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Kathleen Sebelius: Too Nice A Woman To Be Vp?

The Fix's Chris Cillizza, in his case against Kathleen Sebelius:

With Clinton now formally gone from the race, her most fervent female supporters have taken up the cause of putting her on the ticket as the vice president. To snub Clinton in favor of another woman -- Sebelius -- would be a slight that many women might not be able to reconcile themselves to.

When I first heard about this sentiment from pro-Hillary women, it struck me as nuts. Why had Hillary won the right to be ahead of other women in achieving veep or presidential status any more than Joe Lieberman won a right to be ahead of other qualified Jews by mounting his bid in 2004? (God forbid.) And the complaint among these supporters that they loved Hillary and Hillary alone and she is not interchangeable with any other woman, while totally legitimate, seems to be at odds with the simultaneously-made claim that Hillary represented all women and that her loss was especially galling because it revealed how the country or the party is unwilling to give a woman a chance at high office. (If this is the complaint, then another woman would be to some extent interchangeable.)

I've been dipping a little bit into the anti-Sebelius waters, though, and the objection to her is somewhat more complex and interesting than simple outrage at "snubbing Clinton in favor of another woman." To choose Sebelius, I think, would seem to ratify for some of these women the longtime feminist concern that, in order to be allowed into the male world, women have to be non-threatening -- gentle, motherly, not too brazen or spiky. To the degree people in Washington know much of anything about her, Sebelius has that unthreatening, pleasant, non-spiky reputation. Consider her low unfavorables and that State of the Union response: softly intoned, dull, without any edges. Let's just say it's really hard to imagine anybody calling Sebelius a "bitch" -- whereas the fact that numerous people have called Hillary that was, to some women, what made her political success so groundbreaking. She wasn't just the first woman to win presidential primaries; she was the first brazen, ballsy you-know-what to win them.

Allida Black, a major Hillary supporter who's angry at the idea of putting Sebelius on the ticket, put it to me this way yesterday:

It's unacceptable and condescending ... that the woman [Hillary] who fought for them [other powerful women], the woman who stood up and took all this abuse, the woman who stayed in the race after everyone said it was over, would be discounted. And to put on a safe, acceptable woman from a swing state is an affront to the woman they voted for. [Sebelius] is sweet! She’s nice! She’s effective in Kansas. But Washington is not Kansas. (emphasis mine)

--Eve Fairbanks