Readers, I’m struggling to make sense out of what’s happening in the world right now. Sometimes, in order to look ahead, we need to look back. Meanwhile, in order to look back, we can imagine looking ahead in time and listen to Grandma Daisy as she reminisces about women’s rights and the election of 2012.
Grandchildren, dear, did you say your history teacher asked about 2012? About the way women suddenly came to the forefront again? Oh, I remember it well – the idiocies and the intelligence, the outrage, the voter turnout, and more.
I was worried, children. If President Obama had lost his bid for re-election, we were facing some very difficult times. Many, many women were getting more and more worried. I saw protesters carrying signs saying “Didn’t we protest this s*** already?” and they weren’t kidding.
That brings me to the idiocies of the 2012 campaign. One of the old, white guys in Congress was running for Senate in Missouri, a fairly conservative Southern state. In response to a question on abortion in cases of rape of incest, he claimed that in cases of “legitimate rape” women had ways to “shut that whole thing down.” I would have laughed, too, honey, except that he was serious. Seriously stupid, that is. Later on a candidate from Indianapolis tried to tell women that if they got pregnant from being raped it was “God’s will.” Another recommended that women use the St. Joseph’s method of birth control: hold a St. Joseph’s baby aspirin between their knees. Gag.
These dinosaurs were defeated. Women voters decided it was God’s will that we shut their whole thing down.
Now Mitt, President Obama’s opponent, had some women problems of his own. He sidestepped a question about the Lily Ledbetter Act – equal pay for equal work, sweetie, it’s in your history book – by claiming he’d made efforts to seek out qualified women for his state cabinet. He had supposedly asked women’s groups for referrals, and they gave him “…binders full of women!” Binders full of resumes, that is. The outrage came from people who said, “Hey, Mitt, it was already the 21st Century. You didn’t know any qualified women in 2003?” and worse, the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus came forward and said, “Mitt did not come to us. We went to Mitt. After he won, we gave him resumes of many potential candidates.” Oops. Twice bad, Mitt. Twice bad.
So – we were dealing with old farts who didn’t know their basic reproductive science, and potential leaders who thought women were second class citizens not worthy of the same rights as men. There were bright moments, though.
Some of the best and the brightest moments in 2012 were women who skipped the binders and went straight for the ballot. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Oh, Tammy! I was so excited when she decided to run for Senate. I was even more excited when I, a lowly campaign volunteer, got to meet her. She was articulate, smart, and very personable. She listened more than she talked, and when she talked, she gained our attention and our respect. When Baldwin’s victory came, the headlines were all “First openly gay senator elected in Wisconsin!” And we said, “Oh, yeah, we knew that.” But her being gay didn’t matter one way or the other. We Wisconsin voters, gay or straight, female or male, elected Tammy Baldwin to the Senate because of her skills, her intellect, and her record in her fourteen years in Congress.
So, young ones, there’s more to say on the mood of the election. I could go on longer – the battleground states, they way Mitt and his VP didn’t even carry their own states in the end, the closeness of the popular vote, the issues of birth control and more. Voter suppression attempts, early voter turnout, oh, my the list goes on.
I was looking forward to hearing and saying “Senator Baldwin.” It was like hearing “President Obama” for the first time. And now that Obama had won his re-election, I could look forward to saying President Obama for another four years.
Well, my dears, that’s the main thrust of the story of women’s rights and the 2012 election. Now I’m going to make a pot of coffee. Does your mother still have a package of Obama Blend Coffee in the cupboard? It’s a blend of Hawaiian, Kenyan, and Indonesian beans, and it’s as delicious as it is clever. I’ll have some in my Born in the USA mug.