FOUR MORE YEARS! – then Hillary?

The who and the why of President Obama’a reelection was too obvious for the big-bucks pundits to miss. It was a victory for women, largely propelled by women, and punctuated by the election of five more women to the Senate. Both parties could see almost from the beginning of the campaign that women favored the president. It proved to be a double-digit margin. It was even larger among mothers.

Yet the GOP couldn’t resist the pull from the far right to play stupid. Double stupid. First they wrote a platform plank that was a war on women. Then they made the very controversial Rep. Paul Ryan second man on their ticket. Mitt Romney is bearing the larger blame for their defeat, ironically leaving Ryan ready and eager to take the helm of the party. He’s already performing as if he’s the front-runner for 2016. Will they be that stupid again?  Romney’s failing wasn’t that he wasn’t conservative enough. His failing was that he was too Republican – too rich, too white. Too removed from the less-fortunate 47 percent he didn’t want to serve anyway. Ryan is even more removed.

Women are unlikely to forget that Ryan is a lead sponsor of the “personhood” legislation, which would imprison women in any and every pregnancy. It would deny them the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under law. It would instead extend that guarantee to the fertilized egg, whose rights then would supersede the rights of the mother.

For this and other reasons, the president’s reelection has shown the GOP that it has no future as the party ruled by white men. It was a victory for working people, and especially for the women who now form 49 percent of the American workforce. It flew against the unprecedented tidal wave of money that Karl Rove and the super PACs threw at Romney-Ryan and the Republicans running for the Senate against incumbent Democrats. Every incumbent Democrat was reelected.

It not only preserved the Democrats’ slender majority in the Senate but it increased it by three seats. It ensured that the Democrats will be in the driver’s seat in filling any vacancies in the Supreme  Court that may arise in Obama’s last four years. There could be as many as three – a golden opportunity to give women real muscle in the court. Hopefully, the major women’s organizations are now eyeing women on the federal bench who would bring exceptional legal minds to their causes in filling those vacancies. Bloody theater awaits any nomination. The latest defeat surely has the Republicans sharpening their knives.

Changes in the Supreme Court are but one of the opportunities women have won in this election to move the country in new directions. It should tell them they are capable of electing a woman to the presidency now at any time they know they have the right woman for the job. They surely realize they would not have to defer to men in that choice. Yet they are bound by centuries of conditioning to be wise enough to choose a woman proven by high office to have won the admiration of both women and men. It won’t be long. They know for sure that history is going their way.

Might that woman be Hillary Clinton in 2016?  Will she be in the Obama cabinet in his second term? Never has there been a presidential prospect with credentials close to hers: eight years in the White House, a term in the Senate, and the foremost seat in the cabinet. The president has clearly benefitted from her classy performance as Secretary of State. Will she have the interest and health to try for the White House again? Hillary vs. Ryan?

There’s a contest worth drooling for.

Frank Mensel – November 2012


Of the sorry trends in 21st-century American politics, none may be more troubling to the cause of responsible lawmaking than the elections of one-note ideologues in growing numbers.

My dear Dad used to say Americans don’t deserve democracy. He could see that most are too lazy to follow the news and do the homework that should carry every vote. His alarm would be deeper today, if he could see how easily opinions turn on one word flashed on television.

Partly as the result, more and more elective offices are being filled by One-Noters. They run successfully on one side of one issue. They get elected on one promise. Elect me, and abortion will cease. Elect me, and unions will be gone. Elect me, and our southern borders will be closed tight. Elect me, and your taxes will shrink. Elect me, and we’ll keep the minorities in their place.

As One-Noters run and win, homework is meaningless. Whichever candidate has your side of your pet issue gets your vote. No reading, no care or feel for the national interest. He or she is with you on the big one. That’s all that matters.

What we get then is a Congress or legislature barely able to keep the doors of government open, while the tough issues are left floating in committees or fumbled away between house and senate. The one-note minorities are not elected to win; they are elected to make sure no one else wins. The Tea Party proved itself able to win a flock of House seats, then managed to hamstrung the Congress until it closed 2012 as the least productive in history, with a favorable rating from the public no better than 10 percent.

The One-Noters are easy prey for big money. Billionaires have no trouble tracking them by their issue. The big PACs may then spread support to elect them in blocs, all right wing but each too bound up in its own issue to work common ground for the greater good. One-Noters become likely targets in divide-and-conquer maneuvers. Two masters of this game with different approaches are Karl Rove and Grover Norquist.

Norquist works but one issue. He has roped virtually every Republican in Congress into signing his no-tax pledge. It’s shameful how easily this traps both the congressman and his constituency into the one-note mold. The pledge becomes first consideration in every vote the legislator casts. Do they know for sure that there are no tax implications at all in the bill? Every signer is working with one hand tied behind his/her back, which leaves a constituency of thinking people with half-baked representation. Worse, it’s distorted representation.

Rove has become the unrivaled handler of billionaires and their super PACs. Any billionaire with a pet peeve about government can count on Rove to find the combination of legislators, candidates and media buys that will give the chosen remedy its best shot, most often skirting any concern for  damage or danger it may entail. Rove has just one motive:  power. Even people who knew him as far back as high school in Utah remember the ego that fed his hunger for power.

The supreme One-Noter of the last four years, surely as focused as Norquist, has been and is the Senate Minority Leader, Kentucky racist Mitch McConnell, who has made one aim his sole focus and purpose:  to limit the first black president to one term in office. Such pomposity disgraces his humanity, his state and the Congress itself.

Frank Mensel  –  October 2012