In Your Neighborhood

Charmed

Double standards apply to women who are strong political leaders

Image courtesy of YouTube video on Governor's Facebook page

Gov. Gina Raimondo at her news briefing on June 8.

By Mary Ann Sorrentino
Posted 6/22/20
Taking issue with male professors who critique Gov. Gina Raimondo with not being “charming.”
What is the role that Jon Duffy has played in managing the flow of information in the Raimondo administration? What have been the data results of the Reinvention of Medicaid, a signature program in the first term by Gov. Raimondo? What is the most recent count of Medicaid eligibility claims for long-term support and services that have taken longer than 90 days to process [in was more than 800 in January], in contravention of state law? Given the recent spike in coronavirus cases from places such as Florida, Arizona and Texas, will Gov. Raimondo consider ordering visitors from those states to self-quarantine, as she did with people traveling from New York City?
Many in the news media outside of Rhode Island have been enamored by the performance of Gov. Raimondo during a time of pandemic, but others within the news media here in Rhode Island have found gaining access to the Govenor a long-term problem, including ConvergenceRI and ecoRI News.
The recent departure of Jennifer Bogdan from the Governor’s communications team to take a position at Brown University, finding a new home in Brown University President Christina Paxson’s office, means that ConvergenceRI’s request for an interview with Gov. Raimondo, which dates back more than four years, a request that the Governor agreed to in person and shook hands to confirm, which was renewed by phone, in writing and in person with Bogdan when she took over from Mike Raia, remains unanswered.
It is not a matter of charm; it is a matter of professionalism.
I have no choice but to consider it a badge of honor not to be granted an interview with the Governor. Apparently, I ask too many good questions.

PROVIDENCE – Ross Cheit, professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs at Brown University, was recently quoted in The New York Times, describing R.I. Gov. Gina Raimondo as a “a no-baloney technocrat.” Cheit then felt compelled to add: “She’s not charming but she’s really smart, and that has made her really popular now.”

I grew up in Providence, being told that Brown University is a power not to be questioned or challenged. Like many great institutions, however, Brown has shown, over time, it can be just as imperfect and inappropriate as anything else.

Gov. Raimondo has the distinguished honor of being the first woman elected [and re-elected] governor in the most Catholic, highly Democratic yet painfully conservative [and perhaps least progressive] state in the Union.

It is a state of amazing contradictions – strongly pro-choice and LGBTQ-friendly, hopelessly steeped in traditions, hyper pro-labor, fiscally unpredictable, and sometimes ethically challenged.

Gov. Raimondo has overseen all of this very effectively as a Governor in the middle of her second term, in my opinion. She first took over when the state was in such serious fiscal trouble that budget cuts were needed everywhere – including individual state pensions – else the state be forced to declare bankruptcy. She got it done.

She is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, and before becoming governor she served in New York’s famously tough Southern District Court. She later became a highly successful and respected venture capitalist.

Of all the things a Brown professor might care to observe about Gov. Raimondo, Cheit’s personal view that “she’s not charming” seems inappropriate at best and insulting at worst.

The fact that Cheit tempers the subjective insult by underscoring the reality that she is very smart does not make up for his gratuitous, petty, and sexist description of her personality – as he sees it.

Men like Cheit never modify their compliments of each other with qualifying insults. None of them ever said of past Rhode Island governors, “Ed DiPrete is a thief [who went to prison eventually] but he’s a good deal-maker…” or, “Bruce Sundlun could be a boor, but he got us through that banking crisis…”

Only women – and highly qualified and demonstratively capable women like Gina Raimondo – are professionally evaluated for their “charm.”

Keeping score

What Rhode Islanders have experienced during this pandemic is that they are fortunate to have a governor who is smart enough, persistent enough, and tireless enough to do all that needs to be done to protect her constituents and insure their health and safety.

Rhode Island has been a national example of ample testing, wise, practical, and successful social distancing, cooperative coordinated business closures and re-openings, and one of the best medical oversight and policy-making health departments in this country. Rhode Island’s governor is admired nationwide.

Gina Raimondo isn’t a comedian [though many of us love her take-no-prisoners sense of humor and now- famous, “Knock it off!” style] but she is obviously a great leader in hard times and they don’t get much harder than they are right now.

[Besides, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker – for many years voted the nation’s most-popular governor – probably has enough “charm” to spill over into Rhode Island.]

I’ll take capability, sense of responsibility, energy, negotiating skills, and success every time. I suggest those still evaluating female achievers with an eye on looks and charm while brains, determination, energy, and success are ignored, most women – and the men who respect them – suggest you get on a bus heading into the 21st century.

Mary Ann Sorrentino [thatmaryann@yahoo.com] is a columnist who writes from Rhode Island and has become a frequent contributor to ConvergenceRI.

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