Say hello to state Rep. Peter Hansen, a Republican from New Hampshire.
In an email sent April 1, Hansen, who once came face-to-face with an intruder in his own home, referenced a speech given by another lawmaker, who described how he had been able to retreat without using deadly force in public.
“There were two critical ingredients missing in the illustrious stories purporting to demonstrate the practical side of retreat. Not that retreat may not be possible mind you. What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina’s of course. While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims,” Hansen wrote, according to messages posted online this week by liberal blogger Susan Bruce.
Well, let’s see, where to start.
First, Hansen now says he’s “embarrassed” by what he wrote, but keep in mind, in the face of criticism, he initially did not back down. He eventually said he was sorry “to those who took offense,” which does not a genuine apology make.
Second, the plural of “vagina” is “vaginas,” not “vagina’s.” If the guy is going to be a misogynist, the least he could do is use appropriate grammar while being crude and disrespectful.
Third, if you think “vagina” is an appropriate synonym for “woman,” perhaps a career in public service isn’t for you.
But let’s also not forget the larger context: the Republican Party is trying to improve its reputation among women and minority voters. Indeed, GOP officials have received lectures from pollsters, explaining, for example, that they should consider rape a “four-letter word.”
Presumably the pollsters didn’t think it was necessary to remind Republican lawmakers not to refer to women as “vaginas.”
Indeed, it seems incidents like these keep happening. On the one hand, Republican Party leaders say they’re serious about growing their ranks and welcoming voters who’ve been eager to keep the GOP at arm’s length. On the other hand, Republican officials at one level or another have recently used racial slurs in reference to Latinos, made inappropriate remarks about Native Americans, compared Middle Eastern men to monkeys, and now this.
I suspect RNC officials would say the entire party can’t be held responsible every time a Republican lawmaker says something offensive about women or minorities, and that’s not an unreasonable argument.
But the point is, the party already has a tarnished reputation, after years in which the GOP deliberately cultivated a small, old, white, Christian, male-dominated base. All of these incidents, in turn, create a pattern that tells a diverse, forward-thinking nation that Republicans are stuck in a narrow-minded past.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 17, 2013
The talk of marriage these last few weeks—whether about same sex marriage, young marriage or, most hilariously, Ivy League marriage—reminds me of a fight I had with a high school boyfriend. We had just gotten back together after a brief break up, during which time we both saw other people. He felt very strongly that I had done something wrong by dating someone else. He, of course, was in the clear.
When I pointed out the double standard, he explained his position thusly: If both women and men went around hooking up and having sex, society would be besieged by sexually transmitted diseases. It was up to women to be monogamous and sexually conservative in order to ensure that this wouldn’t happen. (Apparently men are incapable of such a feat.) The health of society, he argued, was dependent on women’s sexual decisions and relationship trends. No readers, I did not date Ross Douthat.
His teen boy logic—as baffling as it was—is actually not far off from conservative culture’s last grasp at saving marriage as they imagine it. And the core of these death throe attempts to hold onto a version of marriage that never really existed is the idea of women—chaste women—as a stabilizing force in society.
Take Focus on the Family’s “talking points” on marriage. Under the headline, “Marriage is Essential to a Thriving Society,” the organizations says straight marriage is necessary because it “socializes men.”
A society’s most serious problem is the unattached male, and marriage links men to women who help channel male sexuality and aggression in socially productive ways. Marriage and parenthood socialize men to care for and respect their wives, other women and children.
See, ladies? We need to be married so that men won’t go raping and pillaging. And let’s not even get into how single moms are told they’re a scourge on society—as if their relationship choices (or non-choices) determine the wellness of the country.
But marriage isn’t just for men’s and society’s benefit of course—if women don’t want to be sad and alone, we’ll hurry up and get a husband as soon as humanly possible. After all, there’s nothing more important a woman can do than be a good traditional wife. Even if you are a literal rocket scientist, the lede of your life will be about your commitment to your husband or your beef stroganoff recipe.
If traditional marriage benefited everyone—not just men and their pesky unsocialized ways—there wouldn’t need to be quite so much cajoling women about how fabulous it all is. (I will never forget the laugh I had when David Brooks assured women that “power is in the kitchen.”) The truth is that this desperate nostalgia for traditional marriage and antiquated gender roles will never be stronger than women’s will to be free from constraining norms.
