For the past several months, The Durango Herald’s editorial board has been holding public meetings twice a month (or so) to discuss with readers various issues of what we consider to be mutual concern. This ongoing conversation, held at rotating times and venues so as to accommodate caffeine fans and afternoon imbibers alike, has drawn Herald fans and critics to the table for lively and informative conversation about things such as accessory dwelling units, plastic bags, renewable energy, river access, immigration and voting reform. It is a good time, not least because of the relationships such interactions can’t help but build.
For years, we have received letters to the editor from people who take a decidedly different position than the Herald editorial board on just about every issue. Some of these writers contend that we conspire to present just half of a given story – usually the tree-hugging, communist half – in both our news and opinion coverage, while others limit their criticism to their perception of a penchant for opining with just our left hands. It has been great fun to meet the faces behind these long-familiar names, get to know a few of them, and engage in conversation that extends beyond letter-writing. As with all such relationships, it has added nuance to the black-and-white lines drawn by impersonal interactions.
So despite my socialist, Che-ophilic tendencies that critics contend blind me to any Democrats’ ne’er-do-welling, I took the advice of one such reader/letter-writer who regularly attends our meetings and looked in to what has come to be called the Democrats’ war on women. Anytime anyone chooses to wage such a war, after all, I’d like to stake a position against it.
The acts that constitute this purported war are indeed abhorrent, comprising Anthony Weiner – the disgraced congressman-turned-New York City mayoral candidate – who just can’t seem to keep himself to himself, and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner – who apparently cannot help but sexually harass women who work for him because he has not received proper training otherwise. These guys are pigs, pure and simple. Their behavior is disgusting and represents a total lack of self-awareness, let alone respect for others – or much connection to reality. But idiocy, even the jaw-droppingly offensive variety, does not a war make. The now-coordinated contention among the Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, Republican Governors’ Association, National Republican Congressional Committee and Republican State Leadership Committee, as reported in The Hill, that Weiner’s and Filner’s actions are endemic of Democrats’ attack on women bolster their argument by saying that the Democratic Party’s powers that be are not doing enough to denounce and dethrone these two Neanderthals, and are therefore implicitly condoning the behavior and what it says about women.
That is a bit of a stretch, particularly when juxtaposed with what Republicans are responding to: criticism of state and national policies advanced by the GOP that have evoked cries of a Republican war on women. Those policies include restrictive abortion laws cropping up in Texas, North Dakota, Wisconsin and elsewhere that unduly limit women’s access to the procedure, or force them to endure intrusive – and medically unnecessary – practices before an abortion. They include attempts to stop federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that predominantly provides basic health-care services including cancer screening and contraception. They include policy-level resistance to equal pay for women. The difference between the two battle cries is stark.
While in their heart of hearts, Filner, Weiner and their ilk may well harbor misogynistic feelings, and their behavior has the disgust-o-meter needle pegged, it does not match the more far-reaching attack on women’s rights that too many Republicans’ policy agenda reflects. Calling that a war might even be a stretch, and I would venture that many, if not most, Republicans’ politics are not infused with such a targeted and unpleasant set of goals. The record is nonetheless alarming and it is appropriate to at least consider whether the dots connect.
Once the label is lobbed, comparing war acts is appropriate. In the case of the competing wars on women, it is apples and oranges, albeit both rancid.
The recent spate of alpha-male Democrats’ sleaziness is decidedly unimpressive and may indicate the level of enlightenment these guys would bring to any policy discussion around women’s issues. Depressing, yes. But it seems more a race to the bottom than a full-frontal (I meant to do that) attack.
Megan Graham is a Herald editorial writer and policy analyst. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.