An op-ed in USA Today this week, penned by Rutgers University political science professor Ross K. Baker, puts forth the argument that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016 because Democrats are afraid of “powerful women”. It’s such an utterly preposterous idea that it’s worth exposing for all ridiculosity.
Here’s what Prof. Baker has to say:
Democrats do have a gender problem — but it’s not in the electorate, but at the party leadership level where two women have assumed dominant positions and have scared off serious male challengers.
Take Hillary Clinton and Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Both are towering and intimidating figures, who have sucked the oxygen out of the spheres they dominate. […]
When is the last time a Democratic hopeful secured the presidential nomination without a major opponent? The only time this has happened is when incumbent presidents seek an additional term, and even President Carter drew a big-name opponent in 1980 in Sen. Ted Kennedy. Otherwise, the answer is that since 1912 no Democrat has waltzed to the nomination without a fight. Clinton is on track to do just that.
In Congress, the colossus is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a tough, resourceful politician. A recent article in Politico suggested strongly that there was discontent in the ranks of House Democrats over her leadership. However, no Democrat was willing to go on record with comments critical of Pelosi. And when the new Congress convened in January, no one challenged her position as minority leader.
But that’s a problem for Democrats. True, they have successfully promoted the candidacies of women, championed issues that appealed to women, and generally been rewarded with their support. But the very elevation of these extraordinary women has placed male Democrats in the position of being unwilling to challenge them. […]
The advancement and championing of women has been a source of justifiable pride for Democrats since they put Geraldine Ferraro on the ticket as a vice presidential candidate in 1984. But their very success raises the question of whether it has saddled them with the burdens of political deference to women in leadership positions.
To back off from going toe-to-toe with a powerful woman is, in the final analysis, a form of patronizing that ill-becomes a party that has stood so steadfastly for women.
What the good professor doesn’t appear to acknowledge is that Democrats united behind Nancy Pelosi, not because they were afraid of her but because she had done a great job in her leadership position. With regard to Hillary Clinton, I have two words for him: Joe Biden.
Given their own problem with women voters, Republicans are desperate to create a “Woman Problem” for Democrats. But Democrats don’t elevate female politicians to positions of power and keep them there because they are afraid of them. They do it because they are the right people for the job. It’s “political deference” to proven leaders, not to women. It’s an insult to women to suggest otherwise.
The most comical thing about this op-ed is the contrast between it and another op-ed written by Professor Baker just seven months ago titled “Hillary nomination not inevitable” where he wrote:
If history is any guide, though, Clinton’s prominence should not be mistaken for inevitability. There might not be anyone on the horizon at present to challenge her, but Democrats are a scrappy lot who do not easily accept those who are thought to be destined for the Oval Office. […]
Familiarity in American politics may not breed contempt, but it may breed boredom with a too-familiar figure. A fresh face from nowhere — Jimmy Carter in 1976 or Howard Dean in 2004 — can temporarily derail or even upend the best plans of the best-known.
So, which is it, Prof. Baker? Are Democrats bored with Hillary Clinton or are they terrified of her?
The answer, of course, is they are neither. And when you finally figure out how it is you REALLY feel about Democrats and their female candidates, sir, please be sure to let us know.
[CC image credit: Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha | Flickr.]