Robert Ariail’s cartoon today depicts the moderates who forged the compromise that averted the "nuclear option" as a mom — or maybe as an elementary school teacher. In any case, and this is my point, the grownup in the cartoon is a woman.
This reminded me of something I noticed, but failed to mention, when I was compiling a list of those who participated in the negotiations. Out of the total of 15 I was able to identify from various published sources over the weekend, four were women. That struck me as disproportionate, but not surprising: In my experience of life, Robert’s cartoon is very accurate. Men tend to revert constantly to immaturity when faced with conflict; their reaction when challenged is to duke it out the way they did back on the schoolyard. Women, unencumbered by machismo and overendowed (by male standards) with common sense, tend to look for a way to settle things like, well, grownups.
Not all women, of course. My reaction was somewhat tempered when I went and counted, and discovered that the U.S. Senate has more women than I would have thought. I guess my expectations are tainted by living in South Carolina, where women in office is still a relative rarity. (Linda Short is the only woman among our 46 state senators.)
In Washington, there are 14 female senators. And it will hardly surprise many to learn that Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Hillary Clinton were not among the moderates who joined in the negotiations (even though Mrs. Clinton has been courting that sort of image lately). Nor were Maria Cantwell, Elizabeth Dole, Kay Hutchison, Blanche Lincoln, Barbara Mikulski, Patty Murray or Debbie Stabenow.
The four women who did participate in the negotiations were Susan Collins of Maine; Mary Landrieu of Lousiana, the Senate’s cutest member (give me a break — I had to say that so nobody would think I was going soft on feminism… besides, it’s true); Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Olympia Snowe, also of Maine. Sen. Murkowski was not mentioned in initial stories about the final deal, but I give her credit for being involved in the talks.
Even though that’s a minority of the women in the Senate, it’s a larger proportion of them (28.57 percent) than the male negotiators constitute compared to the whole set of male senators (12.79 percent). Trust me on those — I’m a guy, so I’m good with numbers and stuff (we have to be good at something).
So my basic thesis still stands: Grownups tend to be women.
Of course, I guess you could also say people from Maine are more likely to be grownups, but I don’t think we can say that conclusively, based on such a small sample…