Twenty Years Ago

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(Host) As the political season picks up steam, commentator Madeleine Kunin reflects on the role of women in politics.

(Kunin) Twenty years ago Geraldine Ferraro came to Burlington for a rousing Democratic rally at Memorial Auditorium. The photo that was taken of me and Gerry, extending our clasped hands over our heads in the traditional victory pose, still hangs on my wall.

I was running for governor, and she was running for vice president. I remember a father, holding his two years old curly headed little girl in his arms and saying to us, “I just want her to meet women like you so she can be whatever she wants to be when she grows up.” We thought then that this was the beginning of a revolution. Women would run for office in droves and it wouldn’t be long before we elected a woman President.

Twenty years later, sorry to say, not a whole lot has happened. The idea of a woman President still seems to be far off – except of course, if Hillary runs and wins, and that’s a big “IF.” And even she was cast in the traditional role of introducing her husband at the Democratic Convention.

The Convention featured more women than in years past-several governors and Carol Mosley Braun. But the women Senators and Congresswomen were paraded on stage en mass – to make the most of their small numbers. They still only comprise 14 percent of the Congress. Wouldn’t it be nice someday if the stage were not big enough for all the women – say about 250 of us showed up?

Today, it’s hard to segregate women’s issues because women care about all the issues men care about-national security, economic opportunity, education. Yet – there are still issues that are more urgent for women than men – affordable, quality childcare, the decision of when to have a baby, and equal pay, both at Wal-Mart and on Wall Street.

The connection between women’s issues getting on the agenda and women politicians holding office is clear, almost regardless of party.

So why won’t Sally run? If she runs for an open seat, she has as good a chance of being elected as a man. The trouble is, the men are not polite enough to give up their seats.

It’s time to look to the executive branch for a better model of women in power. If the next president appointed women to half the positions in the cabinet, that would send a powerful message. Other countries have done so, most recently Spain. These women would add to the small pool of women Governors, Senators and Congresswomen from which a woman President could be elected.

Wouldn’t it be great to see a woman President, arms raised overhead in victory, with her husband at her side?

This is Madeleine May Kunin.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.

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