A Great Day for Progressives or a repudiation of Romney?

Barack Obama’s victory last night will give progressives in the US some vindication. However, I think the election results could also be viewed as an outright rejection of the Tea Party faction within the Republican Party. The severe mocking of some of their candidates and their ridiculous positions on rape, for example, on social media played a huge role. The Republicans have also not figured out that the US is no longer a huge monolith to which they can appeal. There is an ever-shrinking number of rich, old, white guys and, the women they control, to effectively elect regressive Republicans. Unfortunately for Obama, Democrats did not gain control of the House of Representatives, which means there will be more gridlock in Congress.

The Tea Party has seriously damaged the credibility of the Republican Party. Its presence has blurred the lines of the separation of church and state – a fundamental principle upon which democracies are built. Their ridiculous stands on rape and abortion sufficiently shocked enough women, most of whom who thought the issue had been settled. The spectre of rich, white men being able to tell women what they could do with their bodies scared enough of them so they went out and voted. The Tea Party has moved the Republican Party so far to the right that it was no longer recognizable to many. Mitt Romney is seen as a moderate by Tea Party standards, which I am sure, scared the crap out of informed Americans.

The role of social media cannot be discounted either. Within minutes of a gaffe or ridiculous policy position being uttered the internet buzzed with mocking graphics. Every single day for months some Republican position was being mocked whether it was Big Bird or ‘legitimate’ rape, nothing escaped. These graphics spread like wildfire basically reducing Republican positions to small sound bites for the internet generation. Republicans seemed to ignore this channel to mock Obama. It is not surprising, as the Republicans didn’t appeal to youth in anyway. Their error, however, was not understanding that many people are on social media and would see these graphics. I can remember the very effective graphics of Mitt Romney putting his dog on the roof of his car and the flurry of Big Bird ads after Romney said he would cut funding to PBS.

Even though Obama has been re-elected, it would be wrong to think that things are going to substantially change. American presidents, who head up one of the branches of government,[1] has less power domestically than a Canadian prime minister with a majority government. Our prime ministers control both the executive and the legislative branches of government. This means they have the power to control the legislation that is introduced and enforce the party discipline to ensure it is passed. While the US does have a party system, the idea of party discipline is not used. Instead if a US president wants to pass legislation they must lobby for all their votes.[2] The Republicans still have control of the House of Representatives, which will make Obama’s legislative agenda difficult. As a 2nd term, ‘lame duck’ President, Obama will be able to spend whatever political capital he has as he cannot be reelected. Some presidents in this position decide to become more active in foreign policy as this is mostly within their control.[3] If Obama decides to do this, we can only hope that he uses his power for good.

I think the reelection of Obama is more of a repudiation of Tea Party Republicans.[4] Had Romney had any control over the other candidates running he may have been able put forward a more moderate campaign. Had Romney denounced some of the more wacky ideas[5] he may have had more success. However, Romney’s elitist attitudes[6] probably drove women and minorities into the arms of the Democrats. In trying to appeal to be conservative enough for the Tea Party, Romney did not attract any new voters to the Republican Party.

If the Republicans are ever to be successful as a party they will need to do several things. First, they must divest themselves of the Tea Party. It is clear that this faction within the party cost them many races; virtually all of the rape deniers were defeated. Second, they must develop more centrist policies that appeal to women and minorities. Third, they must figure out social media. The Democrats, and particularly Obama, are much more savvy when it comes to the internet. They understand how it works and they use it to their advantage. Fourth, Republicans need to understand that their traditional base of support is eroding and there are no new heirs apparent on the horizon. Insisting that everyone can become a millionaire and successful if they just pull up their bootstraps is a garbage nightmare and has no place in politics today.

I am relieved that Obama won because the alternative was so completely scary. Romney seemed to lack the intellectual capacity to be president of the United States. I had visions of him invading Iran because he falls for the ‘weapons of mass destruction’[7] line. He was also scary because no one really knew when he would flip-flop or adopt a completely new position. I think many Americans realized that he may say one thing but would quite likely do another if he were elected.