Conservatives need to understand that what they’re pushing for is an impossible sell: Women’s subservience to the domestic as a cultural grounding force, while men get to work and explore and create? No thank you. We don’t want the good of society on our relationships’ shoulders.
There will always be wistful, wishful-thinking articles hoping to turn the tide on women’s sexuality and partnerships. But there will also always be more women thinking, “good riddance.”
By: Jessica Valenti, The Nation, April 12, 2013
Well, that didn’t take long.
Just a week ago, the Republicans issued their much-ballyhooed “autopsy” on why they lost the presidential election last year and how they might remedy their problems.
They concluded that their principles were fine; the problem was how they presented those principles. Their witless wisdom is simply to tone down their rhetoric. They want to turn Teddy Roosevelt’s famous saying on its side: Talk softly but carry a big stigma.
The establishment Republicans’ push for a softer tone, however, is pure political scheming and has nothing to do with what most Republicans seem to fundamentally believe.
And many rank-and-file Republicans are adopting this two-faced tactic. A Pew Research Center report issued Thursday found that although most Republicans say that “illegal immigrants” should be allowed to stay in this country legally, most also believe that immigrants are a burden because they take jobs and health care, and they threaten American values.
Try as you may, you can’t build a philosophical facade like a movie set — convincing in appearance, but having no real structure behind it — and expect it to forever fool and never fall.
The true convictions of your heart will, eventually, be betrayed by the disobedience of your tongue.
Enter Don Young of Alaska, a Republican congressman for the past 40 years who this week used a racial slur so vile and insensitive that it was hard to remember what decade we were in.
In an interview Thursday with an Alaska radio station, Young reminisced about his family’s employment of Mexican farm workers:
“My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”
The casual reference dripped with an inculcated insensitivity.
The same day, Young’s office issued a statement, which should in no way be misconstrued as an apology.
“During a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” Young said in the statement. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”
No disrespect? Only a man drained of empathy could even make such a claim.
It wasn’t until Friday, after demands from Republican leaders like John Boehner and John McCain, that Young issued a real apology. But the damage may have already been done. These kinds of statements cement an image of a callous party moving contrary to public consciousness.
The question must be asked: Why do so many insensitive comments come from these Republicans?
One reason may well be their proximity problem.
Too many House Republican districts are isolated in naturally homogeneous areas or gerrymandered ghettos, so elected officials there rarely hear — or see — the great and growing diversity of this country and the infusion of energy and ideas and art with which it enriches us. These districts produce representatives unaccountable to the confluence. And this will likely be the case for the next decade.
For instance, according to the Census Bureau, about 6 percent of Alaska’s population is Hispanic and just 3 percent is black. And Alaska is among the most Republican states in the union, according to a Gallup report issued last year.
Too many House Republicans have districts dominated by narrow, single-note, ideology-driven constituencies that see an ever expanding “them” threatening the heritage of a slowly shrinking “us.”
This defensive posture is what so poisons the Republicans’ presidential ambitions. Instead of embracing change, Republicans want to suspend or in some cases reverse it. But the principle articulated by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus rings true: the only thing constant is change.
In fact, although this is the most diverse Congress in history, not one of the blacks or Asians in the House is a Republican. Only about a sixth of the Hispanics are Republicans, and fewer than a third of the women are.
The Republican Party has a severe minority problem. People like Don Young only serve to illustrate and amplify it. Young is another unfortunate poster child for a party fighting an image of being chronically hostile to “otherness.” No disrespect.
By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 29, 2013
The snippy tone of the letter from my health insurance company really threw me for a minute. Very officious, very much this-is-totally-not-our-fault-the-bad-government-made-us-do-it, the letter informed me that because of the Affordable Care Act, my premium might change. Under the law, as of this year, insurance carriers would no longer be allowed to differentiate (or discriminate) on the basis of gender, and this, I was informed in a letter dripping with derision, might end up affecting how much I have to pay for my individual insurance each month.
Well, it did. My premiums are now 7 percent lower than they were.
Yes, that’s lower. Despite the fact that foes of Obamacare are screaming about how the law will bankrupt families and small businesses (the impact on buyers of individual policies never seems to come up), despite all the pols showing that Americans are terrified that their health care costs will grow, my premium went down. This will not be true for everyone—it was women who were routinely charged more for insurance for no other reason than their gender. That includes, incidentally, the handful of states in which it was perfectly legal for insurance companies to deem victims of domestic violence as having a “pre-existing condition.” But it’s reason to believe that the worry—verging on hysteria—over the law might be a bit much.
