Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wisconsin-- A Major Battlefront In The Republican War Against Women


Tammy Baldwin is a congresswoman from Madison, Wisconsin. The people she represents know better than most what a Republican War Against Women feels like. The state's far right governor, Scott Walker, is trying to set up a model of right-wing governance in America. And the Koch brothers are underwriting the project. And part of that agenda is putting women back "in their place." Walker has been a disaster for his entire state, but especially for workers and for women, whose role as equals he has worked hard to undermine.
It seems that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) might have been overreaching when he promised to create 250,000 new jobs in his first term. While Walker has spent the last twelve months slashing state budgets and busting unions, Wisconsinites have been dealing with the consequences. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Walker’s state saw the largest decrease in jobs over the last year, dropping nearly a full percentage point:

Over the year, nonfarm employment increased in 45 states and the District of Columbia, decreased in 4 states, and was unchanged in Alabama. The largest over-the-year percentage increase occurred in North Dakota (+6.5 percent). The largest over-the-year percentage decrease in employment occurred in Wisconsin (-0.9 percent).

The other states that were the big losers were Kasich's Ohio, and Chris Christie's New Jersey. But Walker has been-- and continues to be-- especially bad for women. Just before Good Friday, Walker signed a raft of bill beating down women and workers-- including attacks on women's health and equality for women in he workplace.

And if Walker is getting away with this kind of crap in Wisconsin, the Republican majority in the House wants to give it one more shot before they get turned out of office in November. Tammy Baldwin, who is now running statewide in Wisconsin for the Senate (and has been endorsed by Blue America), is fighting-- and fighting hard against the GOP attempts to prevent the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). "I'm teaming up with Kirsten Gillibrand, a leader on women's rights I look forward to working with next year in the Senate, to send a message: preventing domestic violence is common-sense and we REALLY must reauthorize VAWA!"
VAWA was the first federal legislation acknowledging domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes. It’s been around for almost 20 years. I was proud to work on its reauthorization in 2000 and again in 2005 with widespread bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. But, as Kirsten and I see more each day, the Republicans are digging their heels into the mud trying to roll back our rights hoping it will work for them at the voting booth this November.

At a time when Americans are crying out for leadership on our economy-- when Wisconsin needs jobs-- the extreme GOP in DC are trying to rack up political points. It's outrageous!

There are some things that are too important to play around with. Domestic violence and sexual assault? Off the table in my book.

Over at Salon, author Jennifer Whitaker makes the case that the conservatives' war on women in no longer under the radar.
Despite long years of exposure to anti-abortionists’ fervent, occasionally violent, hostility toward reproductive choice, most beneficiaries of the women’s movement have been happy to assume that their equal rights have been secured.  Culturally conditioned to avoid direct conflict, they have looked the other way-- and been blindsided.

Following the Republican triumph in the 2010 mid-term election, however, the misogynist Right did the women’s revolution a real favor. Feeling secure enough during the primaries to rip off their Mr. Nice Guy masks, the party’s candidates publicly revealed a contempt for women’s rights they had downplayed previously. After the escalating attacks on Planned Parenthood, contraception itself, and women’s moral adulthood, female voters are much less likely to treat the right-wing war on women as an electoral sideshow.

Hearing insurance reimbursements for contraception likened to payments for prostitution; a state-administered vaginal probe equated with heterosexual intercourse; a state legislator advise abused wives not to consider divorce but to think loving thoughts about the husbands beating them;  presidential hopeful Santorum calling women’s workplace advancement “a radical feminist pitch,” gave women  a long-overdue wake-up call. This strident Republican campaign has now made it clear that the battle against women’s reproductive rights is the first shot at a more radical goal: derailing the women’s revolution of the last 50 years.

Much has happened under the radar in little noticed state legislation. For example, Alabama has arrested and is prosecuting around 60 pregnant women under a 2006 law criminalizing the exposure of a child (aka fetus) to controlled substances (including prescription drugs). The bill quietly rolling back the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act recently passed by the Wisconsin legislature points the way toward a rich array of legal targets in the misogynist shooting gallery. Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which has changed the physical image and self-image of females by banning gender discrimination in access to athletics in educational institutions receiving government money, would be a priority. It has been under attack since the law was framed.  Existing federal law on violence against women is now under siege in Congress. Plans for eviscerating or dismantling legislation penalizing sexual discrimination in hiring and promotion, sexual harassment on the job, and violence against women are ready for launching. 

All of this flies directly in the face of U.S. public opinion.  A large majority of Americans believe that women should have equal rights with men and that this country needs to continue making changes to achieve that goal.  Polls now show female voters reacting en masse to the overt misogyny of 2011 and 2012 by shifting to Obama in swing states. With the battle for Republican primary voters now ended, the Party will try-- and fail-- to walk away from this spring’s assault.  With female voters immediately alerted, the fallout will help Democrats significantly. But as crucial as the election undoubtedly will be, women must define their goals in longer terms.

...Despite their huge achievements, women are facing a thick cobweb of ideology that threatens to impede their movement and their vision. Women committed to pushing their revolution forward have, however, gained a great advantage. They now know what they are fighting, for their adversaries have tipped their hand.  To prevail, they will have to define themselves.

It's important to remember that although almost the entire Republican Party-- including many Republican women-- are on the wrong side of the battlelines, not all Democrats stand with Tammy Baldwin on the right side of the battle. Congressional Democratic leaders like Steve Israel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz have a devotion towards feminism that is as deep as their ability to make it a partisan issue. When it comes to recruiting and backing virulent anti-Choice slobs like Steve Pestka (MI), Tim Holden (PA), Mike McIntyre (NC), John Barrow (GA) and Hayden Rogers (NC), whose side are Wasserman Schultz and Israel really on? Whose side are they ever really on?

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