Women in Government: Neera, but Still So Far Away


Poster Supporting Tanden on Facebook (Image)

Editors note: For International Women’s Day (March 8), Post Alley features an overview of recent progress by women in national politics and the fights for Neera Tanden and Deb Haaland in Joe Biden’s cabinet.

I am extremely ticked off that Neera Tanden’s nomination as director of the Office of Management and Budget was withdrawn. Before anyone jumps to an incorrect conclusion, I want to state that my disappointment is not about the fact I’m a big fan of Tanden. I’m not. In fact, I find her a little irritating. But unlike many members of the Senate, I recognize that this has absolutely nothing to do with whether she is qualified for that job.

Tanden is out of the running for reasons that are irrelevant and hypocritical and not remotely disqualifying for male candidates who share her experience, qualifications and accomplishments.

Even though I have been known to drop the occasional ill-considered remark, I believe that it’s a good idea to be tactful and to think before you speak, especially when you hold a position of power or influence. Obviously, very few of the people who matter agree with me because the halls of Congress and the gleaming expanses of the C suites are paved with men—and women—who make Tanden seem mild-mannered and sensitive. That’s exactly why I find it particularly galling that she is allegedly just too, too much for a GOP that has been powered by bile and spite for at least the past four years. It’s no wonder that they have been running roughshod over the Democrats, who are powered by retreat and apology.

We’re barely two months into the new administration and already the promised bang is being swallowed by the whimper. And Tanden’s dilemma is just one more signal to uppity woman that our time has not yet come. The message seems to be that if we don’t back off on some of our attitude (that thing Kamala Harris had to dial way back after she got the VP nod), ambition (Elizabeth Warren’s original sin), confidence (Katie Porter’s superpower), and penetrating intelligence (all four guilty as charged), then our time may never come.

The myth that Tanden’s sin was her habit of making snarky remarks on Twitter and elsewhere is so outrageous that it’s laughable. Do I blame the Republicans for using the tactic of blatant hypocrisy? Hell no. It’s ugly and shameful but effective, which is all they seem to care about. Consider their embrace of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia).

To be fair, which I have become less inclined to do over the past four years, let’s take a look at what people in the know have been saying about what’s wrong with Tanden.

For one thing, there’s her voice. I have heard people of both sexes and many political persuasions complain that she’s shrill. I have never been sure what “shrill” means, but I think it’s a way of describing a vocal pitch that most men can’t duplicate, which is probably the main reason they are inclined to consider it a disqualifying disability. But if high-pitched and a little too loud (lower your voice, young lady) is what shrill is, then Elizabeth Warren, Katie Porter, Kamala Harris and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are also shrill. How on earth did they manage to win their elections?

The Republican Party loves to grumble publicly about shrill and overconfident women. Unless they are Kellyanne Conway, Kimberley Guilfoyle, Kayleigh McEnany and Sarah Palin. But if shrill was actually a disqualifying factor for public office, then Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Jim Jordan, Jeff Sessions, Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump, and god knows how many others, would not be making anyone’s life miserable today. I am not including Marco Rubio in their number because, as I’ve pointed out before, he’s not shrill; he’s whiny. I’m also excusing Elaine Chao’s green-card-golden-ticket-mail-order-groom Mitch McConnell, because his voice is so deep and masculine, like the rumble of a fully loaded coal train on its way to China.

Tanden’s other alleged flaw is her irritating and overweening sense of superiority. You know, that thing that disqualified Bill Barr and Brett Kavanagh and Kevin McCarthy and Steve Mnuchin and Ryan Zenke and Mick Mulvaney (stop me when you’ve heard enough) from Senatorial approval.

This whole fiasco was capped off by the game of dodgeball over how Tanden’s nomination was withdrawn: By her? By the White House? Because of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)? Nobody seems to know. A “senior administration official” from the Biden White House claimed they had given up on Tanden because Murkowski made it very plain that she wouldn’t vote for her, and Murkowski claimed that she never made that threat and, in fact, that no one at the White House ever asked her which way she would vote. That’s politics, folks. It’s anybody’s guess which story is true.

Tanden, longtime president of the Center for American Progress, even got an endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the head cheerleader of the GOP. But even that wasn’t enough encouragement for nearly all of the suddenly sensitive Republicans and a couple of Democrats like waffling Joe Manchin of West Virginia (I can’t decide if his voice is more whiny, slimy or shrill) and staunch Bernie Sanders, who gets re-elected to office in spite of the fact that he is arguably more pugnacious than Tanden. And he continues to carry a grudge about the dirt that she foolishly and undeniably did to him back in 2016.

I’d be mad too, Bernie. But let me pass on some advice I have been given so many times by so many men whenever I get all riled up about some injustice that I imagine has been committed against me: Suck in your gut, get over it, and move on. I find it more than a little irritating that Sanders refused to say how he would vote on Tanden. Really? There is something about that attitude that seems so like…a girl. Man, I eagerly await the day when I can pout, sulk and generally “act like a girl” and get away with it the way Bernie has.

Back to Manchin for a moment. It’s interesting that the Biden nominees he has been most coy and hedgy about are either women or people of color. Or worse, both. The list of the nominees that suddenly squeamish Manchin has voted to confirm includes Jeff Sessions, Ric Grenell, Alex Acosta, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

In fact, the only Trump SCOTUS nominee that Manchin was unable to stomach was Amy Coney Barrett. Gee, which one of these is not like the others? We will never for sure know but if it walks, talks and quacks like sexism I’m inclined to bet that it is sexism. But I’m a woman, too often ruled by emotion and spite and a tendency to second-guess myself, so I could be wrong.

Kathy Cain
Kathy Cain
Kathleen Cain began her career in Seattle writing and producing documentaries and talk shows for television and radio. She hosted a two-hour interview program on the notorious KRAB FM, was a contributing editor for late, great Seattle Weekly, and a writer/creative director at the legendary Heckler Associates for many years before starting her own communications consulting firm, Cain Creative.


  1. Now, now. Sarcasm is unbecoming of a woman. It’s one of those emotions that get us into trouble with the hypocrites and sexists.

  2. It’s all a lot of transference: accusing others of one’s own transgressions. Trump was the master if this, but so are a bunch of these guys. Women hysterical? Give me a break.


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