The William Morris Agency was run for many years by Abe Lastfogel, who stood only five-foot-two. He didn’t want his employees to tower over him, so he only hired agents his height or shorter. One year at the annual company party for the agents and their families, one of the men introduced his young son to Abe. “Mr. Lastfogel,” he said. “I’m hoping my son could join the firm after high school. He’s only fourteen, and look how short he is already!”
This business of hiring someone for the right job for the wrong reason has been very much on my mind. A poll, than which no greater intellectual authority in our culture is conceivable, has declared that it is high time for a woman to accede to the presidency. The mensuration of temporal height is not a discipline I have mastered, but I have scored a high mark or twain in political science. And in that field the time had grown to its full height almost four decades ago.
In 1966 Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister of India and served for fourteen of the next seventeen years; Golda Meir became her counterpart in Israel in 1969, Thatcher in England in ’79. When Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice president alongside Walter Mondale in 1984, it was a familiar refrain among Republican types that “if Margaret Thatcher would be heading our ticket we’d vote for her in a heartbeat.” Although it was kind of lame and pathetic that they felt the need to buttonhole everyone with that information, lest the chauvinist stereotype prove too adhesive, it had the homely virtue of being true.
Bottom line, the story is a phony, the poll is a fraud, the issue is a phantom and the conflict is a mirage: you can’t get me to believe that there is one American in the last thirty years who would refuse to pull the lever for a candidate he agreed with just because she is a woman. Stuff and nonsense. The press needs to set up a straw man to prevent the story of the first woman president, whenever it materializes, from becoming anticlimactic.
YET, PERVERSELY ENOUGH, there is a heightening problem with a female presidency. A brand new situation that never existed in the past. And its provenance is in the tortured, tortuous byways of the liberal mind. Because they have begun to promulgate in various media a new paradigm for feminine governance. They are working to persuade the society that women bring a new hormonal cocktail to the party. Women as a group govern differently; this is their claim.
Nowhere is this pernicious doctrine more overt than in the recent television show, Commander-in-Chief, featuring Geena Davis as President. Right from the get-go, the producers put us on notice that we would encounter a new vision of government that is informed by the essence of womanhood. Sure enough, we were immediately treated to a scene of Davis on the phone in the Oval Office, threatening to invade Nigeria if they go ahead with the planned execution of a woman adulteress. The message in Ms. Davis’ commando performance is clear: here comes a woman-based politics.
This represents the purveyance of an agenda masquerading as an analysis. Whatever we call it, it is a horrific subversion. There has been a consensus of long standing — albeit often unspoken — that there is no intrinsic difference between having a man or a woman in office. In Mrs. Gandhi’s fourteen years of rule, in Mrs. Thatcher’s eleven years, and during the tenures of Benazir Bhutto, Corazon Aquino, Violeta Chamorro, Golda Meir, Kim Campbell, et al., we never once heard that they were pursuing feminine policies. Nor, conversely, that they were being exaggeratedly aggressive to overcompensate for lack of masculinity.
Even the voting habits of women are fairly similar to those of men. Whenever we look closely at the stats undergirding the much-ballyhooed “gender gap,” we find variations of two to four percent between male and female polling behavior. It used to be said that women voted for John Kennedy and John Lindsay because of their good looks; I’m sure that was true, but I’m equally sure that the good-looking women who run for office get plenty of male votes on that basis. When women gained suffrage by men’s sufferance, there was no proviso that Susan be Anthony. Still, the voting tracks are roughly parallel.
We are witnessing a cultural effort to undermine our national consensus. Under the guise of promoting a female presidency, they are injecting a poisonous perception of women as a group with identifiable political characteristics. Not only is that idea verily absurd, it’s even ridiculous to think of women as a group to begin with; our women do not reside in feminist collectives on the Amazon. Women and men still live together in this country, sometimes even in families, and men will vote for a woman President if her political views comport with theirs. High time maybe, but this is a low blow.