More Femmes on The Hill

Rant #7

What if we just admit the truth?  That we’ve got no balance on the Hill. And I’m talking about THE HILL.  You know where the insurrectionists went on Jan 6 to intimidate everyone trying to certify the election out of certifying the election.  There’s just not enough women – especially BIPOC & LGBTQ identified - in political leadership.

If you’ve been reading my rants, you know I’m a loud voice for women’s humanity, complexity, potential to get things wrong, just like they get things right.  So, there’s no implication here that somehow women are better, smarter, wiser, or more perfect than men.  But what is different – very different – is their lived experience.  In our gender-biased society, Femmes have to prove themselves worthy.  In every aspect of life.  And this is especially true when it comes to leadership.  Women learn early on that if they want to be heard, they’d better bring some value to the table.  And because of our society’s bias -  men are leaders, women aren’t – lots of incredibly talented women just don’t get sent to Washington. 

Toxic masculinity has always been front and center in American politics. 

But lately it’s gotten way worse.  Men sent to the Hill think they can say and do whatever they want while failing miserably at serving the people who elected them.  Bullying, shaming, obstructionism, and lots of other negative tactics have stalled federal government.  What needs to get done for us – we the people – doesn’t.  Real problems don’t get solved.  Leaving all Americans victimized by one crisis after another. 

I spent the Trump years writing Senators.  All of them, not just the ones that represent my home state.  So, I’m on their mailing lists.  I received an email from Senator Steve Daines from Montana that I’m sharing in its entirety, including the header his office uses to identify his communications with his constituents.

Dear Julie,

Yesterday the Democrats raised the nation’s debt limit so they can spend more of your hard-earned money.  I fought back and voted against this fiscal insanity.

I think it is irresponsible for Congress to increase the nation’s debt limit without taking any steps to actually reduce the debt itself, especially when the Democrats plan to pass a reckless $3.5 trillion tax & spending spree bill next.

Sadly, Democrats are prioritizing their far-Left agenda over the needs of Montana families trying to make ends meet.

Montanans are already facing skyrocketing prices and soaring inflation, and Democrats believe the best solution is to grow the government, spend more money we don’t have and impose taxes on hardworking Montanans.

Montana families, workers, small businesses, farmers and ranchers will have to bear the burden from the Democrats’ irresponsible policies.

As your voice in the United States Senate, I will continue to fight back against the Democrats' radical, reckless tax & spending spree and support hardworking Montanans.

Sincerely,

Senator Steve Daines

Should Democrats raise our national debt limit to fund their reckless tax & spending spree? No, Yes, Unsure

Okay, I get you might agree with Daines politically. 

Biden/Harris and their aggressive Build Back Better Plan may not be your cup of tea.  But, I’m asking you to set aside your political leanings for the moment and just examine Daines for his bullying, shaming tactics that are made doubly insulting by his overt assumption of my lack of knowledge and critical thinking skills.  What does being “far-Left” in America mean?  Has the Senator actually spoken with Montana families that might not agree with him and share his values? (The lame “questionnaire” at the end of his email strongly suggests he hasn’t.)  Debt under the Trump administration rose to 7.8 trillion, with Republicans voting to raise the ceiling three times.  Now suddenly it’s the Democrats who want to “fund a reckless tax & spending spree?” Not to mention the lying - taxes aren’t going to be raised on anyone who makes under four-hundred thousand a year. And that’s just one of the many false statements in the Senator’s careless and thoughtless missive.

Here is the response I fired off after I received Senator Daines email. 

I’m sorry to read your somewhat hysterical position.  And I hope that you are not being influenced by the ex-President who has been fomenting violence against our government.  Our country is in trouble.  The rich are getting richer, the working class is being left behind and the poor are going homeless.  We are facing a climate crisis that is spinning out of control. The Trump administration put us 7.8 trillion dollars in debt. And the only way to cure that debt is to make sure that everyone is paying their fair share - increasing taxes on the wealthy and on corporations - which will put hardworking Americans in a fiscal position where they can save for their future.

And might I suggest you actually look up the definition of a “far-Left” agenda.  Because President Biden and the Democrats in Congress are nowhere close to far-Left.  Words matter and the polarizing rhetoric in this email undermines your constituents’ right to honest and straight-forward talk about their government.

