I never thought I’d see the day when I would be praising a Republican in print, but here goes: I like Jane Swift. A lot.
At just 36 years old and pregnant with twins, Massachusetts’ new (acting) governor is definitely the coolest politician to hit the scene in a long time. She’s young, super-motivated, moderate and gutsy as heck.
Her poll numbers, on the other hand, have told a different story, at times putting her approval rating just below Hitler’s. And the media has told yet another story about the Republican, painting Swift as a knocked-up weakling who’s in way over her head.
But in my mind, at least, Swift is the kind of politician that I’d like to see more of in our statehouses and in Congress.
To start, she’s young. Still 19 years from an AARP card, Jane Swift is closer to my age than she is to my parents’ age. And at a time when our legislatures are stocked mostly with men who are in that “starting-to-need-hearing aids” demographic, it’s neat to see someone who brings a fresher face to the game.
What’s more, Swift is utterly normal. There’s no Cambridge mansion or Kennedy-esque legacy in this politico’s background. Swift is from the western Mass. town of North Adams and is the daughter of a teacher and a plumber. She’s won and lost political races, becoming the youngest woman ever to be elected to the state senate (she was 25), althoughy she lost a 1996 race for Congress.
She’s got pretty normal problems too, like how to balance starting a family with a rigorous career. Since her home is a two-hour commute from Boston, and Massachusetts is one of the six states not to have a governor’s mansion, she often has to crash at her brother’s place in Boston when it’s too late to get back home. And let’s face it, although Swift demonstrated some poor judgment when she asked an aide to help baby-sit her daughter, I (and lots of other people) have forgiven Bill Clinton for many bigger transgressions.
But where Jane Swift is truly demonstrating “Her Excellency” is in bringing the work-family debate to the spotlight and highlighting the inequality that women face in this type of situation. Although Swift is likely the first woman to be pregnant while serving as a state governor, plenty of men in office have seen their wives gives birth. British Prime Minister Tony Blair won kudos for, gasp, taking a week off to attend to his family after his wife gave birth to a son.