Thursday, March 25, 2010

High Profiles: Pelosi and Palin

The two feistiest figures in politics today are doing it without a Y chromosome.

On the PBS News Hour, the Speaker of the House evoked that old Feminist slogan to sell cigarettes, "You've come a long way, baby" as an energized Nancy Pelosi took a victory lap on health care.

Meanwhile, in the era when a woman couldn't make it to the White House, Sarah Palin is one of the few Republicans actually winning anything, her latest triumph a million-dollar-an-episode contract for a reality show on the Discovery Channel.

During the health care campaign, the President was making the speeches, but Pelosi was in the trenches fighting for every vote and now is offering no apologies.

"Bipartisanship," she tells Jim Lehrer, "is not more important than a little child who is sick, being deprived of coverage because he has a preexisting condition. It's not more important that...just being a woman is no longer a preexisting medical condition, that if you lose your job, you lose your insurance, that, if you want to start a business...or change jobs, you're not job-locked, that insurance companies can...increase your rates, and you're at their mercy."

On the other side of the ideological divide, Palin has come a long way from the knowledge-deprived Vice-Presidential candidate and is now, on a Facebook page, targeting by name 20 Democrats, vowing that in November "we’re going to print pink slips for members of Congress as fast as they’ve been printing money," even as she has to rebut charges of inciting violence against health care supporters.

As much as Pelosi and Palin may rub those who disagree with them the wrong way, together they exemplify how much the American political landscape has changed in half a century since a young John F. Kennedy wrote "Profiles in Courage" and failed to include even one woman.

To make amends, he wrote an article for McCalls, highlighting Jeannette Rankin, the first of her gender ever elected to the House of Representatives and the only member to vote against entering World War I. She lived to be 92, helped women get the vote and never stopped fighting for causes she believed in.

The next young politician to write about women as leaders in this century will have a much wider choice.

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