My first chance to vote for the President was disappointing — Nixon won as the incumbent against a good man — but we felt vindicated when Nixon resigned in disgrace two years later. The second chance came with Carter’s victory in ’76 but that didn’t feel like a resounding victory. Ford seemed like a good man who coped with a terrible situation, Nixon. Carter seemed kind but weak. I kept thinking we have Mr. Rogers running the country.
When Reagan made that fiendish deal with the devil by postponing the release of hostages and won in 1980, I knew something was going off the rails. I was discouraged and distrustful of everything the President said. Funk for twelve years. Then the sun broke through with the election of Clinton in 1992 and my thought was Finally, things are going my way!
Talk about discouraged and distrustful of everything the President said! It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly, drip by drip, until poor Mr. Gore hadn’t a prayer by 2000.
All those years I had the feeling that the Dems were holding back. They were scared to run boldly. They made lukewarm promises and failed to deliver even those. Due to lack of attention, little by little their base was eroding, like a sandy beach with no maintenance. What happened to voting rights and civil rights and women’s rights and labor’s rights. Dems kept losing chunks of support, like the “calving” of the polar ice caps.
With 20–20 hindsight we can say with authority that the GOP had over 50 years to expand and solidify their base. Today they are buoyed up by portions of the old Democratic base: suburban moms, police unions, disgruntled vets, working class men, and successful minority businessmen.
We find ourselves in the strange place of advocates for women’s rights facing off with advocates for men’s rights. It shouldn’t be this way! And yet it is. We are as polarized along sexual lines as we are along racial lines and climate lines and party lines.
It has me questioning whether women’s strengths and values can only be recognized at the expense of men’s strengths and values. Is sexual equality a zero-sum game?
The answer is, of course not. The answer is enshrined in the gay and lesbian rights movement that became a force in the seventies and that has won victory after victory for the cause of human rights. Where advocates for women’s rights and for men’s rights can feel they’ve lost ground in the last half century, all gender rights have advanced under the “equal protection” clause in the 14th Amendment.
There it is. Equal protection, not zero-sum. Equal pay, equal opportunity, equal social safety net, equal education, equal everything is possible, if we keep that common goal in sight.