After a reception for a record number of women sworn in as U.S. senators in January, Vice President Joseph R. Biden said: “The only thing that needs to change is get to the point where there are 51 women in the Senate. You know why? Not because you all are better or worse. Because everyone’s going to figure out there ain’t no difference, that everybody is qualified. It doesn’t have a damn thing to do with gender.”
Mark his words.
Obama for U.S. Senate?
Run, Michelle, run.
Southern beauty Ashley Judd vs. Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell?
Popularity contest, perhaps.
While it’s way too early to tell what Senate races will have crystallized by the time the Obamas exit the White House in 2017, it’s safe to say that women and, ahem, our issues, will remain front and center.
And you know why?
Women and our issues are the current and future frontier in American politics.
Washington’s battles over abortion; the health, education and welfare of women and families; women in combat and other girls-versus-boys issues have crossed the thresholds, and Democrats rolled out the red carpet for victors before, during and after the November election.
Mr. Biden sealed it with a French kiss during the January swearing-in events.
Mrs. Obama won’t be covering new ground on the racial frontier if she were to run and win a Senate seat.
While she and her husband stake that claim as the first American first family claiming African and African-American ancestry, Mrs. Obama wouldn’t be charting new territory as a senator. Indeed, while she would be following her husband as a member of the great deliberative body, Carol Moseley Braun burst through that door in January 1991, when she was sworn in as Illinois’ first black and first female senator.
And, interestingly enough, Mrs. Obama wouldn’t even be a game-changer among the lineage of first ladies later elected to the Senate. Hillary Rodham Clinton and New York voters opened wide that door in 2001.
A key first that “Sen. Michelle Obama” would make is that she would be a black former first lady with school-age children, who is smart, politically savvy, stylish, modern and does not walk behind her husband. A true daughter of the post-feminist movement.
And Americans really and truly seem to like her.
According to a Harris poll released last week, two-thirds of Americans approve of Mrs. Obama’s overall job performance, and 88 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of independents give her positive ratings.
Republicans’ approval ratings weighed in at one-third, which is hardly surprising.
Not bad for a progressive first lady who just a few years ago was chided for wearing sleeveless tops and chemises.
And whether the door to a Michelle Obama Senate run is opened or closed, you can bet your bottom dollar that she will make the decision.
There may be pillow talk, but there will be no debate.
If Mrs. Obama decides to run, it will be because she decides to run based on another call to service.
As Mr. Biden bluntly put it, it won’t have “a damn thing to do with gender.”
Meanwhile, the chatter grows on whether the versatile actress Miss Judd actually will challenge Mr. McConnell, a five-term incumbent.
Generally speaking, Americans don’t view Mr. McConnell as a popular politician moving the country forward, and some conservatives turn various shades of blue when they learn of Miss Judd’s Hollywood nude roles.
While he is seen as ideologically stubborn as an Obama jackass, she’s being tagged as a hair’s-breadth away from being characterized as a porn cutie.
Both are unfair caricatures.
Miss Judd’s biggest flaw is a legal one.
If she decides to run, then she will have to claim residency, something all Kentucky voters must do. (She is an alum and enthusiastic supporter of the University of Kentucky, but she lives in Tennessee.)
Women have a lot at stake between now and 2016, and they (we) didn’t need Mr. Biden to underscore as much.
Yet, it’s a good thing he did — especially since so much more, including a Senate majority of women, is ours for the grasping.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at email@example.com.