Okay, I'm pissed!
First, let me say that I have nothing but respect for Caroline Kennedy. I believe she is smart, capable and talented. She would be a great advocate for children, women, education, and health care. She would be a terrific elected official. I just don't believe she deserves to be handed a U.S. Senate seat -- and especially not the seat vacated by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton -- simply because she is a Kennedy and has tons of money.
Appointing her to this seat is a huge disservice to women, generally, and to New York State women, in particular. Why?
It sends a very troubling message to qualified, experienced women elected officials who have worked hard to get where they are and who have struggled for generations to overcome the perception that the only way women can succeed in certain careers is if the bar is set lower for them to begin with.
It is also patronage -- something the boys have used for centuries to get where they are and what they want -- and goes against everything that feminism and equality stand for.
What, really, are we saying about women's competencies and experience when more qualified women (like Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Nita Lowey) are bypassed in favor of "landed gentry"? We're saying that experience, competence, qualifications, and credentials mean nothing. We're saying, metaphorically, that if you're the pretty girl, or the girl whose father owns the business, or the community darling, you need only show up for tryouts in order to be appointed/elected/named to this post or that.
This is the kind of sexism that women have fought against for years. This particular appointment, if it happens, represents a pernicious form of sexism, but it is sexsim, none the less.
In addition, it sends out a larger message across the country to women everywhere that men can discriminate in hiring, promotions and, appointments, tossing out experience, qualifications and credentials and hiring the personal favorite, or the woman who won't "rock the boat", or the woman with bigger boobs or a smaller dress size.
I am completely in favor of women having opportunities at all levels of our society. But I am not in favor of lowering the bar once one woman has "made it" in order to accommodate another woman. This is exactly what the appointment of Caroline Kennedy to fill Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's U.S. Senate seat would do.
Two names mentioned for Clinton's replacement, but that have received zero media coverage, are Carolyn Maloney and Nita Lowey, each of whom have worked hard for residents in New York State (and for progressive Democratic issues) and bring public service experience and leadership to the Senate position -- something that ought to be the starting point for discussions about Clinton's possible replacement.
If Caroline Kennedy truly wants to serve, Gov. Paterson could, reasonably and logically, consider her to replace Lowey or Maloney in the U.S. House of Representatives, or she could enter a special election for the vacancy and gain the experience necessary to make a bid for the Senate seat in 2010 or 2012.
I sincerely hope the governor will do the right thing -- that is to look first at all the necessary qualifications for this position and appoint the person, male or female, with a proven record of accomplishments and leadership for the state of New York. At the moment, Caroline Kennedy is not that person.