The arrival of America’s 45th presidency has involved surprises, ironies and absurdities. The tangled saga has strained our emotions, tried our patience and distorted our nation’s self-image.
Gender politics were prominent in both the text and subtext of campaign rhetoric, even in themes like the economy, jobs, education, health care, war and peace.
History has largely taken for granted, overlooked or marginalized women’s pervasive contributions. I especially mean typical women, not just history’s luminaries, heroines and Mata Hari’s. Society’s “ordinary” women anchor our families, lives and communities, not just through daily toil, but via extraordinary valor during and after periods of hardship and strife.
World War II seriously modified America’s social contract with women. Millions of men left the general workforce for military service. Yet, America needed to continue its enterprise, food production, and the customary tasks of daily life while simultaneously achieving the greatest arms manufacturing surge in history. Women workers were ultimately as essential to victory as our men at arms.
Society changed as a result. Women’s potential was recognized. In succeeding decades with inflationary spirals, global competition, and tightening of wages and benefits, the two-worker family became and remains a financial necessity. It also provided women paths to leadership and power.
2016 saw America’s first major-party female presidential nominee. Hillary Clinton’s path was paved by dozens of minor party candidates beginning in 1872 with Victoria Woodhull. The first female major party vice presidential candidates, Geraldine Ferraro (1984) and Sarah Palin (2008) prompted us to join the international community’s acknowledgment of women’s’ leadership abilities. Prior to them Americans somehow androgynized perceptions of leaders like Queen Victoria, Golda Meir, Corazon Aquino, Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel.
The 2016 campaign will for generations be the textbook example of possible bizarre outcomes in American presidential elections. It’s the fifth and most extreme case of popular vs. Electoral College vote asynchrony. According to the conservative “Weekly Standard,” 77,744 Trump votes from Pennsylvania (44,292), Wisconsin (22,748), and Michigan (10,704) overrode Clinton’s 2,864,903 national popular vote plurality. Had she carried them, Clinton would have won a 278 to 260 Electoral College victory.
Given the peculiar math, (Clinton 65,845,063, Trump 62,980,160, other candidates 8,254,650) most of the nation expected gracious, even conciliatory outreach from the Trump camp. After all 74,099,713 Americans voted against him (11,119,553 more than voted for him). None has yet occurred.
Mr. Trump demeaned women throughout his campaign. Secretary Clinton’s campaign, despite whatever deficiencies can be ascribed to it, was a historic event for American women. The combined vote for female candidates (Clinton + Stein) was 4,321,953 more than Mr. Trump’s. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that once the reality of Mr. Trump’s election set in and women continued witnessing his testosteronic petulance, women’s wariness of his presidency escalated.
Trump’s campaign fueled that wariness by objectifying women based on their looks and sexuality. He disparaged breastfeeding as “disgusting” and carped Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out her wherever.” He blurted in one interview that women should be punished for abortion. His statements on paid family leave and child care were glib and unconvincing. His reluctance to present specific policies supporting equal pay, compounded vigorous criticism on women’s issues from all but his most partisan supporters.
Furthermore, today’s women realize that beyond rape, contraception, choice and direct gender discrimination, the burden of macro-policy failures regarding big pharma, health care, job creation, living wages, war, medical research, welfare (via whatever program), environmental protection, transportation infrastructure and countless other issues, often have their greatest impact on women.
Why? Because women are our gap bridgers, budget stretchers, care providers, chauffeurs, and other-assigned-duties fulfillers in most households. They’re doubly impacted if they’re also full-time workers.
Given this backdrop it should have surprised no one that women felt compelled to demonstrate against the growing recidivist mood among Republicans toward women’s rights. Millions of women in hundreds of cities and towns nationwide marched in solidarity Jan. 21 to send President Trump and lawmakers across America a thundering warning of the strength of their sisterhood. Even in ruby red Idaho tens of thousands demonstrated in a dozen cities and towns to draw attention to our state’s inattention to women’s needs.
The 2015 national median wages for men and women were $51,212 and $40,742 respectively (a 20 percent gap). Idaho median wages for men and women in Congressional District 1 were $45,680 and $33,855 respectively (a 25.9 percent gap); they were $41,720 and $30,679 respectively in District 2 (a 26.5 percent gap). Idaho women’s statewide median wage of $31,808 ranked 50 among the 50 states and District of Colombia. Idaho men’s statewide median wage of $43,264 ranked 46.
The American Association of University Women’s meticulous state-by-state examination of gender pay disparities details several specific legal protections Idaho needs to legislate if Idaho women hope to achieve wage parity. In general terms these include: a list of strong protections against several specific discriminatory hiring and workplace practices; limitation and clarification of employer grounds for non-equivalent gender treatment; higher fines for employer violations; requirements for preemptive action against gender discrimination; and state guidelines to establish comparable worth.
