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“An Acknowledgment Of Where We’ve Been”: Tubman’s Twenty Moves Us Closer To A More Perfect Union

The journey toward a more perfect union was quickened with the announcement that Harriet Tubman, abolitionist, Union spy and activist for women’s suffrage, will grace the front of the $20 bill. The Tubman twenty will be unveiled in 2020, timed to honor the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

She will be the first woman on U.S. paper currency in more than a century and the first black American ever. That a black woman who was born a slave will be given such a prominent commemoration is a testament to American exceptionalism, a reminder of the nation’s slow and erratic but continuing march toward a more just version of itself.

Not all Americans see it that way, of course. Some are already grumbling about the demotion of Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, to the back of the bill. (Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren has called the change “stupid.”) Others insist that the Treasury has simply caved to an ill-conceived political correctness. (Donald Trump claims that’s the case.) A few will venture commentary that has no place in polite society.

Indeed, the announcement of a revamped and more-inclusive currency comes at a fascinating time in our politics, a time when a sizable portion of the electorate is roiled by anger, agitation and fear. While some of that anxiety has its roots in economic uncertainty, much of it — especially among the supporters of Trump’s presidential bid — has its foundation in a deep-seated resentment of the nation’s changing demographics.

It’s no accident that Trump — who is among the “birthers” who insist President Barack Obama is not an American — leads the Republican presidential field while denouncing Mexican immigrants and denigrating Muslims. There is a substantial minority of white American voters who are threatened by the loss of numerical advantage, furious over the election of a black president, and resentful of the growing racial and ethnic diversity in American life.

Trump and his supporters have dominated the political narrative in this election season and ignited a civil war inside the Republican Party. They have panicked the Republican establishment. They have set off alarm bells in faraway capitals.

Yet, the racially intolerant are losing the battle for primacy in the American story. They no longer dominate the nation’s culture or mythology, as the changes in the currency illustrate.

Last year, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew invited the public to comment on his decision to recast a paper bill to feature a woman. Of the 15 women suggested by the activist group Women on 20s, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks, Tubman received the most votes.

A genuine American hero, she deserves the honor. As a young woman, she escaped the Maryland plantation that had enslaved her, and then made several trips back to assist others. Over a little more than a decade, she helped around 70 enslaved men and women find their way to freedom, traveling by night, using ingenious disguises and employing the hideouts established by the Underground Railroad.

She became an outspoken advocate for abolition, and when the Civil War broke out, she worked first as a cook and a nurse, and later as a scout and spy for the Union Army. After the war ended, she moved to a home she had purchased in upstate New York and campaigned for women’s suffrage.

Giving her prominence on the $20 bill forces the nation to acknowledge its original sin, slavery, as does demoting Jackson, a slaveowner. An accurate history further notes that the seventh president was notorious for his brutal treatment of native Americans, whom he forcibly removed from their lands. From now on, it will be difficult for history texts to ignore Tubman or to venerate Jackson.

Lew plans other changes, as well. A depiction of a 1913 march for women’s suffrage will be added to the back of the $10 bill, as will portraits of leaders of that movement. Images of Marian Anderson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt will be added to the back of the $5 bill.

That’s as it should be. The journey toward a more perfect union demands an acknowledgment of where we’ve been.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; Featured Post, The National Memo, April 23, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | American Exceptionalism, Harriet Tubman, Women's Suffrage Movement | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Slow Pace Of Change In America”: Bravo To Tubman, But U.S. Women Still Not Getting The Full $20

My apologies upfront to those cheering the announcement that Harriet Tubman will grace the front of the $20 bill, and that a few other women will eventually get similar treatment on other currency, but the announcement Wednesday by U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew merely underscores the slow pace of change in America.

The addition of the women — Tubman and other suffragists and civil rights heroines to the $10 and $5 bills — is a positive step. But it won’t count for much, not in most women’s wallets.

According to a report released in April by the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), based on median annual earnings, a woman, working full time, year-round, will lose nearly $500,000 over a career, due to gender pay gaps.

That’s $10,800 less per year than a man.

Pay gaps like this aren’t going to be fixed easily, and certainly not by stamping a few women’s faces on a U.S. sawbuck. And, at the current rate of change, cites the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the gender pay gap will not close until 2059.

As a result of this inequity, women have less money in retirement, have less to reinvest into the economy and are more likely to live in poverty in old age. The economy in general loses by shorting women’s paychecks, whether we’re talking about Jennifer Lawrence not making as much as Bradley Cooper or the produce manager at your local supermarket who just found out the male butcher makes more.

The gaps are real and repeated studies show that they cannot all be explained away by career choice, level of education, women not being assertive in salary negotiations or by choosing to take time away from a career to raise a family.

Something else is to blame and its name is sexism.

Shuffling Andrew Jackson — a slave owner — to the back of the $20 bill so that Harriet Tubman — a former slave and abolitionist — can take center stage is worthy of note. It’s a monumental example of how far our history has progressed, a genial nod toward inclusion rather than exclusion.

