A long way

Published 12:40 am Thursday, January 4, 2007

By Staff
You’ve come a long way, baby.
That sentence says a lot when it comes to women in politics in the United States. That sentence also is evident of two truths. The first truth is that women have come a long way in American politics. The second truth is that the word “baby” is proof that women still face an uphill battle in the war that is American politics.
Nancy Pelosi, expected to be elected the first female Speaker of the House today, is proof that women are more than capable of fighting in that war known as politics.
The United States of America is far from the forefront when it comes to women in politics, as a recent Associated Press report pointed out. In at least 79 other countries, women make up a larger share of the national legislature. And as that AP report notes, the United States trails two new democracies, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Great Britain had Margaret Thatcher as prime minister. Israel had Golda Meir as prime minister.
American women may have come a long way, but they haven’t gone far enough.
Pelosi’s good performance as Speaker of the House can help American women travel farther along the American political pathway. A poor Pelosi performance could hamper efforts by other American women as they work to make their marks in American politics.
Pelosi sounds as though she’s ready to make sure it’s easier for other American women to follow in her footsteps.
When Pelosi was first elected to represent her House district in 1987, there were 22 women in the House. When she takes over as speaker, a record 71 women will be in the House. They represent about 16 percent of the seats in the House.
Pelosi should relish her time as speaker. She has made it clear she wants to be judged by the same standards used to measure the 51 male speakers who preceded her.
Pelosi is more than aware she will be a role model for young women.
Pelosi can and should be a role model for everyone. In a time when many Americans view politicians in less-than-favorable light, Pelosi can do a lot to remove the black cloud that hangs over Congress. If Pelosi can help lead a new Congress that’s less tainted by scandal and corruption, she will have made a difference.
Pelosi has come a long way. Let’s hope she can lead the nation a long way down the path it needs to take. As Pelosi tries to do that, she should remember former U.S. Rep. Jeanette Rankin, a Republican from Montana. In 1916, Rankin was the first woman elected to the House. She paved the way for Pelosi.
You’ve come a long way, women. It’s time to take yourselves and this nation farther.