As Idaho’s new legislators prepared for the 2017 session, women discovered Moscow Sen. Dan Foreman intends to introduce legislation classifying abortion as first-degree murder by the mother and physician performing the surgery. He would exempt mothers whose lives were at risk. Interestingly, Foreman makes no mention of facilitating contraception, increasing aid for low-income mothers or sharing criminal responsibility for abortion with biological fathers. Foreman’s effort is but the latest in decades of GOP ideological assaults on women.
Idaho women will have to become aggressive and united in their activism to blunt the growing attacks from conservatives on their status as women. Lysistrata reaches out to women from the amphitheaters of ancient Greece to remind them of their power. Democrats continue to vigorously support women’s quest for true equality and true respect for their humanity.
Laughable that Gov. Otter should tout his tax cuts when he continues to support an unfunded perk for legislative retirees. His appointment of department heads from the legislative leadership gives them huge retirement spikes that have not been funded (See idahofreedom.org/pension-payoff). PERSI workers and the state as their employer will be paying this off for decades.
The Legislature has failed to end this thus far and the governor is guilty of supporting this unconstitutional perk. If the governor feels the need to put these people in these positions, then give the departments the funds to pay them now, not expect PERSI to cover this unfunded mandate. For a party that has whined for years about unfunded mandates from D.C., they should start cleaning up their own house and the governor should make sure he hasn’t thrown his tax cuts on future taxpayers.
On his first day in office, President Donald Trump issued a “regulatory freeze” in the form of a memorandum, signed by chief of staff Reince Priebus, that appeared to halt new regulations in their tracks.
Specifically, the memorandum says that (1) no new regulation can be published unless a Trump appointee personally approves of it; (2) Obama-era regulations that have not yet been published in the Federal Register should be immediately withdrawn; and (3) the effective date of Obama regulations that have been published but not yet taken effect should be postponed for 60 days, to allow the new administration to review questions of fact, law and policy.
From the political right, there was loud applause, accompanied by cries of alarm from the left. Both sides quieted down after observers of the regulatory process noticed that this is a routine step whenever administrations change — and indeed that Priebus’s memorandum essentially tracked what Rahm Emanuel did on Jan. 20, 2009.
No, it’s not plagiarism — just borrowing a sensible and time-honored practice. Any new administration wants to make sure that its own appointees sign off on regulations, and also to reassess the unfinalized work of its predecessor.
But the Priebus memorandum does make two noteworthy changes, which means that it is a more muscular document than Emanuel’s. The changes are a bit technical, but please bear with me; they matter.
The first is that where Emanuel merely asked agencies to “consider” postponing the effective date of regulations that have been published but not yet taken effect, Priebus eliminated their discretion — and flatly directed them to postpone those regulations.
That’s a real difference. The Obama administration thought that some of Bush’s final regulations might be just fine, and so it called for case-by-case judgments, from Obama’s agency heads, about whether to postpone them. Trump’s White House is taking a more aggressive approach.
The second change is more important, both for its own sake and for what it signals about the future. Where Emanuel targeted only “regulations,” Priebus included “guidance documents” as well. This suggests that the Trump administration may soon give the business community something that it has wanted for a long time.
Agencies issue a lot of guidance documents. Unlike regulations, they lack the force of law. They are merely advisory — but people pay a lot of attention to them.
For example, the Environmental Protection Agency might tell companies that if they do not take certain steps, it will consider them to be in violation of the Clean Air Act. Or the Food and Drug Administration might tell the food industry how it wants it to comply with regulations requiring disclosure of information about serving sizes or about added sugars. Or the Department of Education might inform universities that they should respond to allegations of sexual harassment by putting specific procedures in place.
In theory, people are free to ignore guidance documents. If a company violates mere guidance, it cannot be punished. But in practice, any such violation is risky, because it will trigger the agency’s attention, and officials might decide to take action. It’s usually prudent just to comply.
For that reason, members of the business community and others subject to regulation have pleaded with both Republican and Democratic administrations to impose much greater checks on agencies before they issue guidance documents. Such checks might include White House review (through the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs) and a suitable period for public comment.
These pleas should be heeded. Guidance documents are sometimes ill-considered — and they can wreak havoc. Though the Obama administration made major strides toward disciplining the flow of significant guidance documents, the Trump administration should impose more formal safeguards before they are issued (including an opportunity for public comment). The Priebus memorandum is a strong initial signal that the White House is aware of the problem.
In the scheme of things, the Emanuel memorandum turned out not to be a big deal. It simply allowed the incoming administration a chance to reassess regulations issued in the final months of the Bush administration.
The Priebus memorandum doesn’t really create a regulatory freeze. But its greater muscularity, taken together with the president’s own rhetoric, suggests that something in that vicinity might be coming soon — and that guidance documents might well be swept up in the mix.