Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) stressed the importance of female participation and bipartisanship in politics in Old North Wednesday.
The event was hosted by the Georgetown Public Policy Review, the Women in Public Policy Initiative, the McCourt School of Public Policy and the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, with Susan Davis, a National Public Radio Congressional reporter, moderating.
McCaskill was the first female to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri, which she has served since 2007. Before serving in the Senate, McCaskill acted as the state auditor of Missouri from 1999 to 2007 and the Jackson County Prosecutor from 1993 to 1998.
McCaskill is member of the Senate Committees for the Armed Services, Commerce, Science and Transportation as well as Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. She was instrumental in pushing forward legislation such as the Victims Protection Act of 2014, which gave sexual assault survivors in the military the choice of whether to have their cases tried in civilian or military justice systems.
Erin Mullally (GRD ’16), a Missouri native, introduced the senator and lauded her pivotal role in pioneering a path for women politicians in the state.
“It’s fair to say that Sen. McCaskill is praised for her independent values and reputation as a candid and charismatic leader who fights for the best interests of Missouri’s families and Missouri’s businesses,” Mullally said. “It is hard to imagine the progress women have made in Missouri without Sen. McCaskill’s instrumental role in paving the way for women to hold true leadership positions in Missouri politics.”
McCaskill began by emphasizing how female politicians have become crucial contributors to the legislative process, stating that in general, women are more focused on accomplishing goals than achieving ideological victories.
“We are not trying to win as much as we are to move the agenda,” McCaskill said. “There aren’t as many women that are allergic to compromise as there are in terms of my male colleagues.”
McCaskill cited the federal government shutdown two years ago over budget disputes as an example of women’s ability to exhibit bipartisanship in resolving governmental issues.
“Me and a bunch of women from both parties got together and said, ‘This is ridiculous,’” McCaskill said. “We actually got together and found a way to kind of move it so we would stymie the shutdown.”
When asked about her support of President Barack Obama during the 2008 elections as opposed to Hillary Clinton, McCaskill said she did not believe one should support political figures on the sole basis of gender.
“Equality is about being able to compete on merit — it is not about favoring one gender over the other, and that door swings both ways,” McCaskill said. “I found it really irritating when people tried to tell that I wasn’t a real woman in 2008 because I wasn’t supporting Hillary Clinton.”
McCaskill also encouraged the use of Title IX, a statute promoting gender equality, in ensuring fairness in sexual assault procedures for both victims and alleged perpetrators.
“Basically what we are trying to do with Title IX is to make sure the process is transparent and fair and make sure that anyone who has been victimized with an assault, if they are a student, knows where they can go and get good information so they can make good decisions,” McCaskill said.
When discussing the future of her career, McCaskill said she is most likely going to run for reelection in 2018, but remains open to other possibilities as well.
McCaskill went on to answer questions from the audience, including whether she had advice for the future president. McCaskill highlighted the need for bipartisan work and establishing relationships across the aisle.
“I would certainly advise whoever is elected spend time developing relationships with members of Congress,” McCaskill said. “When the time comes where there is a disagreement, you have the trust to exert the leverage to try to get a result you want.”
McCaskill also emphasized the importance of women moving past the serious aspects of politics.
“Women sometimes get caught in being good at their job that they forget that they can tell a joke, they should be able to take a joke, that they shouldn’t be taking themselves too seriously,” McCaskill said. “Being grounded is sometimes about having a sense of humor. I think all that matters.”
Shweta Wahal (SFS ’16) said she appreciated McCaskill’s candor and felt motivated by her remarks.
“You could see the authenticity behind what she is saying and how she was just unapologetically herself,” Wahal said. “I left inspired and am super happy that she came.”