Nel's New Day

March 8, 2020

International Women’s Day: Warren & Electability

March is Women’s History Month, and today is International Women’s Day. The 2020 theme for today is “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights” to bring together diverse people with the goal of creating a gender-equal world. The month honors women who fought to win suffrage rights for women—accomplished in the U.S. 100 years ago–and the women who keep fighting for voting rights of others.

For me, the woman who best represents these themes is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race three days ago. Last fall, she was ahead of Sanders, but since then the U.S., terrified of another term by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), talked about little else than a candidate’s electability. 

A question in the November debate was whether Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) favorite talking point, Medicare for all, would raise taxes. With characteristic honesty, Warren paused and then gave a nuanced answer that taxes might increase but costs would not. Taxes are higher in countries with universal healthcare, but costs are lower because healthcare is free. Warren then came out with a medical coverage plan that doesn’t raise taxes, but people couldn’t hear over Sanders’ bluster.

Sanders, seeing Warren as a threat, charged that a woman wouldn’t be able to beat DDT—the old electability argument. Warren offended men by addressing Sanders on his statement. Purist progressives pulled most support for Warren when she said she was “capitalist to the bone” and the U.S. “needs ICE.” They ignored her plans for Social Security expansion, universal childcare, and a green economy, practical plans instead of pie-in-the-sky hopes.

Amanda Marcotte wrote:

“Warren is a slight woman, but always feels like an outsized presence. Her towering intellect, her quick wit, her ability to crush small men like Mike Bloomberg with just her words, her skill at explaining complex ideas simply without dumbing them down, her deep well of compassion that is the thing that drove her into politics in the first place: All of this made her shine so much brighter than her counterparts on the debate stage.

“Americans apparently couldn’t see that she is a once-in-a-generation talent and reward her for it with the presidency. That is a shameful blight on us. She wrecked Bloomberg in the debate and, in the process, may well have spared us from seeing a presidential election purchased by a billionaire. We responded as we so often do for women who go above the call of duty: We thanked her for her service and promoted less qualified men above her….

“The same forces that pushed Warren out of the race — such as asking her to do the work of figuring out how to finance Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, and then criticizing her for it while he skated by on generalities—offer a microcosm of how we treat women generally, and the reasons why women work so hard both at home and on the job yet make less money.

“Warren’s walk-on song for her campaign rallies was ‘9 to 5’ by Dolly Parton, an upbeat protest anthem the candidate picked because it encapsulated a feminist vision married to her long-standing fight for economic justice. In retrospect, however, the lyrics feel like a dark prophecy:

       They just use your mind and they never give you credit

       It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it

       9 to 5, for service and devotion

       You would think that I would deserve a fat promotion

       Want to move ahead but the boss won’t seem to let me

       I swear sometimes that man is out to get me!

“The same week that Warren was pushed out of the race, the Supreme Court heard the case it clearly plans to use to repeal abortion rights. On the bench was Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by at least two women and confirmed anyway. He was appointed by President Donald Trump, who, as we all know, likes to ‘grab them by the pussy.’ So yeah, suffice it to say that men have seen women (slowly, slowly) getting a little more power, and their efforts to stop us have not been subtle….

“’There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own—nobody,’ [Warren] said to the small group of people at a house party. ‘You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.’

“It sounds like common sense, but it’s a kind of common sense almost no one had articulated as concisely or as bluntly in decades—or even since. Even Sanders struggles to frame his economic populism in language that clearly illustrates the interconnected nature of our society and our economy. Only Warren is quite so good at this.

“And I think gender clearly plays a role in her sharp understanding of these systems. The way that capitalists render invisible the underpaid, thankless labor they rely on to build their fortunes parallels the way that men have long rendered invisible the amount of unpaid and thankless labor women do to make men’s lives possible: The child care, the housework, the emotional tending, the social-calendar maintenance, the status-boosting. That problem is compounded for women in the workplace, where, as Parton astutely observed, they’re often expected to do the work but not take the credit.

