Good Luck Jon and Stephen! (October 30, 2010)

Stewart_Colbert

It’s a big political day today, sort of like a Super Bowl for the Washington set.

In this corner, we have President Obama, returning to my hometown of Chicago for the first rally in the Windy City since the historic evening in November of 2008 when he became America’s only President of color. My husband and I were fortunate enough to be at Grant Park that night, and no matter how the administration rates now, nothing can ever take away from the emotional significance of that evening. I am often critical of the Commander-in-Chief, but he is a gifted and moving speaker. The rally, “Moving America Forward” is part of a series being held as the President attempts to boost the flagging morale of the Left, encouraging them to get to the polls on November 2nd. “Just Say No to the GOP” and all that. The stakes are high.

If it is possible to upstage the party of a sitting President (and it apparently is), Comedy Central hosts and comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are holding their own “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” on the Washington Mall in the nation’s Capitol this afternoon. The event, which will begin any minute now, is a deadly serious tongue-in-cheek answer to conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s late August “Restore Honor” rally, which was attended by over 87,000. Many liberals, and quite a few centrists, objected to the timing of Beck’s call-to-arms, which also happened to be the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Stewart’s soiree, per the organizational website, has but one mission: “We’re looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard.”

Further: ” Ours is a rally for the people who’ve been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs) — not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority. If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence… we couldn’t. That’s sort of the point.”

A rally for good old fashioned, hard working, common sense. How can I not get behind that? In some ways I am sorry it takes two men who get paid to crack jokes on a cable channel to organize a visible response to the caterwauling of the extreme Right, but whatever works. Break a leg guys!

113th Congress Produces 22% of “Do-Nothing” 1947-1948 Counterpart (December 20, 2014)

Do-Nothing-Congress

Similar to overpaid NFL “star” Jay Cutler’s reign of terror as the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears, the best thing we can say about the 113th session of Congress is that it’s over. Setting a new standard for lethargic mediocrity, the body, which formally adjourned this week, passed just 200 bills over the last two years. By comparison, the 80th session of 1947-1948, affectionately referred to as the “Do-Nothing Congress,” shepherded a whopping 900 pieces of legislation. Harry Truman’s clever branding of Washington’s stuffed shirts was accurate at the time, but seems quaintly innocent from the vantage point of late 2014.

In an Associated Press piece entitled, 113th Congress Ends With More Fights Than Feats, writer Alan Fram observes (somewhat poetically), “The tempestuous 113th Congress has limped out of Washington for the last time, capping two years of modest and infrequent legislating that was overshadowed by partisan clashes, gridlock and investigations.” Limp is right. What little paperwork did make it to the President’s desk did nothing to address the nation’s broken immigration system, declining infrastructure, archaic and biased tax code, unlivable minimum wage and a host of other dire issues rendering America less functional.

Of course, despite maintaining a despotic stranglehold on the House of Representatives, none of this should be blamed on the GOP. Just ask them:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “How many times did we have the point of the week?… It was designed to make us walk the plank. It had nothing to do with getting a legislative outcome.”

Michael Steel, spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner: Republicans passed “jobs bill after jobs bill…But Washington Democrats — including President Obama and Senate Democratic leaders — have utterly failed to act.”

Moira Bagley Smith, spokeswoman for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise: “Considering the Senate is sitting on over 350 pieces of House-passed legislation from this Congress, I believe Senator Reid’s chamber single-handedly has earned the title of ‘least productive…’The contrast in productivity between these two chambers couldn’t be more obvious.”

Examples of these “350 pieces of House-passed legislation” include more than 50 votes designed to kill or weaken the nowclearly successful Affordable Care Act. And if you can’t recall the reported avalanche of awesome Republican jobs bills, you are not alone. Meanwhile in the Democratic-led Senate, legislation designed to raise the federal minimum wage, create equal pay for women, improve the student loan morass and extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, proved DOA in the House.

