This week, in fact the day before Election Day, New York State honored the centennial of giving women the right to vote, three years before the 19th amendment gave suffrage to all American women, which was 72 years after the first women’s rights conference was held in Seneca Falls, in 1848; it’s also the 150th anniversary of the 15th amendment giving black men the right to vote.
But as we have seen there is more to actual political power and civil rights that goes beyond the nominal “right to vote” and the mythical “one person-one vote”.
That has come to the fore with the election of Trump/Pence – exactly a year ago – who have made it their mission to return women to the status of chattel – mere vessels to harbor a fetus – and then do everything possible to strip them of the same right to self-determination that men claim for their own.
There is no women’s equality if women do not have the right to self-determination, if an adult woman is valued less and has less personal freedom than a zygote.
This week, yet another horrific massacre grew out of domestic violence.
In Trumpworld, victims of gun violence – most of the time the intimate partners, children and family members – are collateral damage to the apparently more sacred “right” to possess guns, even guns designed for war and not self-defense, and despite the fact that every right, including speech, press, religion (you aren’t supposed to be allowed to commit human sacrifice, though this has yet to be tested in TrumpWorld) does have limits.
Trump, who declared that gun laws exacerbate rather than prevent gun violence, is clearly unaware that he declared October Domestic Violence Awareness month and here’s a significant statistic: the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed; 54% of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016 involved the murder of a current or former intimate partner or family member. And this was at play in the Sutherland Springs,Texas massacre where a man convicted of domestic abuse shot up his ex-in-laws’ church.
The U.S. Constitution was established, ostensibly, to serve the will of the people – that is, the majority of the people, with protections for minority rights. Instead, a combination of voter suppression tactics, gerrymandering, campaign finance where cash is literally king, has turned this democracy into a tyranny of the minority. And that includes men having control over women, as demonstrated in how the issues that most affect women, which have majority support (gun safety, climate change, public health and education, Medicare and Social Security) are negated.
The extraordinary efforts to suppress voting comes down particularly hard on women, whose names change with marriage and divorce from their birth certificates, who have child care responsibilities or are simply very old, limiting their ability to stand on line for hours, or travel far distances to voting registration sites that have limited hours and are in difficult-to-reach places, and polling sites that are deliberately placed in hard-to-reach areas, or lose the time at work since women are more likely to be in hourly minimum wage jobs with little control or advance notice of their schedules.
The proposed Republican tax plan which literally shifts $1.5 trillion from working class and middle class Americans into the pockets of the already obscenely rich and corporations which already pay no tax so 20% rate will not be an incentive to return $2 trillion to the US, gives the Republican budget “hawks” an excuse to further cut Social Security and Medicare – hurting women especially hard – cut spending for education, Children’s Health Insurance Program that Republicans have refused to reauthorize, infrastructure, research, clean energy, all of which directly impact women and their children (since men do not seem to include children in their accounting of self-interest). It eliminates deductibility of college debt and high medical costs, further weakening women’s economic power (where economic power is increasingly tied to political power).
The Womens March – the largest protest ever mounted – accomplished exactly nothing. The same day, Trump signed an executive order cutting off foreign aid to any country or organization that has anything to do with family planning; he rescinded Obama’s order that banned gun sales to people adjudicated to be mentally ill; he initiated his sabotage of Obamacare, which would be followed by an executive order expanding any employer’s ability to refuse to cover birth control.
Women are the majority in this country; they are the majority of voters (indeed, 54 percent of women voted for Hillary Clinton and her agenda versus 42 percent who voted for Trump) and you would think would have more sway over policies.
And yet, the systemic process of voter suppression, gerrymandering, campaign finance, and the outsized power of small and rural states in the Senate and Electoral College given as a compromise in the Constitution have combined to effectively negate the will of the majority, as the slightest of margins, 70,000 votes among three states was enough to hand Trump the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million.
Americans should not be slapping itself on the back so fast for its “exceptional” Constitution that was supposed to establish a government of, by and for the people, when in reality, we have a far, far way to go to realize its promise or its ideals. And the place to start is by restoring the power that the vote is supposed to bestow.