The Elevation of Nancy Pelosi
Last week history was made. A woman, Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, was chosen speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and anyone within hearing distance of a television set heard the word historic hundreds of times. To listen to the media hype, youd have thought it was the most exciting event since Lindberghs solo flight across the Atlantic, and that millions of people must be lining the streets of New York to give Mrs. Pelosi a roaring ticker-tape parade.
Mrs. Pelosi herself spoke of her selection as a great triumph for women, as if she had just overcome tremendous odds to break the marble ceiling. An unprecedented human achievement!
Maybe I just live in a dull neighborhood, but nobody I ran into seemed to find it the least bit exciting. In fact, nobody even mentioned it.
Of course much depends on whether you consider acquiring political power a great accomplishment. Frankly, Id be more impressed if a woman became heavyweight boxing champion.
Seeking a historical parallel, my mind raced back nearly a quarter of a century, to 1984, when the media went into similar throes as the Democrats chose a woman to be their vice-presidential candidate. Her name, as every student of history knows, was Geraldine Ferraro. Then too the word historic was used with abandon.
The parallels dont end there. Ferraro was a woman, a Democrat, Italian-American, and Catholic. So is Pelosi. One more little thing: Ferraro was outspokenly pro-abortion. So is Pelosi. All this is more than mere coincidence.
If either one of them had expressed opposition to abortion, it goes without saying that the Democrats wouldnt have exalted her. This throws an interesting light on the historic achievements of women. In todays America, there are few constraints on how far a woman can rise, so long as she is a Democrat, a professed Catholic, and a proponent of abortion.
Pelosi does have one advantage over Ferraro. She was the daughter of the mayor of Baltimore, so, despite her self-dramatization, its not as if she had to struggle to overcome her humble origins. This isnt exactly a Horatio Alger story.
If, as is not improbable, a woman finds a cure for cancer, nobody will be very surprised. There will be nothing marvelous about it. It wont be hailed as a great womans achievement. It will be the sort of thing we have come to take for granted.
The liberal creed holds that women and minorities never have a nice day. The victim act should have been retired long ago, but it has persisted long past the point of satiety. Indeed its refreshing to read old political debates, from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with their nearly total freedom from grievance and resentment.
Though the self-conscious victims among us talk as if they have been excluded from constitutional protection, the original Constitution (including the Bill of Rights) says nothing about race or sex. It speaks of persons. Much nonsense is spoken about it by people who dont stop to reflect on what that word implies.
Women have been elected and appointed to public office, including Congress, for a century or so now. Why is so much fuss being made about a very minor political milestone today?
Presumably Geraldine Ferraro is still alive somewhere or other, but for an epoch-making figure she is curiously obscure. Her 1984 campaign was of course a flop, soon enmeshed in her and her husbands shady business associations, leading her to complain that she was, yes, a victim of anti-Italian stereotyping. (Old-timers may recall her laments about what happens to people whose names end in vowels.) It became hilarious when her own husband got into trouble with the law.
So youll pardon me if I dont join the celebration over historys latest development. Events of great historical importance dont always make headlines the day they occur. When another Italian Catholic unexpectedly found land between Western Europe and the Orient, it took a while for the full significance to dawn on other Europeans.
In those days, of course, the technique of hype was still in a primitive state. Today it is so far advanced that many Americans actually believe that something of consequence happened last week.
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