It’s been almost a week since the elections here in the U.S. and I’m still upset. I’m not upset that my candidate lost (even though he did), or that two more years of Congressional gridlock are likely in store. What has me so upset is political action, believe it or not, action like this:
This is a flyer I received somewhere around the first of the month. I actually received it twice, presumably because I have more than one child, but that’s no the point. It looks legit, right? I didn’t notice the return address till after I’d opened it and started reading.
This flyer didn’t come from my local county health agency.
It came from Washington, D.C.
I’m not normally one to blather on about my political beliefs online, especially here. I want my blog to be a place where I feel free to express myself and a place where others feel free to converse with me about what I’ve posted, or anything else that strikes their fancy. But political discussions seem to bring out the worst in people, and I don’t want this space to turn into one of negativity.
But this flyer crossed a line. This flyer deserves to be discussed.
In my opinion, this flyer represents much of what is wrong with politics today. It comes not from any candidate, but from the Susan B. Anthony List, a group I’d never heard of before. They’re a political action committee dedicated to helping pro-life women win election to Congress. Sure, Susan B. Anthony fought the good fight for women’s suffrage back in the day, but I fail to see why her name should adorn this flyer when her views on the correctness of abortion are disputed. I don’t think it’s fair to have such a venerable pioneer of women’s rights associated with a movement that ultimately aims to constrain women’s rights.
But I digress.
According to this letter, the threat to the health and welfare of Iowa’s citizens is Bruce Braley. While this mailing was “not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee,” I find it hard to believe that Mr. Braley’s major competitor, Joni Ernst, wouldn’t approve of its message. And as a pro-life woman seeking election to Congress, you know this was sent on her behalf.
From what I could tell, her campaign catered to the ultra-conservative ideals of the modern Republican party. But as a woman, I find those ideals incompatible with living a full and productive life. Enacting laws that severely restrict women’s access to contraception and even – heaven forbid – abortion serve only to stunt women’s participation in the wider world. And when you have women actively seeking to implement policies like these, it feels even worse.
Do I think abortion is wrong? Absolutely. But sometimes it is actually necessary. And making abortion illegal, either through law or through bureaucratic red tape, won’t stop it from happening. It happened before Roe v. Wade and it will happen in the future, regardless of its legality. The difference is that if it’s legal, it can be regulated and made safer. For everyone.
What really bothered me about this letter is that, while I received two of them, my husband didn’t receive a single one. It seems to me that I received them for the simple fact that I’m a woman. It smacks of cronyism, that because I’m a woman, I’ll automatically vote for a woman candidate, and suggests that if we women just stick together, then we can turn back the clock on women’s rights together and everything will be hunky dory.
Oh, but watch out for those evil Democratic men. They want to turn us all into baby killers.
Am I reading too much into this? Possibly. But the conversations surrounding women’s issues lately have taken a frightening turn, and it scares me to think of the future that Miss Tadpole will face in a few more years.
The conversations surrounding politics in general scare me a little, too, if I’m being honest. I stopped listening to campaign ads a couple election cycles ago because so much of their content consisted of bashing each other that I couldn’t tell you what issues they were campaigning on if my life had depended on it. Except for Joni Ernst, but cutting pork in Washington is a pretty vague goal and if she actually thinks people believe her promises to cut pork, well, I don’t know what to say to that.
Do I think the Democrats are any better than the Republicans in terms of caring much about women’s issues? Not really. In this particular race, I think the Democratic choice (Braley) was the lesser of two evils. I don’t like choosing my Congressional representatives on the basis that one is slightly less bad than the other.
I was discussing the outcome of the election with a friend the other night and found that she shared my disgust. I know she’s not the only one; voter turnout is down all over the country thanks to widespread disillusionment. The Guardian had a feature a couple days ago asking readers how well they were represented in Congress. According to their calculator, there is only one member of Congress with a similar background to my own.
I was surprised there were that many. I’m sure it’s not a whole lot better for other people. And with representation like that, it’s no wonder people are disillusioned.
I don’t mean to bash on the Republicans. I actually joined the campus Young Republicans when I was in college. But as a party, they no longer care about many of the same things I care about. And neither do the Democrats, not really.
America’s two-party system is struggling mightily at the moment, but I believe that struggle brings with it the opportunity for change. As the two major parties continue to move farther and farther away from each other ideologically, they leave room for a new party to emerge, one more moderate than our current options, and I for one would love to see something happen in this space. Other parties currently exist, of course, but none of them have proven a viable alternative to the Democratic-Republican battleground formerly known as Washington, D.C.
A third party would give millions of disillusioned Americans a chance to feel invested in the system again. But even if that isn’t a realistic option, changes on Capitol Hill need to be made. Government and elections should be about more than mudslinging and fearmongering. Our representatives in government should actually listen to the people they’re supposed to represent and carry out the will of the people, instead of playing corporate lapdog and lobbyist snugglebug. Things need to change, and quickly.
Oh, and that flyer? It inspired me to vote for Bruce Braley (for all the good it did). He’s no more of a public health threat than any other member of Congress, and this letter brought out my ornery streak. I only wish more people would get angry and use their votes to change our country.
How about you? What are your thoughts on how we can change this country for the better? Is a third party an achievable goal, or just a pipe dream? What would you like to see Congress accomplish?
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