Fascinating Political Women in 2009

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is the cascade of “Best XYZ of the year” lists that are published in December. I am usually a sucker for any such headline, but there are a slew of lists I love to groan over. This past week Barbara Walters unveiled her annual “Most Fascinating People of the Year” list and it was chock full of folks I find far from fascinating. With the exception of Michelle Obama (and maybe Lady Gaga) I wish most of the people on Walters’ list would just go away. There are so many women in the political arena this year who I find fascinating and inspiring so I decided to make my own list. I might not agree with everything these women have said and done, but they have been fierce advocates for the ideas and policies they believe in. This list of four women is in no particular order and far from exhaustive, so feel free to add to it in the comments section.

Sheila Bair – she was appointed Chairwoman of the FDIC in 2006 back when the FDIC was a quiet government agency that rarely made headlines. Early in her term she attempted to get the Bush administration to deal with the brewing subprime loan crisis and was one of the first political figures to advocate for loan modifications. Throughout the financial crisis she has sparred with both Wall Street insiders and other bureaucrats over how best to stabilize the banking sector. She hasn’t won every argument, but she is not afraid to make her views heard and fight for what she thinks is the best policy. On top of her full-time career she has also written two children’s books that aim to help kids make smart decisions about money.

Rachel Maddow – Rachel’s hour long MSNBC news program celebrated its one year anniversary this fall. She treats her audience like thoughtful grown-ups who can understand complex issues. Rachel is willing to do deep dives on important topics, such as focusing on Afghanistan for an entire show last winter when the other news programs have all but forgotten the war. Recently she has been focusing on the anti-gay legislation in Uganda and the ties that movement has with American social conservatives. She’s smart, well-informed and looks at all sides of an issue instead of just repeating liberal talking points.

Elizabeth Warren – In 2008 she was appointed Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel that oversees and evaluates TARP, but her background is in the academic field as a strong ally of the middle class. Her research works focuses on why it is increasingly difficult for two-income households to make ends meet. She has personal experience with this issue as she struggled to balance the demands of graduate school and her career along with child rearing. She has lobbied for transparent financial regulation for years and is currently working on the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. The details of this agency are still being worked out in congress, but the overarching goal would be to prevent the kind of regulatory systemic failure we just experienced.

Sonia Sotomayor – This past summer Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate and became the first Latina Supreme Court Justice. She has impeccable credentials and a long history as judicial public servant so there was little doubt she would be confirmed. Her legal writings and speeches provided a unique opportunity to have a national conversation about race and personal experience. She is proud of the fact that her experience as a Latina has informed her decision making process and is acutely aware that judicial decisions have real-life consequences. The addition of Justice Sotomayor to the Supreme Court brings a much needed perspective to the Court.

3 thoughts on “Fascinating Political Women in 2009”

  1. Let’s add Annise Parker to the list, Houston’s newly elected mayor. Houston is now the largest city in the US to choose an openly gay mayor. From USA Today: “Annise Parker’s victory came in a state that overwhelmingly voted to outlaw gay marriage four years ago and in a city where voters have rejected offering benefits to the same-sex partners of government employees.” Change is good!  

  2. I’m SO glad you wrote this piece…

    Operational Deputies.

    A colleague of mine from the Emerge Democratic Women’s Campaign Training Program brought this to my attention – there are SO MANY WOMEN who serve in hard core operational roles of very powerful entities. Often these women are deputy directors, or (like Elizabeth Warren and Sheila Bair) lead up sub-entities or committees of bigger more powerful departments chaired by men. These women are the operational deputies who actually do the un-shiny, un-glamorous, get-it-done work. And they don’t get that much credit for it because that’s just not the way they operate. Look around the agencies or entities you are familiar with? I’ll bet there are some amazing women generating some serious change…and we could add them to the list.  

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