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When the new Congress convened this week, it opened with a record number of female senators—20, up from 17 last term. ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer recently gathered 19 of these women for an interview. According to the preview , electing more women is the solution to our nation’s fiscal problems.
Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill explained that women are “less confrontational and more collaborative,” and that “all of us, not only do we want to work in a bipartisan way, we do it.”
I’d like our fiscal problems solved—and solved sooner rather than later. But putting a budget deal together isn’t difficult because there is too much testosterone in the room. The real problem is that the parties, and the people they represent, have fundamentally different views on economic issues and how we should move forward.
Americans don’t just want a deal. They want to vote for officials who will enact certain principles into law. People on the left don’t like Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, because she is collaborative, pushes bipartisan legislation, and is good at just getting a deal. They like her because she aggressively champions liberal ideas and gets liberal policies enacted. The fundamental conflict between the parties—Republicans calling for spending reductions to downsize the government and Democrats seeking more taxes to expand government—would persist regardless of who is representing the parties.
Calls for President Obama to increase the number of women in his cabinet presume that women leaders create different outcomes from men. In a post-election interview, Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, argued for gender parity in the cabinet, stating that “clearly, it should be 50 percent.”
Why, exactly, should more women be in the cabinet? “I think that if half of the cabinet were women and half of the Supreme Court and half of Congress were women, we would see a lot more policies for expanding education and healthcare and social services that allow communities to thrive,” O’Neill told the Daily Caller last month. “We’d see a lot less spending on military weapons systems, and we would also see a lot less of the most powerful, moneyed people not paying their fair share.”
O’Neill is conflating gender with policy outcomes, presuming that more women would lead to more liberal policy outcomes. Yet what O’Neill should be arguing for is the men or women who would best advance the liberal cause. Being a woman isn’t enough for her support. If the real purpose of O’Neill’s call for gender parity in the cabinet is to advance the cause of women, rather than liberalism, then she should be arguing for specific women on their merits. Indeed, there are many qualified women eligible for office, and President Obama is surely considering them.
Personally, when I look at a candidate, I’ll be listening for his or her guiding principles and plans for how to fix our fiscal problems and create the conditions that allow Americans to flourish in these tough economic times.
The key to having more women in high office is for those women to make the case for their vision of the role of government and offer such solutions. Being committed to just making a deal isn’t enough, and neither is just being a woman.
Karin Agness is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and founder and president of the Network of Enlightened Women.