Melinda Hennenberger adds another note in the Washington Post (paper of record in the company town where politics is the town industry) on “The Millions of Reasons Pelosi Decided to Stay”:
… [T]he lawmaker Republicans love to hate isn’t going anywhere. She means to be at the table when three others, all men — McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — knock out a debt deal with the president. “For some people in the public,” she said, “the thought of four men at the table was not an appealing sight.” With entitlements presumably on that same table, she wants to be there to watch over them. Having pushed through the Affordable Care Act, she wants to be on the job when it’s finally implemented. When Obama lately began speaking again about climate change — one of her signature issues — that, too, was an inducement. And looking out for women, she made clear, is very much the point of her decision to stick around…
As long as you’re still wearing out the kids on your staff, though, as I saw Pelosi do during a few days on the campaign trail with her this summer, you are just not ready to go yet. She did 450 fundraisers this year, raising $85 million for her party this cycle, and reveling in the process. Though Democrats did not come close to netting the 25 seats they needed to take back control of the House, I always thought she’d stay on doing what she loves — and what, at this point, no one can do better.
One sign of how far women in politics have come is that more are now doing what men have always done, aging on the public stage. Pelosi often makes light of her age: “Nobody’s older than I am,” she says unselfconsciously. Her 83-year-old colleague Louise Slaughter, a microbiologist who motors around the Capitol now on a senior scooter, is part of the House Democratic leadership team, too, and the ranking member on the Rules Committee.
Then there’s Pelosi’s 79-year-old neighbor in San Francisco, Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and just coasted to reelection, becoming the oldest woman ever elected to a new term in the Senate, historian Don Ritchie told me. Feinstein didn’t run away from her years, either, but on the contrary, ran on her decades of experience. Especially in vast California, she said this summer, “You have to build a base over time.” And then, if you’re lucky, you get to stick around and put it to use.
Gloria Steinam wrote about this a good 25 years ago: In politics, the tradition is that young men start out as radicals (because they have so little to lose) and gradually settle into conservativism (as they accumulate more power & property worth ‘conserving’). But in the days when women were most valuable as “trophies” and baby-bearers, young women had every reason to maximize their fleeting assets by hewing to conservative tenets; it was only as they aged and lost their saleability on the marriage market that they could afford to be (or they would get jolted into) radicalism. We have, praise goddess, jettisoned some of that baggage… but there’s still an unspoken assumption that women in the public sphere have a sell-by date, not just actresses and news anchors but politicians as well. Kudos to Nancy Pelosi and her fellows for standing up as examples for the rising generations that women are more than fresh faces and fertile wombs!