Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Year of the Women

2016 was supposed to be the Year of the Woman.  It wasn't, quite.  A lot of women voted for the first female presidential candidate nominated by a major party, but not enough--especially white women.  This alone is not why she lost.  But this alone is how she could have won.

Women are not an easily definable political group--particularly as a self-defined group.  They don't all go to the same churches or live in the same cities or states, or the same neighborhoods with mostly other women.  They aren't defined as a political group by their union membership, with its economic incentives.  They aren't mostly found on college campuses.  They are different ages, of different cultures and socioeconomic status.

In 2016 women's votes were (generally speaking) more defined by their race, education level, geographic location and economic status than their gender. (Though psychological factors relating to gender relationships probably did have a role.) Women didn't have--or didn't perceive themselves as having--enough in common.

But now it's 2018.  And what women do have in common appears on the front page.  Almost all women have faced decisions regarding birth control and abortion--the whole range of reproductive rights.  And virtually every woman in America has experienced--or knows someone well who has experienced--sexual harassment, sexual abuse and/or sexual assault.

Some women in 2016 had no trouble with allegations against the Republican candidate, and his recorded words.  Since then we've had the MeToo movement and the fall of one establishment male after another.  Some of those cases were probably injustices, but the accumulation of them said something.

I also would not discount the effect of the revelations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report of widespread sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and the apparent cover-ups by the hierarchy.  These were front page news for weeks in western Pennsylvania, for example, and shook the faith of many working middle class Catholic families, not only in the Church, but in male authority figures.

So it's not 2016 anymore.  2018 is shaping up to be the Year of the Women anyway, with more women running for high office than ever, with the first minority white male slate of Democratic candidates in congressional history.

A wave election is one in which a national issue or issues predominates over state and local issues and even to some extent party loyalties.  Women voting for women, women voting for reproductive rights and against those who minimize and justify crimes against women, can themselves make this wave.

But now on center stage is a nominee for the Supreme Court whose record shows that he threatens a range of reproductive rights, who appears to be a skillful liar with a political agenda, and who is now credibly accused of attempted rape as a teenager.

Kavanagh is claiming that he was not even present at the asserted time and place.  Unless there is incontrovertible evidence that he was elsewhere--out of the country for that period, for example--this appears to mark the transition from skillful lying to audacious lying.

It will be up to male Senators to begin redeeming the Senate from the outrages of the Clarence Thomas hearings.  But it will be up to the women of America to demand an investigation and a fair hearing.  Their voices on issues raised by this court appointment beyond this accusation need to be heard loud and clear.  The Year of the Women begins now.

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