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If This Congresswoman Can’t Park, Can She Lead?

The viral video of Eleanor Holmes Norton's parking stirs ageism


This week, Washington, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton was captured on video parking her car on Capitol Hill poorly. She enters the spot from the wrong angle and after a good deal of maneuvering, leaves her car there, blocking the car to her left. 

 
While surreptitiously recording the video from a window, an anonymous Hill staffer is heard saying, “If she parks like that, she should not be a member of Congress anymore.”
 
After the staffer handed off the video to Roll Call, it went viral, prompting a lot of driving jokes as well as a discussion of Norton's fitness for office. While comments mostly addressed her lack of parking skills, it wasn't hard to pick up the undertone of ageism in the debate.  
 
Is the incident a sign that Norton, 77 and a 12th-term Democrat, should retire? Not surprisingly, opinions on her work and driving skills broke down along party lines, and comments were pretty mean-spirited. Twitter's #ParkingFail is full of outrageous parking by all ages, but at 77, Norton seemed to draw extra scrutiny and criticism.
 
Norton herself made light of the incident, which she attributed to being late for a TV interview. “Don’t worry! I have signed up for parking lessons, and I’m even thinking about upgrading to one of those self-parking cars,” she told a local TV news station. Her staff reported that no cars were damaged as a result of the incident and that the driver of one of the parked cars called to say his vehicle was fine. 

(MORE: Should You Be Driving?)

 
As for whether Norton should still be in office,  D.C. Council Member Elissa Silverman said on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, “I just saw Delegate Norton twice last week giving rousing speeches being on top of her game. She was at an event with health care workers with the Labor secretary and there was a standing ovation after. All I can see is the Delegate doing her job delivering good value to the District, still.”  

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