It wasn’t until 1920 (the year of my 92-year-old mother’s birth) that we even had the right to vote. Certainly this is no time for us to squander that hard-won power.
Did you see Gloria Steinem’s recent email (October 2, 2012), laying it out flat why women not only have to support Obama, but why we also have to vote? And get our sisters, wives, daughters, mothers, and aunts to vote, too? As Gloria wrote, “We are half this country. Every issue in this election is a women’s issue. Our country and our future depend on you and me.” In other words, women rule.
We could rule, if we decided to. Romney and Ryan adhere to a regressive and repressive platform that would debase us, codify us as second-class citizens, penalize us for our gender, and take away our power. (And forget about the women who are on Medicare, living below the poverty line, or are lesbian or transgender; under Romney/Ryan, these women are sure to be utterly ignored and marginalized.)
Do these guys really think they can march into Washington wearing their iron boots and brandishing a whip? No. We recoil in disgust at the thought of turning our bodies over to the likes of Mitt and Paul to govern. (We recoil even more when we realize that, in the first presidential debate, the media were not concerned with Romney’s flip-flopping, only that he won. Don’t be fooled by the veneer, dear women, or by the media spin.)
Sometimes I play the What If game. We’ll never know, of course, but what if SCOTUS had declared Al Gore the president in 2000? Is it reasonable to imagine a less polarized country as we enter this 2012 election season? Let’s say Obama had succeeded a two-term, successful Gore presidency, and was now facing off for re-election against Romney (as he is)—do you guess that the mood of the electorate would be more cheerful?
Al Gore’s opponent, George W. Bush, had things in common with Mitt Romney. He too was the son of a prominent Republican politician, a successful business owner, a former governor, and richer than necessary. In that election, Gore won the popular vote, but Bush still won the race. They fought over Florida’s 25 electoral votes, and finally, more than a month after Election Day, the Supreme Court awarded the White House to Bush. That was a hell of an election.
Once elected, Bush governed with a stick of fear. After 9/11, he adopted a tone of aggression: “You’re either with us or against us…” He whipped us up into a frenzy of self-defensiveness and paranoia. It is not hard to imagine a kinder and gentler world today, if we had dodged eight years of President Bush.
Let’s assume the tragedy of 9/11 had happened during a Gore presidency (setting aside, for now, that Bush had several security briefings and cautions about Osama bin Laden that he chose to ignore). For one thing, an argument could be made that the United States would not have invaded Iraq (which turned out to have nothing in the world to do with the 9/11 attacks). Can you picture the past nine years without the war in Iraq? Can you imagine how our lives would be different? The last troops were withdrawn from Iraq (as President Obama promised) in December 2011. The costs of that conflict have been enormous, financially (over $1 trillion of taxpayers’ funds) and emotionally (4,487 U.S. troops killed, 98 percent of whom were male—our husbands, sons, and brothers, our children’s fathers).
Why invoke the 2000 election as we approach the 2012 one? That’s ancient history, 12 whole years ago. Here’s why: If women had turned out in force to vote in 2000, Florida would have been moot, and Gore would have won. In 2000, only 51.3 percent of eligible voters turned up at the polls. Of those, 54 percent of women and 42 percent of men voted for Gore, and 53 percent of men and 43 percent of women voted for Bush, the winner. In 2008, the number of total voters rose to 56.8 percent. Of those, 56 percent of women voted for Obama, to 43 percent for McCain. Women elected Obama in 2008, and—make no mistake—we have the power to re-elect him in 2012.
Barack Obama has pulled us as far away from the Bush years as any one president could be expected to go in one term. When Bush left office in 2008, we were suffering from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and our friendships with the rest of the world were strained. We still have a long way to go, to be sure, but under President Obama we’ve made demonstrable economic strides and social progress. It would be devastating to watch those carefully place stepping stones all washed away by a sea of punitive legislation.
• The very first bill Obama signed into law was The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which allows employees to contest discriminatory paychecks without a statute of limitations. Ledbetter mostly paved the way for lawsuits.
• Appointed Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. These two minority, pro-choice justices bring more diverse perspective to America’s most influential bench and perhaps that quality some claim has no place in the judiciary, empathy.
• Recognizes women’s ability to control their own wombs, and that bodes well for the possible expansion or at least the protection of reproductive freedoms in the future.
• Spoken out and directed money to education and resources to curb domestic violence, and he signed into law the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.
And let’s remember that, to achieve these gains, Obama has had to face Republican resistance, and a wall of No, every single step of the way.
Our challenges for equality persist. But we must keep Obama and Biden in office, and elect more pro-women candidates, to keep going in the right direction. If we women turn out in astounding record numbers, and send a resounding signal that we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore, we will have the power to determine this election. How exhilarating!
The Obama campaign says, “Trust women. Protect choice.” As soon as we decide to own our power, we really will rule. If we women fight back, with our voices and our votes, their war on us won’t have a rich white male leg to stand on.
Learn more about Rachel’s new novel here —-> Driving in the Rain
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