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Pelosi and Cheney; powerful female forces playing Washington hardball

There’s no question: I am a fan. I can watch political games for hours, cheering for my heroes, booing and cursing their opponents, and, all the while, watching the assorted scorecards on the TV screen showing me the players’ histories. Usually the main players in the big leagues have been in this game for a long time. They know, “Sometimes you win: sometimes you lose: and some get rained out.”

What’s unusual about this game in 2021 is that some of the players are out of uniform. In fact, the top player on one side isn’t even wearing the uniform at all. She has manicured nails, designer high heels and professionally applied makeup even though she has been in the game more than 35 years.

She never raises her voice: she doesn’t have to be shrill. Her presence alone demands everyone’s full attention. She’s 81, married to the same husband she wed 58 years ago, and still has significant influence over her five grown children and the gaggle of grandkids who all see grandma as a part of America’s history.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi certainly had an advantage having learned from her Dad, Baltimore’s former mayor, congressional representative, and longtime Maryland political boss, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. But she stands out in any event as a powerful Speaker who knows how the game is played. She’s isn’t easily intimidated, even in the halls of the U.S. Capitol where 143 women account for 26.7% of the 535 members of Congress.

This Speaker doesn’t shout. She doesn’t have to. Her self-confidence and long political record add to the volume of whatever she is saying because she is the one saying it.

Recently — when a female Republican colleague in the Congress was going through a challenging time — Pelosi invited the representative, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, to serve on the congressional committee being formed to investigate the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6.

Cheney has her own political history which, as the veterans in D.C. might say, “Is nothing to sneeze at!”

Daughter of former two-term vice president in the George W. Bush administration, Dick Cheney, Congresswoman Cheney cut her political teeth on the survival of the fittest in D.C. An attorney, and a woman of few but often fiery words, she takes no prisoners and has the kind of fortitude a woman in Washington needs to prevail.

So, Liz Cheney is set to serve on the Pelosi inquiry committee, whether her colleagues in Congress like it or not.

These two strong-willed women — one directing a slender majority in the House the other willing to challenge her party to get at the truth about Jan. 6 — confront a male-dominated Washington establishment unlike any women in U.S. public office ever.

Though a semblance of gender equality at the federal levels is often touted, the fact remains that gender is still an issue that lurks beneath every committee appointment and every vote.

While a distinct minority in Congress, women are not a minority in the United States, making up about 50.5% of the population, continuing a trend seen for decades. Since 2013, women have consistently represented the larger number of U.S. citizens by gender. There are, however, eight male billionaires for every female billionaire and, of the 50 U.S. states, 41 (or 82%) are overseen by male governors.

The power base is still strongly male in some of the areas that matter.

But the Pelosi/Cheney challenge promises to be something the likes of which congressional members have never seen before. And though Pelosi is seen as a strong leader and fearless confronter of any man who tries to get in her way, she prides herself on behaving with dignity when making her point.

Cheney, conversely, can be a verbal gunslinger: she has already suggested that Pelosi’s problem is that “her spine doesn’t reach her brain.”

While Pelosi and Cheney agree on the need for a thorough investigation of the Jan. 6 events, they will continue to clash on policy. I’m betting on Pelosi to maintain her edge in that ongoing scuffle between the two powerful women. Growing up on the urban streets of Baltimore had to be edgier than growing up in Wyoming, where, as the song says, “ …the deer and the antelope play…”

Stay tuned, it’s going to be a colorful competition!

Mary Ann Sorrentino splits her time between homes in Cranston, R.I. and Florida.

 

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