Up to here with woman's year

Mona Charen

October 29, 1992|By Mona Charen

AS a woman, I can hardly wait for the Year of the Woman to be history -- and I bet I'm not the only female who feels that way. The claptrap meter on this issue has been in the danger zone for too long.

George Bush was said to have "outraged women's groups" (notice how those three words seldom go out separately?) by muttering, during a discussion about women candidates in one of the debates, "I hope most of them lose." Some press reports treated his remark as a "gaffe." How so? President Bush is, at least nominally, a Republican. Most of the major women candidates this year -- those the press has been swooning over -- are Democrats. If he didn't want those women to lose, he'd have to turn in his GOP card.

I hope all of them lose: Patty Murray, the senate candidate from Washington state who describes herself with perfect accuracy as "just a mom in tennis shoes;" Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, who sports a dazzling smile but whose ethical standards are worthy of Jim Wright; Lynn Yeakel of Pennsylvania, who somehow overlooked paying her Philadelphia taxes for 10 years; Dianne Feinstein of California, who campaigns now as a moderate, pro-death penalty "new Democrat" but who promised when she ran for governor of California in 1990 that she'd hire state workers on a strict quota basis; and most particularly Barbara Boxer, the keening queen of the welfare state, the biggest spender in Congress, who is running for the other California Senate seat against the most authentic, most genuinely public-spirited man in American politics, Bruce Herschensohn.

The idea that we are all supposed to rejoice in the Year of the Woman is based on several flawed premises.

* The women of America were outraged by Anita Hill's treatment at the hands of the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee. This is demonstrably false. At the time of the hearings, by an almost 2-to-1 margin, women believed Clarence Thomas, not his accuser. It's true that polls now reflect a positive view of Ms. Hill, but that's only after a year of rhapsodic press attention has transformed her into a secular saint.

* The only women in politics who truly represent a breakthrough for women in general are liberal Democrats. In 1990, a number of Republican women challenged male Democratic incumbents, including Christine Todd Whitman running against Sen. Bill Bradley in New Jersey and Lynn Martin contesting for Sen. Paul Simon's Illinois seat. The press was somehow able to contain its enthusiasm about these races -- paying little or no attention to the potential for historic breakthroughs by women.

* Once a liberal, Democratic woman is in the race, a historic election beckons, and it is necessary for "the first woman" to be elected to prove the enlightenment of the electorate.

That is the subtle subtext of much media treatment of these races -- and may account for why the polls will prove to be wrong. When people are being told that a vote for the woman candidate is a step up the ladder toward civic virtue, they are less likely to reveal to pollsters a preference for the male.

But in many of the races mentioned above, there are solid reasons for voters to lean toward the man. Ms. Braun, her ethical problems to one side (though they are serious), has so little grasp of public policy that when asked about her positions at a friendly luncheon with the editors of the Chicago Tribune, she broke down and cried. Tears are not disqualifying for the Senate, but ignorance should be.

Barbara Boxer is a dismantle-the-Pentagon, rearm-Planned-Parenthood ultra-liberal who has abused her perks and consistently voted to engorge Washington with ever more power and money. Mr. Herschensohn, by contrast, is a small-government conservative and one of the only people running who is asking voters to give him less power.

Sure, it's great to see women elected. But only if, as people, they deserve to be. The tiresome theme of the Year of the Woman is the assumption that estrogen alone would mark an improvement in the Senate.

Mona Charen writes a syndicated column.

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