What are you for?  What do you expect to happen?  How does America move forward?  And if all you are for is to inflate a fight with the opposing party, then I suggest you do the residents of Montana a favor and get out of politics.  Americans - all Americans - need our politicians to come together and work together in our best interest.  We’re exhausted by your petty attacks, bullying, shaming, obstructionist tactics and lack of vision.

Playing Fair is a virtue.  Even in politics. 

I mean, you can be tough and outspoken while you completely disagree.  But playing fair forces an approach that holds both sides to the issues at hand; to knowing what they’re doing; to having some positive reason for holding a seat in the House or Senate.  (I have no doubt that Mitch McConnell will go down as the greatest obstructionist in the history of America – not a legacy anyone with any self-respect would want to own.) And I believe we would be in a way better position if the “boys” had more tough women around them to challenge their heinous treatment of hopeful Americans. After all, we sent them to the Hill in good faith to solve problems and make our lives better.

Why do we need more Femmes in Washington?

There are more women in America than men.  Women are 50.52 percent of the population and men are 49.48 percent of the population.  So, if we’re playing fair, why don’t we reflect those numbers in our political leadership?

Women are negotiators

Let’s face it – women fight with words.  Women learn early on to be gifted negotiators.  They don’t get permission by our society to fly off the handle, beat their chest, and waste the taxpayers’ time and money showing off for the cameras on the Senate floor.  (Okay – we have a few loonies who are women. But I would argue those politicians have internalized toxic masculinity to gain power and attention.)

Women are community centered

As nurturers, women are raised to care.  If the roads are getting fixed.  If the children have health care.  If the government is providing relief to those living in poverty.  If climate change is getting so dangerous that we might not survive. 

Women are problem-solvers

Femmes take pride in fixing it.  Whatever it is.  If there’s a problem, they throw down to try and solve it.  From a cut on a kid’s knee, to homelessness in their neighborhood, women care.  And they don’t stop caring.  And because they care, they roll up their sleeves and try to make things better. 

Because we live in a sexist society, we have missed out on so many amazing Femmes who are far more fit to lead than the dysfunctional men in politics who indulge in despicable power plays rather than do their jobs.  The good news is there are women who have gone to the Hill who were and are extraordinary leaders.  They had to be far better than the boys to get there.

Here’s my short list of Femmes in American politics then and now that I really admire.

Barbara Jordan

Keynote address by Representative Barbara Jordan, Democratic National Convention, July 12, 1976

She was the first African-American to be elected to a state senate – Jordan served in her home state of Texas.  She was the first African-American woman from the deep south to be elected to Congress. And Barbara Jordan is listed in the U.S. National Archives as the first LGBTQ+ woman in Congress. Jordan’s ambition and relationship to Lyndon Johnson landed her a seat on the Judiciary Committee, which catapulted her into the national spotlight during the Watergate Hearings.

In the summer of 1974, as the committee considered articles of impeachment against President Richard M. Nixon for crimes associated with the Watergate Scandal, Jordan delivered opening remarks that shook the committee room and the large television audience that had tuned in to the proceedings. My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total, Jordan said. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution. She then explained the reasoning behind her support of each of the five articles of impeachment against President Nixon. In conclusion, Jordan said that if her fellow committee members did not find the evidence compelling enough, then perhaps the eighteenth-century Constitution should be abandoned to a twentieth-century paper shredder.

Jordan’s accomplishments are vast and her influence more profound than can be estimated or articulated.  She was the first African-American and the first woman to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.  Barbara Jordan won the Presidential Medal of Honor.  She was a brilliant legislator whose work on The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977; The Voting Rights Act of 1965; The Equal Rights Amendment; and as Chair of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform changed America for the better.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Official photo of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, representative of the Democratic Party. Taken January 2019.

Charlotte Alter’s Change is Closer Than We Think – Inside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Rise for TIME is an amazing feature on this brilliant Femme.

…Ocasio-Cortez threatens the status quo, bringing a youthful impatience to a set of policies popularized by Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign, like Medicare for All and tuition-free public college. Like Sanders, she seems more concerned with movements than elections; she doesn’t talk about flipping seats and votes, but rather of winning hearts and minds. Hers is the politics of the possible, not the practical. By the time legislation actually gets through, it is five years from now, she says. So everything we introduce needs to have 2025 or our kids in mind. She’s not thinking about how to keep the Democratic majority for another two years; she’s thinking about how to define the agenda for the next two decades.

