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International Women’s Day and Chellie Pingree

Gotta make this quick because I have a lot of driving to do today.

Today is International Women’s Day.  I know, I know, it seems like it comes earlier and earlier every year.

So, what did America get for its women this year?  We’re all of 17% of the Senate, which is, by the way, pathetic.  Well, don’t expect that to get any better come November.  Maybe if we’re lucky we can add Elizabeth Warren and we’ll still have only 17%.

In Maine, Representative Chellie Pingree, a liberal Democrat, was disuaded from running for Olympia Snowe’s seat by Angus King, the former governor.  See Digby’s post from yesterday for all of the bloody details.  The summary goes like this: Pingree was going to run for Snowe’s seat but then King decided he wanted to go for it.  The numbers were on her side until King jumped in.  King is going run as an independent.  Pingree did the numbers on a 3 way race and decided it was too risky with King in it.  Sooooo, guess who the Democrats decided to back?

If you guessed Pingree, you would be wrong.  They’ve decided to throw their support behind King.  King has suggested that he will caucus with the Democrats and will become their Lieberman replacement.  Isn’t that special?

To recap: The Democrats had an opportunity to pick up a seat in Maine AND retain one more seat for a woman.  But when they had to make a choice to throw all of their effort behind a candidate, they chose to throw it behind a man who isn’t even in their party.  Folks, you can’t make this stuff up.

Now, a lot of you are going to say that this is Maine and we don’t know Maine and King was a popular governor and the tea leaves were inauspicious, blah-blah-blah.  You know, I just don’t see it that way.  I see this as a horribly missed opportunity to replace a woman in a seat which American women simply can not afford to lose to a man.  Sometimes, bigger ideas and concepts should take precedent over Democratic party expediency.

And I’m not buying the Supreme Court argument.  If Olympia Snowe hadn’t resigned, she would have gone on to keep this seat for the Republicans and the burden of getting that Supreme Court justice protecting seat would have gone to the other Democratic candidates who are running.  In other words, nothing would have changed except there would have been one more woman running for a senate seat.  It’s unlikely that the rabid Republican running for the seat from Maine would have changed that.  He only has one vote and he could only vote for the person the Republicans tell him to vote for.  He doesn’t get to nominate a more radical Supreme Court nominee all on his own.

In fact, it’s surprising that any of us are buying this Supreme Court justification for passing over Chellie Pingree.  More likely, the Democrats are more comfortable with King and not with Pingree.  Pingree would be one more progressive voice, another pro-choice woman who might have expected the party to act like real Democrats.  Can’t have that.  It’s not the first time this has happened either.  Here in NJ-07, the Democrats strongly backed Linda Stender in 2006 when she lost by a mere 4000 or so votes but abandoned her in 2008 when she really needed their help.  NJ-07 is a reliably Republican seat so for a pro-choice, anti-war, liberal Democrat to get so close to winning in 2006 was an extraordinary accomplishment and makes it particularly maddening that the Democrats pretty much left her to her fate in 2008.  NJ-07 is now stuck with Leonard Lance, a Republican.  What’s happening to Pingree seems very familiar.  And let me make it clear: Stender’s case was not a cautionary tale.  It was an example of something ugly that crept into the party in 2008.  This district was winnable but the Democrats went out of their way to ignore Stender and didn’t lift a finger to help her.

I’m really starting to have negative feelings towards this version of the Democratic party and to those of you who are starting to feel increasingly uneasy about what you’re seeing, welcome to the club.  It’s just too bad you are 4 years too late.

So, on this International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate America’s progress as leaders of, oh, hell, let’s just not celebrate.  I don’t feel like it this year.

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