the up and coming “new leaders.” But of course, most of the talk at the event was How We Gotta Help Dianne Feinstein, and support the impossible prospect of a Granholm for President campiagn. (The Governor is unable to run for president, as she is not a native born US Citizen). But hey, it makes for good PR and makes people “feel good.”
But watch how fast the power-suited women in the room help their young charges when they run for office in the future. Funny how most of the people in that fundraiser were the same ones who time after time, hold back on helping women candidates when they don’t fit the status quo.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com
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