And it only took the federal government 100 years to get there.

But more is needed. Substantive change must be made. The pay gap must close.

No woman in America is going to suddenly earn a fairer wage because Tubman’s face is on our money. Women don’t covet their dollars for the artwork on the front. They simply want to be paid fairly for the work they do.

Bravo to the federal government for acknowledging Tubman, but let’s not lose sight of the goals envisioned by all those women who will come after her (estimates are that it will take until 2030 before (all three of the) new bills are circulating). If the country is serious about righting longstanding inequities surrounding gender and commerce, let’s cut the symbolism and have a deeper discussion. Here are some ideas:

According to the JEC study, African-American women earn only 60 percent of what their white male counterparts earn and Hispanic women earn only 55 percent of white men’s earnings.

Put that on a $10 bill. Or how about putting Phillis Wheatley’s image on a bill worth only 60 percent of the one handed out with Oliver Wendell Holmes’ face on it? It’s not an idea that is likely to catch on. Best just close the pay gap.

The women who will one day have their image on U.S. currency — Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul — spent their lives working for women’s equality.

Let’s not short-change their legacies now by easing up long before the job is done.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, April 22, 2016

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Gender Pay Gap, Women | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Most Dangerous Blot On Our Constitution”: How The House Of Representatives Can Steal The Election For The GOP

While Republicans are busy trying to deny Donald Trump their party’s nomination, another group of conservative strategists is surely developing a more draconian backup plan: call it the Steal It In the House Option.

What might have once seemed inconceivable is now entirely possible this fall: a presidential election decided not by the voters, not even by the Electoral College, but by as few as 26 state delegations in the House of Representatives. If no general election candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes—270—the Constitution requires that the House of Representatives will elect the president.

And if that anti-democratic process isn’t bad enough, consider this perverse clause in the Constitution: each state would receive one vote regardless of population. California, with nearly 40 million citizens, gets one vote. Wyoming, with fewer than 600,000, gets one vote. Go figure.

Each House delegation would caucus and cast that state’s vote. How would that work out this fall? Thirty-two state delegations are controlled by Republicans, 15 by Democrats, three evenly split. The District of Columbia and the territories cannot vote.

Not since the tumultuous election of 1824 has this outcome occurred. Andrew Jackson won both the popular vote and a plurality of electoral votes over John Quincy Adams, but two other candidates won enough electors to deny Jackson a majority. Subsequently, the House of Representatives threw the election to Adams. Jackson’s supporters nearly rioted, and the Tennessean swept Adams out of office four years later.

That’s ancient history, but two scenarios could create a similar electoral mess this year. While an independent presidential candidate is highly unlikely to win the election, there is a growing likelihood that such a campaign could prevent either party nominee from winning outright.

1. Hillary Clinton wins a plurality of electoral votes over Republican nominee Donald Trump, but falls short of the necessary 270. An independent candidate (Rick Perry?) wins a large state such as Texas. House Republicans, repelled by both Trump and Clinton, throw the election to Perry or whoever the independent candidate is—and who finished a very distant third in the voting. (The House can choose from any of the top three vote getters.)

2. The Stop Trump movement succeeds in denying him the nomination, instead choosing Ted Cruz or John Kasich in a brokered convention in Cleveland. Trump launches an independent campaign and wins one or more states, a distinct possibility. Clinton wins a large plurality but fails to reach 270 electoral votes. The House elects Cruz or Kasich.

In either case, the Republican-controlled House, utilizing an arcane provision in the Constitution, subverts the will of American voters and prevents Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency. Farfetched? It’s not hard to imagine a deeply partisan House doing whatever it takes to deny Mrs. Clinton the presidency.

In 1968 George Wallace won five states and 46 electoral votes. It’s not a reach to envision Trump racking up a similar total in 2016, including typically tossup states such as Michigan or Florida.

Texas A&M scholar George Edwards, in Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America, writes, “…it is virtually impossible to find anyone who will defend the selection of the president by the House of Representatives, with each state having one vote. Even the most ardent supporters of the electoral college ignore this most blatant violation of democratic principles.”

There are other, even more bizarre possibilities lurking in November. In more than 20 states electors are not bound to vote for the candidate who wins their state. Could pressure be exerted to convince a few ”faithless” electors to switch to another candidate? While unlikely, in this election cycle anything seems possible.

Should such a political apocalypse occur this year, there is a silver lining. Perhaps Congress would then move to abolish an anachronistic system of filling the most powerful office in the world. That would certainly please the ghost of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote after surviving the first contingency presidential election:

“I have ever considered the constitutional mode of election…as the most dangerous blot on our Constitution, and one which some unlucky chance will some day hit.”