[1] The Executive.

[2] This is how Americans end up with so much ‘pork barrelling’ in their legislation – they end up tacking unrelated things on in order to get the votes.

[3] Bill Clinton did this.

[4] Obama also had the ‘incumbent factor’ working in his favour. Most sitting US presidents who run for a second term are re-elected. Recent exceptions to this were George Bush Sr. and Jimmy Carter.

[5] Women can’t get pregnant from legitimate rape and even if they do it is God’s will come to mind.

[6] “Let the foreclosures run their course” and the whole 47% thing.

[7] Or nuclear weapons.

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Republican Assholes

Not a day goes by that I am thankful I live in Canada and not the USA. Consider this lovely quote from Todd Akin who is running for the US Senate, in Missouri:

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin said that even in the worst-case scenario — when the supposed natural protections against unwanted pregnancy fail — abortion should still not be a legal option for the rape victim.

“Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”H/T Shakesville

So in Akin’s narrow little world, us women-folk have the ability to know when we are being ‘legitimately raped.’ And, our bodies, the wonders they are, can discern the difference between legitimate and illegitimate sperm! Does the cervix just close up shop? Does the egg scream ‘no, you can’t impregnate me you legitimate raper!’ Let’s take this a step further. What defines a ‘legitimate rape.’ Clearly it depends on the victim. Given many of the Republican’s beliefs one can guess that the victim of a legitimate rape would be white, Christian, and virginal. Not a virgin – your rape is bogus even if you have all the signs of a legitimate rape; a sex-trade worker, you weren’t raped, you just didn’t get paid; college student taking birth control, you weren’t raped you planned for it.

Now let’s talk about the no abortion for rape victims even when the woman’s body fails to recognize the sperm of a ‘legitimate rapist.’ No abortion for you! Instead, we are going to protect that child and make you give birth to it – which, I am sure, would feel like being raped all over again. The thing about how these regressive pricks view women means that at some level all women are harlots and asking for it. It is as though the mere presence of our vaginas makes us want to have sex. And those men in Washington are bound and determined to control women’s vaginas!

Now, you may ask, why I am getting all upset about this little gem. After all, it is not as though Todd Akin is going to come up here and get all up in our Canadian vaginas. He doesn’t have to. Our Canadian media covers enough American politics to ensure that his message is spread here. Canada’s abortion debate has been closed since the 1980s. Yet, this year, Motion 312 came to the floor of the House of Commons to further ‘clarify’ when a fetus becomes a human being. Up until this point, it was at birth. Even though Stephen Harper assured all of us women that he had no interest in re-opening the abortion debate, he has, nonetheless, allowed this motion to come to the floor brought by one of his MPs: Stephen Woodworth. So even though Akin and his ilk can’t make policy here they can sure influence it. This is even more so when Conservatives are in power in Canada. With a Liberal government, social conservatism really does not gain much traction here on the policy front. We can only hope that this motion is ultimately defeated. The fact that it saw the light of day is still so disturbing.

Published in: on August 20, 2012 at 9:44 am  Comments (1)  
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Reproductive Rights Discourse

There is a war going on. It is being fought on the battlefront of women’s’ bodies. Our uteri have become organs to be legislated and fraught over. We have been deemed too feeble minded to make decisions about when we will engage in sexual activity and with whom. Women making decisions about their sexual lives is coming to an end in the United States. Even though all of this is taking place in another country make no mistake Canada is affected. Pierre Trudeau once astutely pointed out that we are the mouse living beside the elephant and if the elephant rolls over, well you get it.