AOC, as she is affectionately known, fights for we the people. In a recent interview, Representative Ocasio-Cortez questioned an FBI official on the radicalization of police officers by white supremacy groups. 

Her work is superb. Yet, she is constantly bashed by oh so many who obviously resent her smarts, her passion for the people and her determination to root out corruption. To suggest that she has not been welcomed to the Hill by the opposing party is a vast understatement.  Since she arrived in Washington, she has received death threats and on Jan 6 she was targeted for "assassination.”

AOC is the youngest woman ever to serve in the US Congress.  She advocates a progressive platform that includes support for workplace Democracy, Medicare for all, tuition-free public college, a federal jobs guarantee, a Green New Deal and abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  She is a brilliant, dedicated voice for the people.  As a self-proclaimed socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a vision for the future that confronts America’s wealth gap by seeking economic and social opportunities for the disadvantaged, particularly communities of color. 

Dr. Rachel L. Levine

Dr. Rachel L. Levine is the Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  She is also the first openly transgender woman to serve in a high-level government position. 

Dr. Rachel Levine at her swearing in as the Assistant Secretary of Health - HHS PHOTO CHRIS SMITH

As Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, Levine rose to national prominence for leading the state’s public health response to the coronavirus pandemic, despite repeated and ugly attacks on her gender identity.

After she was confirmed by Senate vote, Dr. Levine said; I am honored to be the first transgender person to hold a Senate-approved position. In her new office, she wants to stand up especially for young transgender people. I know you face many difficult challenges every day. What I can tell you is: There is a place for you in America and in our government.

When President Joe Biden nominated Dr. Levine, here’s what he had to say:

Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond. She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.

Whenever this amazing Femme has been attacked, shamed, bullied and insulted as a transgender woman, she has taken the high road with grace, intelligence and compassion.

In her statement released upon her confirmation, Dr. Levine concluded with a message to transgender youth: I know that each and every day you confront many difficult challenges. Sadly, some of the challenges you face are from people who would seek to use your identity and circumstance as a weapon. It hurts. I know. I cannot promise you that these attacks will immediately cease, but I will do everything I can to support you and advocate for you. President Obama often reminded us that not all progress goes in a straight line. What I can tell you is that there is a place for you in America and in our government. Our ‘more perfect union’ includes you, too.

Brava Dr. Levine. Brava.

These are just three brilliant Femmes.

And there could be more.  So many more.  Why do we settle for small-minded bigoted obstructionists when we could elect brilliant visionaries?  Femmes so strong, so dedicated and so passionate that they fight for positive change for all, performing their jobs at the highest level while coping with sexism, racism and transphobia.  Their will, their strength of character, their knowledge and their dedication to the people is so overwhelming that the bullying and shaming by the boys just inspires them to work harder and better. I think it’s time to open the door to those who are ready, willing and able to take America forward.  We have serious problems.  We need serious leaders. Next time you have a ballot in your hand, think really hard about the quality of your life, your every day life. And who is actually trying to make it better. Hopefully, you’ll recognize the value of putting more Femmes on the Hill and vote accordingly.

Sources

https://history.house.gov/People/Detail/16031

https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/barbara-jordan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Jordan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandria_Ocasio-Cortez

https://ocasio-cortez.house.gov

https://time.com/longform/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-profile/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/09/without-these-changes-us-democracy-will-remain-vulnerable-trump-other-bad-actors/

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/us/toxic-masculinity.html?

https://cawp.rutgers.edu/facts/milestones-for-women

https://share.america.gov/women-in-politics-timeline/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/01/19/rachel-levine-transgender-biden-hhs-pick/

https://theinformant.co.nz/usa-rachel-levin-transgender-gets-a-job-from-biden-as-secretary-of-state-politics-abroad/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Archives_and_Records_Administration

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alexandria_Ocasio-Cortez_Official_Portrait.jpg

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/24/pa-covid-trans-secretary-health/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/dawnstaceyennis/2021/04/21/no-time-for-intolerance-dr-rachel-levine-has-a-job-to-do/?sh=15b949aa62b4

https://www.hhs.gov/about/leadership/rachel-levine.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/24/pa-covid-trans-secretary-health/

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