 

By: Roy Neel, The Daily Beast, April 16, 2016

 

 

 

April 17, 2016 Posted by | Democracy, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, House of Representatives, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Settling The Issues Of Honor At 40 Paces”: Forget Debates; The Republicans Should Have A Duel

The possibility of fisticuffs breaking out at Wednesday’s GOP debate is not an entirely fanciful one. (Indeed, it could be the solution for Jeb Bush’s flailing campaign.) The Republican presidential campaign has focused all along on matters of honor more than matters of policy. Sure, all the major candidates are offering right-wing fantasies of one sort or another, ranging from Jeb Bush’s promise of 4 percent growth to Donald Trump’s huge border wall to be paid for by the Mexican government. But thanks to Trump, even farcical policy proposals have taken a backseat to a much more personal contest to prove who is the toughest hombre in town.

The Republicans desperately need a way to resolve these disputes so they can talk about something else. I’m here to make a suggestion: Why not resolve the personalized differences by fighting old-style duels? Otherwise, as long as Trump’s in the race, the insults will continue to fly—and threaten to suck up all the oxygen in the debates.

Trump is a master of the schoolyard taunt, and many of his jibes carry with them the suggestion that his opponents are less than virile. Trump’s jeers that Jeb Bush and Ben Carson are “low-energy” and “super low-energy,” respectively, have certainly carried that connotation. While Trump’s male rivals have been stung by these rebukes, the only time the real-estate magnate has been dented is when he’s challenged women—most notably Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina—with a different set of insults, focused on menstruation and personal appearances. Those attacks backfired, suggesting that that the front-runner is at a loss when an argument isn’t about comparative manliness.

Trump’s male competitors have tried to answer in kind, with little luck. Before he dropped out, Rick Perry challenged Trump to a gym contest: “Let’s get a pull-up bar out here and see who can do more pull-ups,” said the former Texas governor. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Carson implicitly responded by calling attention to how tough he was before he became a surgeon and politician. “As a teenager, I would go after people with rocks, and bricks, and baseball bats, and hammers,” Carson told Chuck Todd. “And, of course, many people know the story when I was 14 and I tried to stab someone.” (If you don’t know the story, read here.)

But pull-up bars and tales of youthful brawls won’t hack it. The Republican candidates need a more formal way of settling the issues of honor that Trump has placed at the center of GOP politics. They should look back at the history of Europe and the United States. Traditionally, matters of honor have been settled not by discussion but by a contest of arms. When someone insults your family, as Trump has with his snide comments about Jeb Bush’s brother and wife, the normal response isn’t to continue politely debating, but rather to ask the creep making the remarks if he wants to step outside.

Duels are the ideal solution. It’s true that duelling fell out of fashion after the end of the Civil War, because the slave South was the last place in the United States where the institution was valued. Still, duelling has a venerable place in American political history. Most famously, Alexander Hamilton was killed by Vice-President Aaron Burr in a duel. Andrew Jackson loved challenging men to duels, and survived at least 13 of them. When a famous marksman named Charles Dickinson insulted Jackson’s wife in 1806, for instance, the future president had no choice but to challenge him to a duel. The battle left a bullet permanent lodged in Jackson’s chest, causing persistent pain for the rest of his life, but he was still glad for the outcome. “If he had shot me through the brain, sir, I should still have killed him,” Jackson averred. If Bush had responded to Trump’s gibe about having Mexican wife in the same manner, we’d already have a very different nomination race for 2016.

As Globe and Mail editor Gerald Owen noted in an informative 1989 essay for The Idler magazine, duels were not mindless displays of violence but helped regulate disagreement. “The duel is not, as its enemies have often said, a mediaeval remnant, but a fashion from the Italian Renaissance, and no older than the protests against it,” Owen noted. “It is not to be confused with several related institutions. It is not the same as single combat in the course of war, for it is concerned with personal honour. It is not a sport like jousting; only in the Southern United States were spectators permitted. It is not a feud or vendetta; it is between individuals, not families; instead of festering, it settles disputes finally, giving rise to what lawyers call res judicator. It is not a spontaneous brawl, as in a bar or hockey game, for it has its rituals and conventions.”

As Owen’s remarks suggest, the duel has much to recommend it for precisely the type of disputes that are tearing up the Republican Party. As the main candidates are divided primarily along issues of honor, the ritualistic combat to decide who is the better man (or in Fiorina’s case, the better woman) is the best way to go. And surely a party as firmly committed to NRA dogma would have no objections.

A modest proposal, then, for the remaining GOP debates: Make them open-carry. And if (or when) Trump insults Jeb or any of the others, settle the dispute at once at 40 paces. The two combatants would of course have to agree on weapons and seconds, but this could be arranged through the same negotiations that go into making up the rules for the debates. (As a bonus, this would also provide a test for Trump’s self-proclaimed mastery of the art of the deal.) Depending on how good a shot he proves to be, this might be the only way that Trump can be defeated on his own terms, allowing the reminder of the debates to edge into actual policy arenas.

 

By: Jeet Heer, Senior Editor at the New Republic, October 26, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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