Many Canadians avidly follow American politics. Given that their elections go on for years[1] they get a lot of airtime and ink (both real and electronic) spilled about their positions. When you factor in blogs and other social media the discourse coming out of the Republican Primaries is powerful. Just look at Sandra Fluke. I am fairly sure most people have either read or heard about what Rush Limbaugh said about her and the subsequent call that Barrack Obama made to her.[2] Even though advertisers have pulled their sponsorship from Limbaugh’s show the damage to women has already begun.

I am sure you are wondering why this matters to us in Canada. It is simple, as regressive and oppressive American politics make their way into the dominant discourse thoughts and opinions are formed. Many Canadians may well believe that women have it pretty good in this country. Abortion is legal and accessible. Contraception is just a visit away from a family doctor. Most Canadians believe that making women’s reproductive health accessible is the right thing to do. The separation of morality from medicine is more common in Canada than in other countries.[3]

If your only source of knowledge about women is the US primary race your view of women would be skewed. According to Republican presidential candidates, women are not to be trusted with decisions about their own reproductive health. Want an abortion? Almost half of States have some kind of legislation that impedes women’s access. These barriers can range from a waiting period, to an ultrasound in which the doctor must ‘explain’ exactly what the fetus looks like and its stage of development. Some states have gone so far as to mandate a ‘trans-vaginal’ ultrasound. Many feminists have correctly identified this as state-sanctioned rape. Women are also seen as the ‘gate-keepers’ to sex and that if sex happens out of wedlock or in other situations it is somehow her fault. It is as though all of women kind is expected to modulate the behavior of men. Last time I checked that didn’t work out so well.[4] And, as any woman knows, if some men really want to rape them it will happen.

What is interesting in the reproductive rights fight in the US is that there is little to no mention of men’s role in sex and reproduction. We all learn in school that it takes both a woman AND a man to create a baby. Men have pretty much unfettered access to drugs to ensure they can have sex long into their later years without any kind of intrusive exam. This is what is so absolutely galling about the Republican candidates positions on reproduction. Sex should be a negotiation between a consenting woman and man. Both should experience the pleasure and the pain of their actions.

Even though women enjoy more reproductive freedom in Canada it does not mean we should rest on our laurels. The presence of US styled misogyny can affect politics here. There are some extremely right-wing Christian religious groups in Canada who try to flex their political power. Often they receive funding from their compatriots in the United States. In fact, our current Conservative government may be receptive their messages – especially at the polls.

The political consequences of the Elephant rolling over are easy to delineate for Canada. What is more disturbing is the affect this has on the dominant discourse. Canadians are being indoctrinated with this negative view of women regardless of the political bent of our current government. As these ideas take hold it becomes easier for people to view women through this same lens. Canadians are the most wired country in the world. Internet penetration here is greater than any other place. This means that we are being exposed to this misogyny at a much greater level. Don’t be surprised if some of these ideas penetrate into our politics. We can only hope that Stephen Harper sticks to his decision about not re-opening the abortion debate in Canada. It would be disastrous for women if he did.

For an excellent overview of the ongoing disaster that is the Republican Primary please see Shakesville.


[1] The primary system whereby each state’s party members have a vote in selecting the candidate for president.

[2] He called her to thank her for standing up for women’s reproductive rights which, ironically, have been steadily eroded under his presidency.

[3] This is true for many things. However, when faced with a fat person, some doctors will attribute everything to weight. Got a hangnail? It’s because you are fat. But I digress…

[4] Foster Friess – who is associated with the Santorum campaign made this suggestion to women.

Federal Election 2008: Don’t forget to Vote

Tomorrow is the election. I hope everyone remembers to vote. I suspect when all is said and done there will be little difference in the make up of the new Parliament. If there are gains made, I suspect they will be for the NDP and not the Liberals or Conservatives. At the end of the day, this was an election we did not need nor want and in fact it was against the law passed by the Harper Cons fixing election dates. I guess he figures he can ignore laws as well as Canadians.

I also think that once the US election is over a lot of this financial turmoil will die down. It seems somewhat contrived to me.