“Oprah for president!” some women are shouting.
Empowerment guru Oprah Winfrey is a national treasure — and seems smart enough to remain one. (Presidents don’t get much “national treasure” adulation.)
Want real political empowerment, ladies? Do it yourself. Oprah would approve.
American women have been exceedingly slow to grasp that to get more female-friendly governance, females have to govern.
Yes, more women locally have been putting on their big girl pants and governing. But only 21 percent of our 535-member Congress, the nation’s most consequential lawmaking venue, is female. That’s 105 female lawmakers among 430 males.
Such numbers do not add up to much of anything for women and their families. This sad fact finally seems to have registered, given the record number of women now running for Congress nationwide.
Thank our president and the Congressional Republican lawmaking patriarchy for this unprecedented female reach for power. The White House and Congress have taken inordinate pains to demonstrate that female and family-friendly governance is not the business they’re in.
Why? Let’s be ladylike. Let’s just say it would cost money. This GOP patriarchy has other priorities, other plans for funds that could be better spent improving lives of women and their families.
Let’s not state the obvious: this patriarchy serves other masters.
How do you change a culture that shrugs off women’s concerns? Not rocket science. One nation managed to do it four decades ago.
There’s a reason Norwegian (them again!) working women have one year of fully paid maternity leave. That fathers can choose to be paid their full salary to stay home with the baby while the mother works. That child care is taxpayer subsidized from age 1. That women commonly hold top government (but few top corporate) jobs.
That reason isn’t just that Norwegians are filthy rich (oil) and prioritize children.
It’s because voters elected a female prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, a physician who made worldwide news in the 1980s when she put eight women in her 18-member cabinet.
This was the highest number of females ever to govern anywhere. Knocking down that cabinet door was the breakthrough that shifted a fairer share of political power from Norwegian males to females.
Today, 41 percent of the Norwegian parliament is female. So is the current prime minister and the leaders of the other two parties that make up Norway’s … ahem … conservative governing coalition. Norwegian females lead top ministries such as defense and finance. Slates of candidates proposed by political parties for election reflect a proportionate share of the female population.
So, as is the case throughout Scandinavia, Norwegian women are deciders. When agendas are set, when laws of the land are written, they’re at the table.
Unsurprisingly, Norway is rated a top country in which to be a woman or child, the United Nations repeatedly rates it the world’s best place to live, and Norwegians report themselves as among the happiest in the world.
Yet long after she was elected, Brundtland’s conservative male political opponent reportedly complained that her election had “ruined everything.”
Those with the mindset of, say, Republican Rep. Cary Condotta of our 12th Legislative District, perhaps would agree.
Condotta expressed unhappiness when the last state Legislature passed a family leave bill that requires businesses to offer 12 weeks of paid sick and maternity leave.
Condotta’s complaint is that it will penalize small businesses — even though workers themselves will pay most of the cost. On a salary of $50,000 a year, that “penalty” amounts to $1.42 per week for the employer and $2.42 for the worker, in exchange for a weekly sick leave benefit of $703. Weekly benefits top out at $1,000.
“Family leave is a great idea in principle,” Condotta says on his website. But his unmistakable message is that it really isn’t. He contends family leave adds to a crushing burden on small businesses already struggling, apparently unfairly, to pay a minimum living wage to their workers.
Been here, heard this, people? Hello?
This November, We the People enter phase one of Throwing the Bums Out. The excellent news is that capable women fed up with misrule are stepping up to govern.
Dr. Ann Diamond, founder of the Country Clinic in Winthrop, is challenging Condotta for that legislative seat. An Independent, Diamond says her lawmaking priorities are universal health care, economic development and public lands protection.
In our 4th Congressional District, Democrat Christine Brown of Kennewick is challenging Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse. A 30-year veteran of TV news, Brown lists “health care for all,” infrastructure/jobs and climate change among her priorities.
Incumbent Cathy McMorris Rodgers, our former Congressional Republican representative in the 5th Congressional District, opposes Obamacare. She’s now squarely in the sights of a powerhouse challenger, Democrat Lisa J. Brown of Spokane.
Brown is the former Senate Majority Leader in the Legislature and former chancellor of Washington State University Spokane. She has 20 years of experience making state laws, plus a doctorate in economics.
Alarmed, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan promises significant campaign funding for Rodgers — who chairs the House Republican Conference — to help Republicans keep that seat.
Tina Podlodowski, chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, has other plans. The 5th District seat hasn’t been held by a Democrat since voters unburdened themselves of House Speaker Tom Foley in 1994. But suddenly the 5th District seat is no longer rated “safe” for Republicans.
May the most female-friendly woman win.
Solveig Torvik lives in Winthrop with President Trump’s special blessing: she’s one of this nation’s 25,300 Norwegian immigrants.
Solveig Torvik lives in Winthrop.