“Labor issues and women’s issues are inseparable, and that understanding is what Warren built her career on. It infused her campaign. It’s why so many women feel seen by Warren, who is incapable of talking about ‘women’s issues’ as if they existed in some bubble separate from the economic issues she built her career on….

“It helps, of course, that Warren is who she says she is. One really feels that no matter how many offices and accolades she accumulates, she’s still down to earth and that is exceedingly rare in politicians….

“Voting for Elizabeth Warren was like making a little wish: A wish for a world where women as bright and kind and hard-working and decent as she is—and there are many forgotten women who are many or all of those things—finally get the recognition that is their due.”

In another piece, Kerry Eleveld wrote:

“Elizabeth Warren had some incredible accomplishments this cycle. In an era of grievance and vitriol, she forced a conversation about real policies and transformative ideas and even rose to the top of the pack on them. She turned her campaign into a virtual think tank for progressive change and left a shelf full of detailed plans for the taking by any Democrat who wants to make good on them. She, like Hillary Clinton before her, became a powerful symbol for a generation of young girls who will grow up knowing that, yes, women run for office—even the highest office in the land. She saved our democracy for now from becoming a succession of billionaire scrums every four years. And on a personal note, through her smarts, compassion, decency, accountability and ingenuity, she became the only politician I have ever truly fallen for.”

Sarah Jones wrote:

“Dismissal is what happened to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a wound in the collective psyche of so many women in our country that will not heal until women are respected as important, autonomous beings with the same rights and freedoms as men, including the right to have their reputation matter. That wound changed the women in this country for a generation. It was the last straw, after Trump the predator being elected by our fellow citizens in an unspeakable betrayal.

“That wound is even larger today, the day that the last viable Democratic woman dropped out of the presidential primary, four years after the most qualified candidate in modern history ‘lost’ an election to a self-confessed sexual predator.

“To get the woman vote, a candidate needs to understand this rawness and let women know he or she is on their side, will respect them, will listen to them, will champion their rights. But Sanders is currently dismissing the Democratic votes for Biden as “establishment Democrats.” Women are as far from the establishment as one can be in this country. The ERA has yet to be ratified….

“Women shouldn’t be afraid to voice that they want someone who innately respects them. They shouldn’t be afraid that supporters on the left will attack them and threaten them for voicing their opinions and preferences. But many of them are, once again, just like they were in 2016.

“After four years of Donald Trump’s assaults on women, including nominating credibly accused rapist Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court for his lifetime, women known now, if they didn’t before, that attitudes translate to policy and to nominations, which impact them in their daily lives.”

With Warren officially suspending her candidacy, Sanders is asking for and his supporters are demanding her endorsement. In the 2016 election, she waited until the final election to endorse Hillary Clinton. She has more leverage without endorsing anyone, and she has also spoken with Joe Biden. Her goal is where she’ll get the greatest power to follow her agenda. Her complaints about both front runners echo those of many Democrats—Sanders is ineffective and Biden likes the status quo of widespread economic unfairness. Warren’s position in the senate will give her a great deal of clout.

During the last few days, the mass media on both the left and right have explained what Warren did wrong in her campaign. Imagine where she’d be if the voters weren’t determined to use electability as the primary criterion.

March 30, 2012

Don’t Let Conservatives Silence Women

Republican legislators—primarily men—continue to create bills to oppress women, but people are beginning to fight back, sometimes successfully. Even courts are recognizing the unconstitutionality of these laws. The most recent ruling is from federal District Judge Brian Dixon, who declared that the Oklahoma law mandating ultrasounds before abortions is unconstitutional.  An appeal will send the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has already permitted a similar law in Texas.

“The right is ours. Have it we must. Use it we will.” This is a statement from Susan B. Anthony over a century ago as she fought for women’s rights by the side of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Born less than 50 years after the Revolutionary War, the two women fought for another half century to change the repressive laws against women.

When Anthony and Stanton met on a street corner in Seneca Falls, New York, women were considered weaker and more inferior to boys and men. Women who spoke for their rights in public were ridiculed, reviled, threatened, called vicious names. Men believed they shouldn’t leave their homes without a male escort. Ministers declared women’s roles through bible verses: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” and “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

Anthony started to work for women’s suffrage after she was prevented from speaking at a temperance conference because she was a woman. That was when she learned that women had to have the vote if they could change any laws or policies. Anthony also knew that women have no independence without money and they can have no money without equal property rights and the right to keep their wages.

