Eighteen years after “Women like that kind of work.”
This country is getting a crash course in civics, particularly in the way states operate elections and tally votes. A key lesson in this course? The role of the Secretary of State.
What’s funny (sad?) is that it was a televised interview 18 years ago with a Republican operative in Michigan about this particular role in state government, and those who are a good fit for it, that first lifted a veil on what some in politics really thought about the office and those in that job.
“Women like that kind of work.”
That’s what Chuck Yob told a panel of journalists, including myself and host Tim Skubick, on “Off the Record” in 2002. It was his answer to my question about why — at that point in time — we had only seen Republican women regularly run for just one statewide office: Secretary of State.
Maybe, in his mind at the time, that alignment made sense because the title did have the word “secretary” in it… like filing and typing and clerical duties. After all, those really appeal to the womenfolk, right?
After the taped segment ended and we continued questioning Yob about his “explanation,” there was some backtracking, but the sentiment hung out there. I took from Yob’s comments that, in his view, women were best suited for a particular kind of work.
It turns out — as we’ve found out every day since Nov. 3, 2020 — the work of the Secretary of State is absolutely vital to running smooth elections and preserving our democracy.
This office in states across the country ended up smoothly executing elections with record turnout despite significant hurdles, including an absolute crush of mail-in ballot requests and, of course, a global pandemic that depleted volunteers at polling places. And their thanks? Having to plead (PLEAD!) with the president of this country to stop fanning the flames of conspiracy and calling the system “rigged” because he didn’t win. They’re pleading with President Trump because they’re worried about being hurt, or their families being hurt, by the MAGA mob.
And in Michigan, 18 years after Yob’s comments, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, isn’t just doing her job of running a smooth election. She also is having to somehow go about “normal life” at the holidays with her family while armed protesters who support President Trump gather outside her Detroit home and yell at her with a bullhorn to rail against the results of last month’s election and to intimidate her.
How much evolution has happened in the 18 years since Yob’s comments? Well, just this year, we heard another Republican operative comment on a female elected official in Michigan. This time it was President Trump who reduced Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to nothing but her gender and her home state when he snarled about “the woman in Michigan.”
And 18 years after Yob’s comments, Michigan has women serving as Secretary of State, Attorney General and Governor. They’re not just doing their jobs. They’re doing that challenging work during a great reckoning over systemic racism and a multi-faceted pandemic that has sickened millions, killed hundreds of thousands and crippled the economy.
Good thing they like that kind of work.