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October 19, 2016

AP photos, Brendan Lynch photo illustration

Curt Schilling made it sorta, kinda official yesterday that he plans to challenge Sen. Elizabeth Warren for her Massachusetts Senate seat in 2018. Schilling said “I’m going to run,” with the genuinely odd and genuinely gendered caveat “but I haven't talked to Shonda, my wife. And ultimately it's going to come down to how her and I feel this would affect our marriage and our kids." Seems like something one might run up the ol’ flagpole in-house before announcing to the world on-air, but I’m a stickler for equity in relationships like that.

That a sports figure is thinking about transitioning to politics, or is deeply political while in their prime, is nothing new on the political left or right. Gerald Ford first made a name as a Michigan Man, Tom Osbourne went from Nebraska head football coach to Republican congressional representative, and Ali, Kaepernick, and USA women’s soccer, to name but a few, have been deeply political as star athletes—sometimes at great personal cost.  

But Schilling’s declaration for the Senate is a special sort of something. American men are more likely to run for office with thinner resumes than women and are less likely to seek encouragement from others to run. Women are more likely to stay in lower elected offices/roles for longer periods before seeking higher office and backing from their party, friends, and/or power brokers is often vital in getting women to run.

One could say that men who seek election are a bit more arrogant and over-confident than women. I don’t know if I’d go that far in characterizing the research’s implications for most male office seekers, but for Schilling, it is spot-on.

Witness 38’s most recent resume lines: Bankruptcy for a company he founded and steered, being sued and settling with the state of Rhode Island over a $75 million loan guarantee offered to his company and backed by taxpayers, and now refusing to apologize for largely defaulting. Schilling was fired by ESPN for sharing anti-transgender memes after being previously placed on suspension for retweeting a meme depicting Adolf Hitler over text reading “It's said only 5-10% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940, only 7% of Germans were Nazis. How'd that go?"  

The 2004 postseason was something, all right, but the above do not a quality candidate make. 

Surely Schilling sees in Donald Trump’s candidacy a model for his own alt-right ascension. He either forgets, feels it irrelevant given what he offers, or lacks the political acumen to truly consider what the fact that Hillary Clinton is winning Massachusetts by 26 points means for his candidacy. Yes, it will not be a presidential year in 2018, and, yes, we have a Republican governor. But Charlie Baker is a new public-management guy and a social moderate who ran on the mantra of fiscal responsibility (not bankruptcy), refused to endorse Trump, and signed a transgender rights bill. Not so Schill-esque.

And Warren? Recall she handily beat another Republican in Scott Brown, who was far more beloved by the Republican Party than Schilling and Brown too had a certain athletic, good old boy appeal. Her favorability in Massachusetts is over 60 percent and Warren is a Democratic Party all-star (see what I did there?) meaning the party would invest heavily in securing her Massachusetts win. She has also barnstormed the country in favor of Democrats running in tight races and the party, as well as those candidates, would be very willing to return the favor.    

And her legislative accomplishments? Well they speak directly to some of the populist appeal that Sanders and Trump—in very different ways—inculcate. Before joining the Senate, Warren was instrumental in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that actually goes after Wall Street and was a scholar documenting credit card company abuses. Since winning the Senate seat, she has aggressively gone after big banks and demanded of regulators when exactly they have taken Wall Street's biggest financial institutions to a trial.   

It’s certainly the case that Congress and the Senate need a more diverse set of professional backgrounds. And it is most definitely the case that new political blood should seek office. Long periods of single party control are not good for any state. 

But it is also the case that men and women who run for a higher office, on average, differ in when they think they are ready. And for Schilling, the resume is not just thin—it’s filled with a $75 million bankruptcy at taxpayer expense, an anti-just-about-everyone social media presence, and a public firing. So in announcing his Senate bid under these clouds, and by his own admission doing so minus his family’s input, Schilling puts electioneering gender differences into stark overdrive.

Schilling’s decision to run against Warren then is akin to her demanding the ball in Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series. No experience and better options were on the mound. 

Curt Schilling, Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Senate race 2018, women and politics, Massachusetts Republican Party

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