A Real Swift Move
by Barbara Anderson
So are you shocked? Lt. Governor Jane Swift has been caught using state employees
as babysitters and errand-runners. Our trailblazing New Woman, who insisted that she could
combine career and baby care, has in fact found a way to do this. Inevitably, her method
resembles the way some male politicians have combined career and home maintenance: send
the staff home to paint the house.
Once caught, the New Woman took refuge in her gender specialness, explaining that
it is tough working full time and taking care of a baby. Let's admit that it's also tough
working full time and painting the house. Maybe we taxpayers are willing to pay for
"personal staff" for all our politicians, so they can concentrate on the
important business at hand.
If so, I must regret that I spent the last twenty years working full-time as a
taxpayer activist, then using my free time to run errands. I could have run for office,
then called for someone from the "personal errand pool" to drive my son to
college and mow the lawn.
I coulda been a trailblazer, if I'd been willing to be a contendah.
In the mid-'80s, the Republican Party was looking for a candidate to run for
governor against Michael Dukakis, and my name came up as his possible running mate.
I wasn't interested in running for anything, especially the do-nothing office of
lieutenant governor, which I thought should be abolished. But faced with another four
years of Dukakis I came up with this great idea: I would run with former-Governor Ed King
if we could combine the job of lieutenant governor and chief of staff, putting me right in
the middle of whatever was happening.
Unfortunately, Ed King wasn't running, and I wouldn't sacrifice my non-politician
self-image for anyone but him, so that was the end of my plan -- until four years later
when Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci created a similar partnership. It still made perfect
sense to me: why should taxpayers fund an office that didn't do anything but wait for a
governor to drop dead or resign? Lt. Gov. Cellucci was an active half of the Weld team,
and it worked so well for him and the commonwealth that he repeated the pattern with his
own running mate eight years later.
He and Jane Swift became the trailblazers, I got to remain a non-politician, and
there we were last month, the three of us, taking the income tax rollback to the Secretary
of State. They were pushing two wheelbarrows full of petitions, and I was between them,
right in the middle of what was happening! Life just works out well sometimes.
So I support Jane Swift for exactly the same reasons I support Paul Cellucci: they
both have been testing my plan, they support tax cuts, and as legislators they both scored
high on the Citizens for Limited Taxation taxpayer rating. The fact that Jane
Swift is a woman seems to capture the imagination of some observers, but not mine. I have
never indulged in the fantasy that the solution to "politics as usual" is to
elect more women to office.
I've not worked closely with Swift but from what I hear, she is no more
"compassionate" than a male politician would be in her place. Whether she
insisted Peter Blute be fired after the booze cruise because they had a bad relationship
when she worked for him at Massport, or because she was genuinely indignant that he had
embarrassed the administration, he was nevertheless fired.
Would Paul Cellucci have dismissed him without her encouragement, or would the
"good old boy network" have opted for mercy? I'd bet on the former. Politics, if
it is done successfully, is usually done practically, by men and women politicians alike.
Years before the feminist revolution, I read a play about a future world in which
women exchanged roles with men. The idea had been that the world would be a kinder place
with the gentler sex in charge, but all that happened was that men became gentle and women
started waging wars. Either way, h/she who had the power used it pretty much the same way
it's always been used.
Polling shows that men and women voters can be different in their approaches to
candidates and issues, but the kind of people who aspire to political office aren't just
Women from Venus or Men from Mars, they're a category of their own: Politicians from
Pluto, the planet of power.
And those who believe that electing women instead of men will make the world a
better place are living on another planet altogether. Take it from someone who mighta been
a woman politician, and avoided numerous trips to the drycleaners, if only Ed King had run