A transformative experience for Anthony was meeting a woman whose husband had first beaten her and then committed her to an insane asylum after she confronted him about his affair with another woman. She spent 18 months in the institution until her brother, a U.S. senator, got her released. Yet when she wanted to see her children, he said, “The child belongs by law to the father, and it is your place to submit. If you make any more trouble about it we’ll send you back to the asylum.” The woman fled with her daughter but could not find a hotel room because she was unaccompanied by a man. A year later the husband found them and abducted the child. The mother never saw her again.

Together Anthony and Stanton fought the language of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed after the Civil War, that delineates “male citizens” and injected gender into the Constitution for the first time. Because the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment defines citizens without gender, Anthony and many others decided to vote—and were arrested. During Anthony’s trial, the judge refused to allow her to testify because she was “not a competent witness” and instructed the jurors, all men of course, to “find a verdict of guilty.” Anthony was fined $100 and court costs, which she refused to pay.

As a Quaker, Anthony believed in a religion that allowed women to preach and participate in governance. She believed that if women were enfranchised that conservative churches and clergymen would become more liberal. “Get political rights first and religious bigotry will melt like dew before the morning sun,” Anthony wrote to Stanton. Disagreeing, Stanton believed that women must question religion that justifies the elevation of men over women. Toward that end, she published The Woman’s Bible.

For half the 19th century these two women helped lay the groundwork for the great gains accorded women, a foundation that women like Alice Paul and others imprisoned for their belief in women’s suffrage built upon. The constitutional amendment for suffrage was created as the 16th Amendment but ended up being the 19th because of three other national amendments passed in the interim: government collecting taxes, people directly electing senators to the U.S. Congress, and prohibition of alcohol.

Women still had a long way to go after women’s suffrage was legalized across the country in 1920. Only fifty years ago, people in this country could be arrested, fined, and sentenced to prison for distributing birth control. Sex between consenting adults of the same sex was illegal in every state. Employment discrimination against women was legal—and pervasive.

By the end of the 1970s Congress had outlawed some of the country’s gender discrimination. The Supreme Court ruled against statutes outlawing birth control and abortion, and half the states had repealed anti-sodomy laws. During the same decade women helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, battled sex education in schools, and fought federally-funded child care.

“Failure is impossible,” Anthony said in her last speech. As long as women are willing to vote for their equal rights, despite the laws that white men attempt to impose on us, Anthony’s statement will be true. Only when we women abdicate our power to vote, that hard-won power, or allow men to subjugate us through our vote will we return to a time when we could not own property, gain custody over children, obtain contraception, inherit property, keep wages, even serve on a jury—a right that we have had for only 40 years. In the United States, women are in the majority. We are in control as long as we wish to be.

If women have any doubt about whether they need to keep control over their reproductive rights, we should consider a finding from the National Bureau of Economic Research. During the 1980s, oral contraception accounted for 10 percent of the narrowing of the wage gap the gap in median annual wages between women and men.

Remember, too, the “common scold” laws begun in Colonial America and continued until 40 years ago. Women were criminals if we expressed strong opinions because this action was attacking male privilege. In the early days, women were chained in the town square, dunked in lakes, or wore a scold’s bridle—a metal cage with a tongue piece forced into the mouth. This could break teeth, cause vomiting, slash the inside of the mouth, and even cause death. The last “common scold” case, State of New Jersey v. Marion Palendrano, arrested a woman for arguing with two men over a parking space.

Conservative men are once again attempting to silence women. The Republican legislators kept women from testifying about birth control in Congress, and Rush Limbaugh verbally abused women who use birth control. Women need to stop men from silencing them and taking away our rights. We need to guarantee that next year’s Women History Month shows how much we have gained, not all the rights that we have lost.

Product Details

[The above information about Anthony and Stanton was taken from Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World by Penny Colman; check it out for more about these amazing women.]

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