Women’s Place is in the House. And the Senate. (But not the Oval Office?)

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Among the jumbled, troubled feelings I had when Trump was elected was one of betrayal. I felt betrayed by my own gender. How could so many women vote for Trump, who displayed a cavalier and disrespectful attitude toward women? How can we fail to elect a woman president at this late point in history?

Many countries have elected or appointed female heads of state. By my quick count of Wikipedia’s list, since 1940 there have been no fewer than 160 female heads of government and heads of state throughout the world. Thirty-five countries have female leaders right now. The United States is lagging far behind, in spite of the fact that we have a two hundred year old women’s movement. Countries that have a far more oppressive attitude toward women overall none the less have elected or appointed women to the highest government office. Why can’t we?

For one thing women in this country tend to vote along party lines rather than voting based on gender. I can attest to this. I never would have voted for Sarah Palin. Probably few people voted for or against Hillary based on her gender, at least not consciously. I think that to understand the failure of this country to elect a woman president or even vice president, we have to look deeper.

I was overjoyed when Barack Obama was elected president. I am very proud that our country could elect a black man, but I was not surprised that a black man was nominated to run for president sooner than a woman. I was more surprised, though glad, that Hillary  did so well.  Black men were at least nominally assured the vote on February 3, 1870, with the passage of the 15th amendment, which states that no one can be denied the vote due to “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Women were denied the vote until passage of the 19th amendment which prohibited sex-based restrictions on voting in 1920. That is 50 years later! Women had been fighting for the right to vote for one hundred years by that time. I hope that this country will nominate and elect a woman of color four years from now.

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This country is very patriarchal and male-dominated. The sleek car and the hand gun, two phallic symbols and symbols of power,  are among our status symbols. They capture the imagination of young people and are often associated with American life. Endemic to our culture is the image of the Lone Ranger, the heroic rugged individual who rides into town to fix everything and rides off alone into the sunset. The individual is celebrated, not the group. This is a masculine oriented point of view. Women are more associated with the archetype of the collective. The male assertion is “look what I can do!” The feminine version is “look what we did!” Other cultures, though male dominated in other ways, value  the collective much more than we do. We have a history of pioneers striking off on their own to settle the wilderness, and this image is deeply embedded in our national imagination.

Trump projects this archetype, as have quite a few previous presidents. He styles himself the plain talking self-made man, although of course he is neither. He is a college educated son of privilege who says many things that aren’t true. He wants us to think that he is the lone hero who can come in and fix it. Hillary showed a lot of toughness in her policies, her stamina, and her stance, however her slogan, “we are stronger together” was all about the feminine principle and the collective.  These are not yet strong in the national imagination, although they should be. Even though I understand this, I find it shameful and embarrassing.

The Electoral College

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The founders of our country were concerned that democratic voting by the populace may not work because the “common man” would not be well enough informed to vote in his own best interest. Of course, the term “common man” is used advisedly. At the time, only men could vote. In fact, only white men could vote. The founders, who were all educated, privileged white men, were concerned that lower class, uneducated white men, especially those living in remote rural areas, would not understand the issues well enough to make an informed decision. Isn’t that interesting? The group that turned out in larger than expected numbers to elect Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton were young, lower class, uneducated white men, especially those living in remote rural areas.

The solution the founders came up with in order to solve this problem inherent in any democracy was the Electoral College. Actually, as far as I know, it never really worked. The idea was that we (not really we in those days) would elect people to represent us in selecting a president. Each state would have representation proportionate to the population of that state. These representatives had no obligation to vote for any particular person. They were supposed to be wise men who would make good decisions. Well, but is that really democracy? People began to be dissatisfied with this, so the practice came to be that the electoral college representatives would cast all of their state’s votes for the winner of the popular vote in that state. OK, so now we have another undemocratic situation, in which the winner of the popular vote can still lose the election.

It is my understanding that this hasn’t happened very often, but it has happened disastrously twice in my recent memory; in 2000, when Al Gore lost to George W. Bush, and this year, when Hillary lost to Donald Trump. If Gore had been elected, global warming may not have progressed at its present alarming rate. Now, we are faced with the uncertainty of an unstable personality in charge of a possible nuclear strike, potential upsets in any number of international relations, an accelerated destruction of the environment, the conditions for another economic depression, the loss of hard gained human rights, and maybe even a bloody, senseless, useless civil war.

Will the majority of the people who voted for Trump find that his presidency is in their best interest? No, of course not. One of the things they want is jobs. I actually think that Trump may be able to deliver on this to some extent. The problem is, the new jobs will be at minimum wage, and minimum wage may well be cut back to a lower level. Why? Trump wants to bring manufacturing back to this country. Corporations would not make the profits they now make, paying American wages. Wages would have to be rolled way back for corporations to move their plants back into the country. He says he’ll rebuild the infrastructure. I got pretty excited about that until I realized he’d accomplish that the same way, contracting the jobs out to corporations. They, Trump supporters, want to go back to a simpler time, the way it used to be. Before globalization. Deep down, they want to do something about their fear.

It seems to me that the more divided our nation becomes, the more often the popular vote and the electoral vote will differ. If the popular vote is very close, there is more chance the electoral vote will be something different. The whole populace used to shift back and forth in a healthy way between the more progressive and the more conservative political parties. Now, we seem to be stuck in our positions. People are mistrustful of their elected representatives and fearful of one another. This fear, of course, is being manipulated and we must not let our democracy be taken away from us! The Electoral College has been a topic on the internet quite a lot lately. There have been petitions circulated. I have signed them. It doesn’t guard us against stupidity, it only makes the campaigns more difficult and more of a crap shoot. I will say more about the Electoral College when I write about the constitution.