October 20, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Sisterhood trumps politics as liberal and conservative bond over tea

Cynthia Dill and Susan Dench are newfound friends.

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Cynthia Dill, above, a liberal, has a new friend in Susan Dench, a conservative.

2012 file photo Gordon Chibroski/ Staff Photographer

It was but one of many moments when these two women, if they so chose, could have opened fire on each other.

Dill, after all, is the state legislator who turned many a head when she launched an online petition demanding a citizen-recall process for elected officials in Maine – starting, of course, with LePage.

Dench, on the other hand, repeatedly referred to the Obama residence in a recent column as the “Spite House.”

Yet here they sat, actually trading compliments between sips of tea, insisting that political disagreement need not derail civil dialogue.

What’s more, even when it came to such a lightning-rod catch-phrase as “fiscal responsibility,” each embraced the concept without so much as a sideways glance at the other.

Noted Dench: “A lot of us believe in the same thing. We just put different labels on it.”

Added Dill: “Everyone wants to be fiscally responsible. It all comes down to, ‘What is fiscal responsibility?’ ”

To Dill, it means not blowing an estimated $24 billion on a government shutdown. To Dench, it means not reflexively adding to a national debt that’s now “$17 trillion and climbing.”

To both, however, it meant listening to the other’s viewpoint without the eye-rolling, finger-pointing and constant interruption that fuel most male-dominated political debates.

Dill came prepared to illustrate that point, producing reports of two studies highlighting the near-absence of women’s voices among those who both make and report the news. One was by the Women’s Media Center, founded by Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem; the other came from the World Association for Christian Communication.

“The lens tends to be through men. The voices that inform the public and collect ideas and express opinions are male,” said Dill. “I think it helps everybody to have both.”

“I completely agree with you, Cynthia,” replied Dench. “I think it is a male-dominated conversation.”

As they finished their tea, part of me wondered if this was simply the inevitable crossing of paths between two women practiced in the art of self-promotion.

But then I reminded myself that I dragged them under this spotlight, not the other way around. And that, however publicly they set up their first sit-down, they met in private with nothing more to gain than each other’s newfound friendship.

A lesson for us all?

“What I love about Cynthia is she thought she could make a difference and she ran (for public office),” said Dench. “After all the slings and arrows she’s been through, she still had the courage to run. That takes guts ... that takes guts.”

“I figured we can meet each other so when I read (Dench’s column), I’ll know the woman behind the article,” said Dill. “I’ll know she’s funny and smart and educated and trying to make a difference. And that’s what we have in common.”

Libertini, conservatini – take your pick.

Maybe the whole country should invite itself out for a drink.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:


Twitter: @billnemitz

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