Perhaps Pelosi’s “you’ve come a long way, baby” attitude would make more sense if she had surmounted significant obstacles to take her place among the nation’s political heavyweights. But it’s hard to identify any significant, systemic barriers that a San Francisco multimillionaire, raised as the daughter of Baltimore’s mayor, has overcome in order to rise to power – as women might have, say, a century or more ago.
Ultimately, the most frustrating part of Pelosi’s fixation on the “first woman” angle is that it actually results in her selling herself short. She didn’t win the post of Speaker of the House because of her sex or despite it. She won because of her hard work, her fundraising, her long tenure in the House and her political skills -- plus her ability to garner more support than the well-qualified man who had run against her. In other words, she won her post in the same way and for the same reasons any man would have. Her sex was simply incidental -- as it should have been.
Notwithstanding Nancy Pelosi's exuberant bicep-flexing in front of the Speaker's chair last Thursday, her election isn’t significant because it marks the destruction of some “marble ceiling.” It’s significant for a less romantic but more important reason. It demonstrates that even Democrats are occasionally willing to do what other Americans do on a regular basis: Support the person they believe is best for a particular job – regardless of gender.