|EDINBURG, October 12 - It is time. We can do it. England did it with Margaret Thatcher. India had a female Chief Executive. Brazil’s President is female--Dilma Rousseff. Germany’s leader is Angel Merkel.
Why not the U.S.A? And why not start with Texas? Why not a woman as Texas Governor again? Why not another capable woman as her side-kick, as Lieutenant Governor? It can be done. It should be done.
Governor Ann Richards did it. It has been a long time since then. “Ann” (how many Governors have had a Broadway play named for them?) was the first modern female Governor. (“Ma” Ferguson was the first female Governor in Texas history.) On economic matters she was moderate, perhaps a tad too conservative for my taste.
Ditto for Senator Wendy Davis and Senator Leticia San Miguel Van de Putte, Democratic candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, respectively. They have great shoes to fill. Ann acquitted herself well. She brought the State into the 20th century. She appointed more women and more ethnic minorities to public posts than ever before. We need that presence more than ever in the 21st century; we need the presence of women.
Why women? It is their time. It is time for Democratic voters of Texas to be sure to vote (early or on November 4th). It is also time for Republicans to reconsider and to join the majority of the state--women. Why? Three main reasons: 1. Women constitute over 52 percent of the population. 2. The status of women has improved, but they still lag behind men in economic and political power. 3. Women bring important, timely issues into play all over the Americas: child care; senior care; women’s health; sexual crimes; education (Felipe Arocena, “Lessons from Latin America,” University of Toronto, 2014). And, yes, do vote JUST BECAUSE they are women. But, really, do it because Davis and San Miguel are both individuals of character and experience AND because they are women.
At least eleven of our sister Republics in the Americas host greater percentages of women in the legislature. Even with traditional male chauvinism of Latin America, women as representatives constitute 40 percent in Argentina, 43 percent in Cuba, 40 percent in Costa Rica, 40 percent in beleaguered Nicaragua, 26 percent even in “macho” Mexico. In the U.S.? - only 17 percent (Arocena).
In some of these cases there exist mandatory quotas. But in Canada, even with only voluntary quotas by some parties, 20 percent of the lower chamber is female. Must the U.S. follow, not lead? That may be what we expect, but it does not fulfill our hopes. Our economic strength and history of creativity and progress give us more potential. As President Kennedy famously said: “We can do ‘betta’.” Much better.
Probably most men, if and when they think about it, will agree. Most men have a mother who usually is a woman, right? Most men have a spouse or sister or daughter who usually is a woman. Not so? Yes, no-brainers. Therefore, equality of gender (and of pay) is a male as well as a female issue. These facts are not so hard to wrap your head around.
Women’s health and access to reproductive rights and methods are also male issues. Some 90 percent of ALL women, regardless of religion, have utilized the constitutional right of birth control (reaffirmed, repeatedly, by the conservative Supreme Court) enabling them and their families to plan how many children they have and when they have them. Women in and out of office think, naturally, of “women’s” issues—equal rights, the family, their children, their safety.
Why the need for more women in office? They are more attentive, not only to “women’s” issues but to other mainstream issues: transparency in government, crime and safety, money-saving projects, fairness (Rutgers, Eagleton Institute of Politics and Center for American Women in Politics—CAWP). What is needed for these progressive ideas to flourish, to become fixed legislation, is for a “critical mass” (25-35 percent) to be reached. Females at the “top of the ticket” will go a long way to making that day come.
And why Leticia? Why a Mexican American? For diversity, for democracy. Ethnic minorities now outnumber Whites. Mexican Americans are the state’s and the nation’s largest and fastest growing ethnic minority. Their needs, as well as women’s needs, have often been ignored or unmet. They are very progressive; over 30 percent of them consider themselves “liberal,” compared with 21 percent of Whites (National Survey of Latinos—NSL, 2014).
