My friend Jana is lit up over what Seth Tupper said. The Mitchell Daily Republic editor tells Stephanie Herseth Sandlin not to run in 2014, and Jana smells sexism.
Let's give Seth a close reading and run the sexism check.
Tupper says he doesn't like politicians who overuse family talk to hide their real motives. He takes SHS at her word when she says she loves her family. O.K., no foul for stating the obvious.
He interprets her other public statements ("...working moms deserve an effective voice in policymaking") and current "unofficial media tour" as signs that she still loves and is conflicted about balancing the two. O.K.
Tupper then critiques SHS for political "fence-sitting." That's nothing that harsher critics on both sides of the aisle haven't said, and that's nothing sexist. That's simply an honest assessment of the cautious center-conservative tendencies that make Lefties cranky and gave Righties a pass to vote for the clueless but more reliably crony-conservative Kristi Noem.
Tupper then praises SHS for positioning herself well for a comeback:
She’s lived and worked in the state. She’s spent time being a mom. All of that makes her more grounded and more qualified to serve, in my opinion [Seth Tupper, "Don't Run, Stephanie," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2013.05.09].
Jana's sexism critique isn't going there, but I'll ask: is it sexist to suggest that a woman is better qualified for public office because she's a mom? Is a mom of three a better Congresswoman than a mom of one? A bit more broadly, if all other things are equal, does a parent deserve your vote before a non-parent?
Tupper then "steps in it," as Jana says. He ties SHS's political fence-sitting to her trail-ballooning statements on I love family time but I love to serve, too. He tells her to pick which words she means more:
But I’m a little bothered by her use of the old “I want to spend time with my family” routine. If she’s going to say that, she’d better mean it. She owes that to her son, who will someday grow up to read her comments. If she now goes off to spend months campaigning and six years working a breakneck schedule as a senator, voters and her son are going to have a hard time believing her [Tupper, 2013.05.09].
Presumptuous, yes, presuming to speak for some possible future version of an adorable little boy. But sexist? Tupper's not blind to the possibility:
I know how sexist that sounds. If Herseth Sandlin’s husband, himself a former member of Congress, got back into politics, nobody would question his commitment to his family or his son. In a more equitable world, men would have to agonize over such things just as much as women.
But we don’t live in that world. We live in reality. And that’s why I say this to Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Don’t run.
If time with your son and your family is really so important to you that you would consider forgoing a Senate race, show it by temporarily making a sacrifice on their behalf. When your son is a little older, you’ll still be a viable candidate, and you’ll be even more respected for having honored your family above your ambition.
Or, if you’ve already decided to run, stop talking so much about the importance of family time. It’ll look insincere later when you’re spending nearly every ounce of your time and energy trying to win an election.
Tupper walks on thin ice (and here I go out after him). I know anti-SHS Mitchell chauvinist piggery when I hear it... and I don't think Tupper's there. He does not base his critique on a personal belief that women are better off barefoot, pregnant, and fixing pot roast for us mighty hunters. He bases his critique on Herseth Sandlin's own words.
To test Tupper for sexism, imagine applying his words to Mr. Sandlin in the same situation, not just the hypothetical where he would up and run (and hey, there's a thought: get Max back in the game by bringing his political experience to bear on South Dakota office?), but the hypothetical where prior to running he would make prominent his talk about loving his family and wanting to spend lots of time with his son and not being sure if he can balance those desires with his urge to get back into politics. In that hypothetical, every word Tupper wrote would appear to apply just aptly to Mr. as to Mrs.
Tupper is really saying, "Poop or get off the pot." That advice may not be good, what with over ten months before any final decision is necessary. Herseth Sandlin, like every mom, has a lot on her plate. She is fully entitled to take her time weighing the pros and cons of running for any office in 2014, just as is any man.
And Tupper is entitled to question her public statements about that decision-making process, just as he would question any man making similar statements... right, Seth? 41 comments