Breaking barriers and glass ceilings should be commonplace in a state as “liberal” as Massachusetts. It was the first state to legalize gay marriage. It even created the omnipresent bumper sticker “Don’t blame me — I’m from Massachusetts” during the 1972 election. Despite being the only state to vote for McGovern, Massachusetts is far behind its fellow states in electing women to national office. Women have yet to gain a foothold in the Hub, and the Golden state house still remains an old boys club. Enter Elizabeth Warren, a resolute, intelligent professor from Harvard Law School who has what it takes to turn the stodgy old Bay State around and finally get a woman elected to the Senate.
One of the continuing problems with Massachusetts is that there are not enough women at lower levels of government to rise up and take powerful political seats. Currently, the only women holding higher office in Massachusetts are Attorney General Martha Coakley, Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), and State Senate President Therese Murray. Politics in this state are bloody, but the glass ceiling is also active and thriving. According to The Boston Club, a Boston-based women’s professional group, women fill only 8.6% of executive positions and 11.3% of board seats in the state’s largest 100 public companies.
The double standard was at its best last year when Martha Coakley, a female Attorney General and former prosecutor, lost to a male state senator who had posed nude in Cosmopolitan magazine. If the situation was reversed, does anyone really think a male Attorney General would lose to a little-known lawyer with a pornographic past?
Politics is not the only place in Massachusetts where men dominate; Warren’s current employer also has a fickle past with promoting equality. Harvard brings to mind not only the preppy elite who sneer at the rest of the state and have a tough time engaging with its local communities, but a spotty record of belief in women's equality. Former Harvard President Lawrence Summers was aptly ousted after he described women as lacking the “intrinsic aptitude” to achieve higher positions in science. Now Warren, a longtime employee of Harvard who gained national prominence by advocating for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has decided to take on the behemoth task of winning the Democratic nomination for the Senate as a woman.
Elizabeth Warren is the candidate to take back the late Ted Kennedy’s seat. Similar to the beloved Kennedy, Warren’s populist beliefs will gel with Massachusetts voters even if her sex does not. Her association with Harvard might hurt her, but Massachusetts is nothing if not a bit of a snob. The university is loved and despised in the Bay State, but even so, Warren does not give off the impression of being one of the Harvard elite. The glasses-wearing grandmother might even win a few points for being intellectual without condescension. For a country in the throes of economic and political chaos, a compassionate but strong disciplinarian who promises punishment and reform might be just the sort of candidate that the citizens of Massachusetts want to throw into the lion’s den we call Washington.
Photo Credit: David Shankbone