Health care costs are absurdly high in this country, and they must be reined in. And it’s not because we have the best health care in the world; we don’t. If you need a heart transplant, yes, this is where you want to be. But for most of the health care most of us will need in our lives, we are simply not getting the bang for our buck.
Health care premiums may indeed go up for many people, but they were going up before Obamacare was passed. That was the point of trying to do health care reform. That was the point during the Nixon administration, when both parties worried about the social and financial impact of the uninsured. It was the point in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president, and at nearly every campaign stop, someone told a sad story of a child with leukemia, and an insurance company refusing to pay for the treatments, or of someone who got laid off and couldn’t get a job because he had a “pre-existing condition” the new employer would find too expensive to cover through its insurance. The problem has merely gotten worse every single time Congress and the White House built the momentum to do something and came close but ultimately failed.
Is Obamacare the cure? The reality is, three years after the law was passed, is that we simply don’t know. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was criticized for saying we don’t know what the law will do until it’s in place, but she was right. That’s true of a lot of sweeping legislation (No Child Left Behind being the best recent example). The idea is to give it a shot, and then tweak it where necessary.
One thing is clear—doing nothing, yet again, was not an option.
By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, March 22, 2013
“They Had To Take Me Down”: A Democratic Win Of The House In 2014 Would Put Nancy Pelosi Back In Charge
You remember the Republicans’ 2010 midterm campaign message: Nancy Pelosi, engulfed in flames, demon-like. Nancy Pelosi, in charge, bossing you around with her crazy liberal values. An official “Fire Pelosi” bus tour sponsored by the Republican National Committee, and the specter of her leadership invoked in ad after ad.
All of this was a key Republican strategy in taking back the House, and while there were lots of reasons the Democrats lost and Pelosi was dethroned, it achieved the desired result. Since the next big electoral battle will be control of the House in 2014, and a Democratic win would presumably put Pelosi back in charge, expect to see more Pelosi boogeyman-ing.
“It didn’t bother me, I figured they thought I was effective and therefore they had to take me down,” Pelosi told Salon at the premiere Thursday night of “Fall to Grace,” her daughter’s HBO documentary on former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey. Still, she worries about the message it sends to other women who might be considering a run.
“What does concern me about it is that women that we want to be involved in politics, women like you, women who have options to do other things and we say, ‘Come over here and do this!’ And they’re saying, ‘No, I don’t want to subject myself to that. Why would I do that? I have a great life, I have plenty of opportunities.’ So what I’ve said is that if you lower the role of money in politics and you increase the level of civility, you will have more women running for office, elected to office, and that would be a very wholesome thing for our country.”
Of course, Pelosi is not as lonely as she once was on the Hill, and the more female leadership is normalized, the less likely such attacks are to resonate. As the New York Times notes in a story today on female senators, a critical mass is slowly but surely building, even if it creates long lines on the Senate floor’s bathrooms and female senators are still occasionally asked what they’re doing there. The piece also cites a recent American Journal of Political Science study, “When Are Women More Effective Lawmakers Than Men?” which found that “while men may choose to obstruct and delay, women continue to strive to build coalitions and bring about new policies.” Pelosi’s dealmaking as speaker can rankle, including on the left. It also, though, recently earned her the following designation from Vice President Joe Biden on the signing of the Violence Against Women Act: “If you ever want a partner to get anything important done, call Nancy Pelosi.”
In the meantime, Pelosi seems to be enjoying the Republican scramble to appeal to women and people of color, which they now concede is necessary to winning anything but a majority of gerrymandered House districts. (Or, to use their own words, “address concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them.”) Does she have any advice for the other party?
“Respect,” she said. “I think respect would be a good place to start. We are fortunate in our House Democratic caucus — women, minorities, LGBT community members make up a majority of the caucus. We don’t need anybody to teach us how to speak to women, Hispanics, blacks, because that’s who we are. And not only do they have a seat at the table, they have a seat at the head of the table, because over half of our chairmen-to-be, our senior Democrats — people who would be chair if we were the majority — are women and minorities.”
By: Irin Carmon, Salon, March 22, 2013