Digby: Carolyn Maloney for N.Y.'s Senate seat

If David Paterson wants to appoint a strong feminist, why not pick Caroline Kennedy's congresswoman? Plus: Race can't redeem Blagojevich's Senate choice.

Published December 30, 2008 11:12PM (EST)

On Monday I asked whether the best course for Caroline Kennedy might be to throw her support behind her congresswoman, 16-year-feminist veteran Carolyn Maloney, for appointment to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat — and then run for Maloney's seat. Kennedy didn't reply, but on Tuesday my favorite non-Salon blogger, Digby, did.

While Digby notes, humbly, that she's not a New Yorker and has no standing in this contest (of course, only Gov. David Paterson does), she makes a strong case for Maloney as the best candidate for the job. NOW as well as the National Women's Political Caucus have also thrown their support behind Maloney. Fresh from reading Maloney's book, "Rumors of Our Progress Have Been Greatly Exaggerated," Digby lays out the following arguments on Maloney's behalf, some things I knew and some I didn't:

For instance, after 9/11, when the government was putting together its compensation fund, the government was blithely planning to shortchange female victims' families by hundreds of thousands of dollars because they were using discriminatory projected earnings tables that reflected the wage gap. It took a concerted campaign to persuade the government that the earnings estimates that determined the value of the payout should be gender blind. It wasn't a matter of conscious discrimination. They just didn't consider whether it made sense that the family of a woman who made the same salary as a man at the time of her death should be compensated equally. Maloney organized 11 members of the New York delegation to pursue the matter and reverse the policy. (Insurance companies around the country still use those outdated formulas, by the way.)

And speaking of Wall Street, Maloney compiles some stories about discrimination against women in the financial industry that make your hair stand on end. Morgan Stanley had paid out nearly $100 million in sex discrimination money to many of the top female employees in the past few years. Apparently, as with Sheila Bair and Brooksley Born, the common excuse was that these women just weren't "team players" — mostly because they weren't welcome at the strip clubs and golf courses where so many of the deals were made. And they just wouldn't get with the program when it came to looking the other way at unethical or reckless practices. (The wimmin are always raining on the parade that way.) Maloney thinks that instead of giving tax deductions to companies for their strip club expenses, most citizens would prefer for that families be allowed to deduct their child care expenses --- and has introduced legislation to do that.

I would expect that women are especially going to be facing some tough times in the near term as their lower-level service jobs are going to be very hard hit and they tend to have less money in the bank to tide them over. An awful lot of them are hanging by a thread as it is. Having fewer women in the government right now hardly seems like a good idea (particularly when people need to be reminded that a fiscal stimulus that creates mostly construction and engineering jobs will only put money in the pockets of the 9% of women who work in those fields.) I think that if the argument is that women need a strong voice in the Senate, we would probably be better served by a woman like Maloney who has a lifetime of experience in politics and a deep and thorough understanding of these issues than someone whose experience is very limited. I just wouldn't expect Caroline Kennedy, no matter how dedicated and sincere, to be the kind of champion on these issues as someone like Maloney.

I don't know much about New York politics, so maybe there is some other reason why Maloney couldn't be the choice. But on the merits, she's the one I'd choose if I were Paterson. The country badly needs the contributions of the Sheila Bairs and the Carolyn Maloneys if the government really means to clean up the mess the old boys club has made.

In related news: I was sad to see Roland Burris diminish his political legacy by going along with Rod Blagojevich's charade, and sadder still to see Rep. Bobby Rush bring race into the scandal. Illinois has the proud distinction of electing two African-Americans to the Senate, as well as giving America its first black president. I'd love to see a black candidate fill Obama's shoes as well. But Rush and Burris don't advance the cause of black political progress, or social justice, by claiming race should in any way legitimize this illegitimate choice by Blagojevich. Thankfully, Barack Obama quickly added his voice to those objecting to Blagojevich's slick move.


By Joan Walsh

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2008 Elections