Thursday, November 17, 2005

Learning from Liberia

Helene Cooper in the New York Times on the historic election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf [via feministe]:
In Liberia, when their sons were kidnapped and drugged to fight for rebel factions, and when their husbands came home from brothels and infected them with H.I.V., and when government soldiers invaded their houses and raped them in front of their teenage sons, these were the women who picked themselves up and kept going. They kept selling fish, cassava and kola nuts so they could feed their families. They gave birth to the children of their rapists in the forests and carried the children on their backs as they balanced jugs of water on their heads.

These are the women who went to the polls in Liberia last week. They ignored the threats of the young men who vowed more war if their chosen presidential candidate, a former soccer player named George Weah, didn’t win. “No Weah, no peace,” the boys yelled, chanting in the streets and around the polling stations.

The women in Liberia, by and large, ignored those boys and made Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who is 67, the first woman to be elected to lead an African country.
Amanda has a great post up today at Pandagon how Democrats play politics with women's rights and expect women to suffer for the team in the name of a party political gain that excludes our interests. She writes that Rule#1 of Politics 101 is "If you want people to vote for your party, you should try to persuade them that if you win, you will fight for their interests when you are in office." Only, I'm afraid she's thinking like a voter, not a politician, and she has the formula backwards.

Politicians don't care about people, they care about power. And they don't care about policy, they care about winning. Rule#1 of Politics 101 is actually "If you want a party to pay attention to you, convince them that you can deliver the money/activists/votes to put them in office, in exchange for favours once they get in." Right now we are begging for attention. Bad strategy. Instead, we need to make Democrats understand that the price for ignoring us is too high.

Women need to get organized politically. (Sure, there are a handful of organizations out there doing hard work, like Emily's List, but there's not enough, or we wouldn't be having this conversation in 2005.) We need to recruit, support and run our own candidates against deadwood Democrats. We need to give our good candidates landslide victories. And, to do that, we need to turn out to vote like Liberians.

Women constitute over half the population. If women registered and voted in this country, we could have real progressive government. We have the numbers, we just need the political will and organization.

Democrats have made it clear that they are not going to come to us on choice or any other issue. We have to take the fight to them.

Republicans vote against their own self-interest all the time (that's how George Bush was re-elected), and Democratic strategists chide them for it. I say, let's take a lesson from those high-priced Democratic pros. Don't vote like a Republican, sisters: vote like a Liberian.
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