Women On Top
Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)
Men have been screwing up since the beginning of recorded history. While Moses was arguably the greatest Old Testament Superstar, his mess up with God cost him the chance to lead his people into the Promised Land. More recently, Donald Trump became history’s biggest sore loser, with his tantrums leading to genuine threats to our very democracy.
But, given the dismal record of men in leading the world, why haven’t we turned to women more often to save us from ourselves? Great women political leaders throughout human history have been rare: Cleopatra fell for the wrong guy, England waited 400 years to go from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II, Catherine the Great is mostly “great” for having her husband, Peter III, murdered and her surely exaggerated sexual proclivities, Golda Meir was the fearless Prime Minister of Israel during the Yom Kippur War and, while Margaret Thatcher is equally abhorred and adored, her mark on modern British history was certainly substantial.
The U.S. has never trusted a woman to be its leader. While Hillary Clinton came closest to the Oval Office, she will forever be remembered as blowing a bigger lead than the Dodgers 13 1/2 game advantage over the Giants in 1951, to a reality TV celebrity who spewed nonsense to the masses and overtly appealed to the nation‘s misogynistic tendencies.
Recently, a spate of young, vibrant female leaders has emerged, perhaps giving credence to the idea that women may have what many male leaders have lacked: compassion combined with competency. Jacinda Ardern has led New Zealand through Covid and in the aftermath of a horrendous mass shooting at a mosque, although she has recently gotten heat for being part of a woke culture that wants to suppress free speech (otherwise known as disinformation). Similarly, Sanna Marin has steered a phlegmatic Finland to the brink of shedding its historical neutrality by joining NATO and guiding her country to one of the world’s lowest Covid death rates. Her gravest sin is apparently her tendency to sometimes actually act her age by dancing exuberantly with friends at private parties.
Two recent examples, however, have proven that being a woman is just not enough in all cases. Perhaps it was a bad sign that Liz Truss had to succeed the bumbling Boris Johnson just before the UK lost its most popular monarch in its history. She proceeded to do what she promised by lowering the highest tax rate and piling on debt during the most serious financial crisis in the country’s recent past, adding to the grave inflation risk. She since has backtracked on the tax cut, but has proven amazingly inept at selling her plan to the British people, and turned the policy-less Labour Party into the overwhelming favorites in the next election. As one political expert said: “[Her selection] was like realizing on your wedding night that you have made a truly terrible mistake.”
But the Truss debacle pales next to the probability of Giorgia Meloni becoming Italy’s next PM, taking over its government as the representative of the Brothers of Italy, an “Italy first,” anti-immigrant party that traces its roots to Mussolini’s Fascists. Although Meloni has pledged to continue to support Ukraine in its remarkable resistance to Russia’s invasion, she has shown love to Putin in the past, and the West is concerned that she may be the weak link that may cause the fissure in NATO unity that he is betting on.
A cynic may say that the beauty of a parliamentary government is that it can collapse at any moment, and certainly Italy has the world record in such occurrences, which may make Meloni’s tenure short. And, while Truss may survive until the next required election in 2025, she is on equally shaky ground.
While I still think more women in leadership roles can only lead to more competency and honesty in government, we can clearly do better than these two. Surely there are better women who can step into their heels, or govern in flats if they prefer.