Last week, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic-backed bill calling for equal pay for African-Americans in the workplace. The vote to break the Republican filibuster failed along party lines 52-47, short of the required 60-vote threshold. Democratic leaders said that they forced the vote to highlight the 13 percent unemployment rate in the black community that has been hit especially hard by the recession.
The vote ignited widespread protests. African-American office workers staged walkouts, effectively shutting down many government offices and schools where equal opportunity hiring practices have prevailed. This sparked worries that police departments, lacking their African-American officers, might not be able to handle violent protests.
Luckily, the widespread protests were peaceful, albeit disruptive. A photograph of a black executive who blocked the path of a white commuter while holding a sign that read, “Want progress? Me, too!” spread quickly over social media. The so-called “Want progress?” blockade effectively brought evening rush hour to a halt from coast to coast, highlighting frustration in the black community over what had been a simmering conflict.
Of course, none of this happened, or at least it didn’t quite happen this way. Senate Republicans weren’t doing this to blacks, Latinos, redheaded strangers or the boys of summer. It was only women.
The party-line vote did take place, and the Paycheck Fairness Act does exist, but it wouldn’t require equal pay for blacks, only women. The only real difference between what I wrote and what really happened is the total lack of any public protest from women at Republicans voting against equal pay.
“And that is a surprise? Women just got the vote in 1920. For most of the history of humankind women have been legitimately treated as property,” said labor organizer Peggy Schaffer. Schaffer, a Mainer, pointed out that her two supposedly moderate but definitely female Republican Senators voted to kill the equal pay measure.
In Washington, partisanship trumps gender, if not equal protection under the law. And with Republicans obstructing anything that doesn’t conform to their Ayn Rand ideology, maybe we should be grateful that Barack Obama’s not trying to pass the Civil Rights Act, though it would be great to see Lyndon Johnson quarterbacking the Paycheck Protection Act against the likes of Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor.
But that doesn’t explain the lack of outrage. This is the year of the War on Women, in which Rush Limbaugh insulting a law student became a national scandal. We’re having big fights over when a zygote achieves civil rights and whether birth control is preventative medicine. The outrage over women’s health was so loud even Rick Perry kinda-sorta backed down when he tried to defund Planned Parenthood.
Now Republicans have voted that equal pay for equal work should not be the law of the land. We have an up-or-down vote on the basic measure of worth of a woman in the workplace. We have a War on Women all teed up. If Republicans were doing this to blacks, the justifiable indignation would consume us. But this is only happening to women.
“In 1963 women made 59 cents for every dollar that men made. Now it’s 77 cents,” explained Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). “What does that mean? It means every five years women make an advancement of one penny.”
Where’s the outrage?
© Copyright 2012 Jason Stanford, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who has helped elect or re-elect more than two dozen Members of Congress. He lives in Austin, Texas. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jasstanford.