When I read Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s book, “Rumors of Our Progress Have Been Greatly Exaggerated,” I felt as if I had been sleep-walking through the past twenty years of my life. (I hope that soon I will have the long-promised interview with the Congresswoman for your reading pleasure, but she is obviously quite busy on her book tour!) Through a devastating, methodical collection of facts and figures, the Congresswoman builds an airtight case for her premise: American women have NOT come a long way, baby.
Sexual harrassment suits are still routinely filed at places that are designated by female-led organizations as woman-friendly. Women still make 77 cents to every male dollar for doing the same job. Although many other countries, including the not-so-forward-thinking Pakistan and India, have had female heads of state, we Americans are still not quite able to bring ourselves to elect a female president, although many qualified women have tried and failed. Our business community has little to no support for women who want to participate in the workforce; no places for breastfeeding, no help for those who need daycare, and maternity leave for most is a thing of the past, having been replaced by “disability pay” – as if having a child were a disability! And as for a woman’s right to control her own body, although 6 years of Republican control over Congress, the Executive Branch and the Supreme Court has not led to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, certain factions within the Republican Party never seem to stop trying to chip away at reproductive choice. Just recently, HHS Secretary Leavitt put forth a proposal erroneously declaring some forms of birth control as abortifacients, thus opening the door to more “conscientious refusals” by anti-choice health professionals to prescribe them. Finally, the ERA has been dead in the water since it failed to pass in the 1970′s, the last time that a demonstrated, concentrated push for womens’ rights occurred.
Maloney’s excellent book offers practical, real-world solutions for many of these problems; among them, lobbying for specific legislation and networking with women in business to get more females into the top slots in Fortune 500 companies. But when all is said and done, the overwhelming thing we all must do is to elect more women to local, state and federal government. Why? Because of the 30% Solution.
I had never heard of this statistic before reading this book (told you I was asleep), but apparently, it is a well-recognized fact that no significant progress is ever made on womens’ issues in any country unless the federal government is made up of at least 30% women. Our federal government is currently made up of 17% women, which explains why we have had such a difficult time moving forward. Womens’ voices are simply too few to be heard, despite their frequent screaming. A case in point: That HHS proposal mentioned above is being hotly and loudly contested by only two women: Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray. 28 of their Senatorial colleagues have signed onto their petition (note that supposedly fervent feminist Joe Biden is NOT on that list, although Barack Obama has signed it), but that is the extent of their advocacy. Why isn’t the Democratic Party screaming and yelling about this terrible blow against womens’ rights, as this blog suggests?
If 30% of the Senate and House were women, you can bet your increasingly-less-valuable paycheck that both parties would be feeling a lot more responsible to that constituency. But as it is now, the Democrats have gotten fat and lazy, assuming that we will hand them our votes no matter what they do, resting on their decades-old laurels and doing little or nothing to stop this horrendous attack on our reproductive freedoms.
As I was reading this book, I noted the number of times the Congresswoman would be stymied by Republican resistance and Democratic indifference when trying to get important legislation into Committee. (The book was written before Democrats took over Congress.) Yet I also noted something interesting: When Ms. Maloney desperately needed bi-partisan support, it was nearly always a Republican woman who would give it to her - and not necessarily a “moderate” like Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins, either. Was it possible that the 30% Solution could actually be party-blind?
This year, and every year, I believe the answer is yes. The Democrats have utterly failed to demonstrate their commitment to womens’ rights by refusing to nominate the woman who was the clear winner of the primaries this year, favoring an illegitimate, unqualified and unelectable man instead. And indeed, they have been completely uninterested, with the exception of certain female legislators and leaders within the Party, in protecting and advancing womens’ rights by passing the ERA.
And to those of you that come here to berate me and other PUMAs, and can’t seem to acknowledge the historic nature of this election to women, you are missing a fundamental dynamic of the primary season. The main reason McCain picked Palin was to satisfy his conservative base, but he was also extremely aware of the pissed-off faction of the Democratic Party that has finally seen the impenetrably sexist nature of the Party we thought was our friend and advocate. And notably, the Republican Party is over the moon about Palin, whereas the supposed “feminists” and “left” bloggers had no problem attacking Hillary for her cleavage, body, wardrobe, allegiance to her husband, and a myriad of other Scary Vagina-based idiocies.
McCain and the Republicans are willing to elect a woman to the Executive Branch for the first time in the history of our country. They are advancing the 30% Solution. Obama and the Democrats are not, and are not. Do you get it now, Obamans?
It is time to make the Democratic Party take women seriously, for the first time since Mondale put Geraldine Ferraro on the Presidential ticket. It is time to acknowledge that, as Hillary said, Womens’ rights are human rights. And it is time to cast your vote for a woman this Election Day. I am casting my vote for two women, McKinney/Clemente, unless McCain comes close enough to win New York, in which case I will vote McCain/Palin at the top. And after this election, I am only casting my vote for women, unless I have no alternative.
It’s a numbers game, and thanks to the Democratic Party’s unconscionable rejection of Hillary Clinton this year, I have just become a single-issue voter. If the Democratic Party wants to earn my support by actually taking concrete action on behalf of women in the future, then let them. If they want to support women in the primaries, let them. If they want to use their increased Congressional power to get the ERA passed, let them. If they want to legislate Roe v. Wade on top of the established law of the land, as Hillary has proposed, let them. And if they want to put Hillary forward as the nominee in 2012, instead of taking every possible action to stop her from winning (including taking her two strongest states out of contention, changing the rules to overweight red-state caucuses to the detriment of large blue and swing states, awarding her delegates to her opponent, and intimidating and threatening her delegates into not voting for her at the Convention), then let them.
Otherwise, they will continue to be a Party divided on racial and sexual lines; a Party that thinks nothing of an African-American candidate who gains the support of 93% of AA’s by race-baiting, but is fauxraged at women who self-identified with Hillary and now Sarah Palin; a Party destroyed from within by the most divisive and destructive candidate in recent memory.
It’s up to you, Democrats. You can re-commit yourselves to social justice and gender equality, or you can continue on your path towards becoming the New Plutocratic Party. But be prepared to reap what you sow. Remember, pissing off your constituents, then blaming them for not voting for you, is never a good electoral strategy. Giving your constituents what they want, however, works every time.
Right, President McCain?
Cross-posted at Partizane