Wednesday, December 17, 2008

For senate, Caroline or Carolyn?

Caroline Kennedy strikes me as a very impressive woman with all the right priorities, such as education. But I also find it unseemly and undemocratic that she seems to have vaulted to the top of the Senate list by virtue of who her dad was. Seeing which way the wind is blowing, Rupert Murdoch’s NY Post has already endorsed her. Isn’t that sexist? Isn’t that the kind of system we rebelled against in 1776?

Governor Paterson is said to be drawn to appointing Caroline Kennedy to the senate because she would be a good fund-raiser who could be reelected in 2010 and would cast a glow around him and his issues. But we don’t want a plutocracy, we want a democracy. And frankly it is discouraging to see the way the system so often elevates particular families into politics, generation after generation, because of their names, bank accounts and Rolodexes. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are self-made exceptions, but we now have a president who rose in part because of who his father was, and there are many such cases.

After all, Beau Biden seems poised to succeed Joe Biden in the senate from Delaware, once his military service is completed. Ken Salazar’s senate seat from Colorado may be filled by his brother John. And here in New York State, we have a governor who is a second-generation politician who is choosing a senator from among such front-runners as a woman who is the daughter of a former president and a man who is the son of a former governor.

Leaping to anoint Caroline Kennedy also seems to me disrespectful of so many other women in New York politics who have worked for many years in Congress and accumulated tremendous experience and credentials. Think of Carolyn Maloney, who has been one of the great champions of women around the world on issues ranging from sex trafficking to reproductive health. Or Nita Lowey, likewise a formidable member of Congress with a great record of getting things done (who perhaps doesn’t want the senate seat). Isn’t it sexist to rush to support a woman because of her father, while ignoring other women who have earned their own substantial credentials in their own careers in Congress?

If Governor Paterson wants to replace Hillary Clinton with another woman, how about Carolyn rather than Caroline?

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