So goodbye and good riddance 113th Congress, with your 15 percent approval rating. Better luck next year. Oh wait.

Per writer Aileen Graef of UPI, “When the 114th Congress enters its first session in January, it will be controlled by the Republican party which has already vowed to fight the White House on contentious issues including healthcare and immigration. With President Obama waiting to meet the new Congress ready to veto, it spells a grim future for productivity and approval ratings.”

As I suggested shortly after the November midterm elections, frustrated voters who thought they were sending President Obama and the Democrats a message at the ballot box (“Do something!”) were speaking to the wrong party. There’s no reason to believe that the 114th session will be any more productive than the last. Stonewalling has proven a GOP ballot box-winning strategy. Nothing will change until we demand it, and stop rewarding sandbaggers with additional terms in office.

Tuesday’s Primaries Won’t Change Gender Leadership Imbalance (May 24, 2014)

gender-balance-seesaw

I think I speak for many women in this country when I say I am sick and tired of national conversations about our bodies, our families and our pay that don’t include us. And if we’re to judge the prospects of equal representation by this past Tuesday’s primaries, there appears to be little hope for a momentum shift come November.

I must own that I was even more depressed by this painful statistic than I expected. According to a May 8th report from NPR’s “All Things Considered,” The United States ranks pathetically low on the list of nations that elect the most female representatives. Writer Michele Kelemen on the show’saccompanying blog writes:

“The U.S. is listed as No. 84, with female legislators accounting for 18 percent of the House and 20 percent of the Senate. But the list does not recognize ties among countries, so there are actually 98 countries with a higher percentage of female legislators than the U.S.”

99th place in this type of ranking. It’s appalling. And no subsequent wonder at all that the state of the female union is a patriarchal, authoritarian nightmare, especially if you live in a red state. Vaginal ultrasounds anyone?

I am equally sorry to report that the near future isn’t looking much more enlightened. The New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote a piece this week entitled, “Dinner Party Politics.” In it, she takes a reflective look back at Tuesday’s electoral primaries, mostly with a tongue-in-cheek nod to the victory of “moderate” Republicans (evermore an oxymoron) over Tea Party fringe elements. But she also observes:

“On the gubernatorial side, however, things were a little dimmer. Representative Allyson Schwartz lost the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania, which she was once favored to win…Also, [Debbie Walsh of the Center for American Women and Politics] pointed out, Pennsylvania will now be ‘another state with no women in their congressional delegation.’

Pennsylvania, I’m sorry. This looks terrible. Get your act together.”

Pennsylvania is a purple state, but does that even matter? Women are 51 percent of the population. We own up to 60 percent of the presently awarded college degrees. We multi-task, enjoy challenging careers and are leaders – everywhere but the boardroom and Washington D.C. Coincidence? I think not. But why do we stand (or sit) for this?

And this is why primaries and midterm elections matter. This is why all elections matter, particularly for female voters. I am sincerely weary of a sea of gray white faces and scientific hacks making the decisions for my gender. The numbers tell the story. We are the majority.

Earlier this week, the Oregon-based Statesman Journal ran a piece called “Voter turnout down in primary election across parties.” Writer Hannah Hoffman dryly observes, “The voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary election does not sound impressive: 35.5 percent. However, it is better than turnout in any other state that has held a primary election so far this year.”

Do we need to do the math? If we show up to the polls in strong numbers, we will carry our point – no matter the sex of our chosen candidate. Though the GOP has failed to learn anything at all from the experience, female voters are a huge reason that President Obama is experiencing a second term. Initially I typed “enjoying” but realized the absurdity of the verb.

There are so many ways in which we are lagging behind the rest of the world: education, health care, energy technology, public safety (thank you NRA!). And I’d argue that many of these deficiencies go hand-in-hand with the fact that we finish 99th behind a country called San Marino, while repressive Cuba finishes third, on the list of countries with the highest percentage of female legislators.

No more determination without representation. Women, we know what we must do this November: vote.