Mean Girls in Politics

Published on TruthDig, by Ruth Marcus, June 10, 2010.

What is this, middle school? I was all set to sit down and write about women in politics, and applaud Tuesday’s results, when off pops the new Republican nominee for senator from California, Carly Fiorina, with a comment that takes you back to the cattiness of the school cafeteria … //

… At the risk of incurring the wrath of PTA moms—they’re not just PTA moms anymore. Or widows and daughters of male politicians. Fiorina and Whitman are former chief executives of major companies (Hewlett-Packard and eBay, respectively). Lincoln is an incumbent senator. Haley broke some kind of gender barrier as a female candidate for major office caught up in an alleged sex scandal. Angle seems like a nut, but at least a self-made nut. 

Meanwhile, as The Washington Post’s Anne E. Kornblut pointed out, “gender never became much of an issue” in this year’s campaign. In California, former and would-be future Gov. Jerry Brown will be, literally, the odd man out among three female candidates at the top of the ticket. The nation’s largest state could easily have a woman in the governor’s chair and, however the election turns out, will continue to have two female senators. That’s pretty remarkable.

“It could be a bit of an indication of something resembling progress,” Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, told Kornblut about the election results.

Alas, that was before Fiorina’s unfortunate detour. Carly, talking about your opponent’s looks? Sooo yesterday. And when middle-schoolers get caught talking trash, a grown-up makes sure they apologize. Write Ruth Marcus.

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