The bar is even higher in public office. Most Mexican American legislators vote pro-education, pro-health, pro-raising the minimum wage; i.e., generally pro-helping most people, whatever the ethnicity (NSL). Liberal Anglos and liberal Afro Americans, of course, already trend that same way.
President Obama recently appointed Ms Maria Echaveste our new U. S. Ambassador to Mexico. She is female, Mexican American, and Harlingen born, daughter of hard working migrants. She is a corporate lawyer (Berkeley). She sees the service sector, which employs a majority of women, as key to the economy. She joins the chorus of those who see investment in education as the appropriate accompaniment to socio-economic growth. Investment in education results in a ten-fold economic multiplier effect. Education means business.
One problem: if you are a Conservative--especially extremist right-wing--these facts might convince you to vote for the White, older male. I hope you might rethink and repent. And I hope the vastly larger numbers of the underrepresented may “do the math,” may see the light and redouble efforts to vote and effect positive, democratic change.
If you do not favor greater fairness, greater safety, more available education, and guaranteed First Amendment rights (e.g., private choice), then do not support women or Mexican Americans. If you do favor such sensible policies there is only “one game in town.” It is being played out soon—November 4th, 2014.
Early voting begins October 20th. You will find women and ethnic minorities at your side. They, as well as you, I trust, support an increase in the minimum wage. (“Ten-Ten”—$10 and 10 cents an hour--is a good start). They support a wide array of other 21st century and long delayed issues.
There has not been a clearer political choice in voting in decades. Improve protection of the environment? Improve the educational system? Eliminate draconian standardized testing? Improve transparency in government? Improve fairness in the economy for the 99 percent? Improve democracy itself? Let’s do it. Another group, mainly one party, disagrees and, in their fear, pursues voter suppression.
The courts struck down the Texas version of their nation-wide strategy of voter suppression--the Voter Identification law. Proponents of that law lost. Texans and democracy won. Now, Republican Abbott and Tea Party Patrick—inexperienced, right-wing radio talk-show host, opposed by conscientious Republicans--would continue their right wing agenda. They cut taxes for the rich, cut aid (billions!) from education, channel monies to rich friends, favor big business over workers.
The right wing, pretending to favor business, is oblivious to the fact many businesses refuse to relocate to Texas. The Edinburg Mayor complained of losing businesses. Perry put “boots on the ground” and frightened them away. Patrick brags about it. He is apparently Abbott’s clone. Abbott, it seems, is Perry’s clone. Three “peas in a pod?”
Many business CEOs see and respond negatively to the hype of “violence on the border.” They refute Abbotts’s charge of the Valley as a “corrupt, third world country.” They shy away due to Texas’ very low national environmental and educational ranking. They have choices—of other states--where their own employees can be healthy and have access to good schools. They may be conservative but are not foolish. They build in those other states.
The team of women offered by the Democratic Party is both pro-education and pro-business. They support expansion of Medicare funding for the working people. They are patriotic. Unlike Perry, do not want to secede from the Union. They, unlike Abbot, do not want billions cut from education, only to funnel monies into unneeded, unwanted grand-standing projects such as the military forces on the border.
Yes, a woman’s place is in the House (of Representatives) and in the Senate. There, both Davis and San Miguel Van de Putte have worked diligently for all their constituents. Now--with your awareness of fairness and with your vote--TWO capable women could soon be placed in the Executive Branch of Texas, as Governor and the more powerful office of Lieutenant Governor.
Davis and San Miguel would work for you, representing Texas conscientiously to the nation. Whatever your attitudes toward women in politics, toward Mexican Americans in politics, the bottom line cannot be denied? That is: for over 15 years one man, one party controlled ALL state offices (look it up). Long years of one, out-moded, extremist ideology are more than enough. It is time for a change. Heaven help us bring that change and the hope of a new day, a new beginning to Texas. “Viva la Mujer!”
Dr. Gary Joe Mounce is a political science professor in the Rio Grande Valley. His guest columns, often on the subject of Latin America, appear regularly in the Guardian.