Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Giving 10 million women the right to vote is NOT a “failed policy”.

Use Google to search for “failed policy in Iraq” and you will get over 11,000 hits. Perhaps you read this MSNBC.com article or saw this in The New York Times. Americans are reminded over and over that our effort in Iraq constitutes a “failed policy.”

But what if you took the anti-Republican spin out of it? What if you asked 100 people on the street how they would characterize the idea of giving 10 million women the right to vote? Do you think most would see it as a failure?

Put all of this into the context of the Middle East. Does it take on greater significance?

I hope that most Americans (particularly those of the female gender) would not consider the concept of women voting as a failure. Over 4,000 Americans died so that 10 million Iraqi women could vote. That is significant.

Where am I going with this? Our anti-Republican culture portrays Republicans in a disparaging fashion when it comes to women’s rights. Is it true? It might be worthwhile to look back at the women’s suffrage movement in America to gain some perspective.

It was less than 100 years ago, and if you were female, you could not vote in many American elections. The women’s suffrage movement gained support over time, and in a Senate vote on June 4, 1919, a Constitutional amendment was passed by the necessary two-thirds majority. Over three-fourths of Republican Senators voted for it, while just over half the Democrats were in favor.

It’s interesting to note that the Republicans, with their overwhelming support, gave the Senate the necessary two-thirds majority to move the amendment to the states for ratification. Democrats in the Senate actually filibustered against the amendment in the final debate before the vote. The Internet Modern History Sourcebook at Fordham University has a compilation of articles from The New York Times that give details on the vote, along with some interesting discussions that took place.

The Republicans were justifiably proud of their work in getting women the right to vote. Scroll down in the Sourcebook article to see a story from The New York Times, dated February 13, 1920. It covers a kerfuffle over which political party was to take the most credit for giving women the vote:

CHICAGO, Feb. 12 - Party politics overshadowed all other issues on the eve of the fifty-first convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Party lines were being so tightly drawn tonight that the most skillful leadership will be necessary to hold the gathering to a strictly non-partisan course.

The powder was touched off by the Democratic women, who promise to liven several issues that will come up on the floor. Mrs. George Bass, member of the Democratic Executive Committee, and referred to as the "spokeswoman for the Administration," issued a statement sharply criticizing the Illinois Republican Women's Executive Committee for placing a full-page paid advertisement in the program of the convention.

Mrs. Bass's remarks were chiefly directed against the first sentence printed in heavy type at the head of the advertisement, which read:

"To the Republican Party you owe the passage of the Federal suffrage amendment, and it will be responsible for the ratification soon to come."

"In regard to this advertisement I will say I was greatly shocked." said Mrs. Bass. "The Democratic Party in Congress and in the States has done more to give the women in the United States suffrage than any other party, and President Wilson is the only President who has lifted his voice and his influence in the cause of suffrage."

Do you see vestiges of our anti-Republican culture in the quote at the end? Republican Senators and their votes were what passed the Amendment out of Congress and on to the states, but the characterization that Americans remember is, “The Democratic Party in Congress…has done more to give the women in the United States suffrage than any other party...”

It makes you wonder about the expression, “Actions speak louder than words.” While that maxim may be true at the extremes, our political leaders know that words are what matter.

The words “failed policy in Iraq” are destined to characterize an action that gave 10 million women the right to vote.

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