Your announcement yesterday that you will not seek the open Senate seat in Maine made my heart sink. My emotional reaction to your well-reasoned decision surprised me. After all, as someone who has operated in the political arena for quite a while now, I’m accustomed to the pragmatic decisions and political calculations that are the bread and butter of incremental progress. Still, there are moments where outrageous circumstances should trump reasonable decision making, and recent events in the world of US women have been outrageous enough to warrant one of those moments.
The reasons for your decision are apparent and undeniable: early polling shows a nearly impossible pathway to victory in a three-way race; former governor and independent candidate Angus King has established himself as the presumed front-runner and your constituencies overlap; absent one of you dropping out, the race will likely be won by the Republican candidate. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee lauded your decision as the right one for the people of Maine and progressive causes, since neither will benefit from adding another Conservative Republican to the Senate. I am quite certain that party operatives and others are lining up to thank you for “taking one for the team.” But, me? I just wonder when it will be someone else’s turn to step aside for our team.
The number of women representing Americans fell in 112th Congress for the first time in thirty years. In the November 2010 elections, women went from ninety-three seats in the House and the Senate to ninety combined, making the overall percentage of women leadership at the federal level just under 17 percent. That numbers qualifies the United States for a spot at seventy-third place in the world for female representation in government leadership. We are tied with Turkmenistan.
Your announcement comes on the heels of a week dominated by Rush Limbaugh’s series of tirades against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke. Rush has lost close to forty-six advertisers for his rant calling Ms. Fluke a slut for testifying about the need for contraception to be included in healthcare. Yet, the comments from Republican leadership have been milquetoast at best, with majority leader John Boehner seeming to blame both sides equally. Representative Darrell Issa blamed the Democrats for the tone of the contraception debate.