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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Let’s Experiment: Just Take a Decade Off, Guys

I’ve had this fantasy for a long time, and the current times seem right to upgrade it from dream to vision. Let’s try reversing traditional gender roles for a decade, especially in government. Let men stay home and care for the next generation that phony politicians tout as so important. Let them change diapers, buy groceries, cook meals and do laundry, attend to doctors’ appointments and PTA meetings, run car pools and volunteer at schools. Most of the guys who set educational policy now haven’t been in a school in years, nor seriously talked with kids or helped with homework.

These daily obligations would teach both genuine family values and the realities of life. Granted, men won’t be able to meet the physical demands of actually carrying and delivering the next generation, but they could atone for that inability by truly supporting the women who do. Women, you know, are expected to do everything in just 15 years of an average 80+ years of life: Between 25 and 40, they must establish both their careers and their families – and almost all of them could use more help from the fathers of those families. Those years also are the time when hormones are most likely to dictate male behavior, and maybe spending their days at home with the kids would help some to keep their pants zipped.

But mostly it’s a positive side that I see in this experiment: It’s not so much the absence of men in public life as the advantages of having women in charge. Not that I think all women are superior to all men – far from it. Hubby is a shining example of a good man, and so are my brothers and brothers-in-law. But the societal record nonetheless shows clearly that men are far more likely to mess up than women. It will be a long time yet before social scientists can measure how much of this propensity for trouble is built-in biology and how much is our poor cultural codes of behavior, but it’s a fact that 93% of prison inmates – those we have judged unfit to live among us – are men.

And it’s a fact that far more men than women are mass murderers and that many more men in public life end up in scandals -- sexual, financial, and both. This means that for the experiment to be measurable, not only young fathers should take a decade off, but also their fathers and grandfathers. All the guys could just stay out of public life for a while and let women run things. If it doesn’t work out, we could go back to business as usual – but wouldn’t it be interesting to try? I’ll guarantee things won’t be any worse.

Wonder Women Who Could Run the World

I have to admit that I don’t know enough about international politics to identify potential women on all continents – but I will point out that Africa, which has the most nations of any continent, has had the fewest women in power -- and probably not coincidentally, is a continual scene of corruption and war. Asia, too, has had relatively few women in leadership positions, and the courageous ones who tried to establish democracies have been persecuted/assassinated, notably Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma and Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. Nor does Latin America have much to brag about, but the women in power there have not been any worse than countless men. In Europe, Angela Merkel is the best leader that continent has seen in a very long time, and although no one expected much of Teresa May, she seems to be holding her own in Britain. But we probably won’t get men in Third World nations to consider this “Decade of the Women” idea for a century or more, so let’s limit ourselves to ourselves.

Many people would say there aren’t enough experienced women available in the US for this experiment to work – but there are. You just haven’t heard of them because they do their jobs in an honest way, and that doesn’t make headline news. Going from west to east, here’s a bunch of great prospects from simply one source, the 21 women who currently serve in the 100-member US Senate:

• From the westernmost state, there’s Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, the state that implemented universal health care long ago. Born in postwar Japan, she understands Asia and the value of ethnic diversity.

• From Alaska, I’d include Lisa Murkowsi, although I might not have said that earlier. She earned my respect by voting against her Republican Party’s push to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act. I trust she’ll do this again after the Thanksgiving break, when insurance repeal will be disguised as tax reform.

• Washington State gives us two stellar women, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Murray was elected in 1992, “The Year of the Woman,” on an average contribution of a mere $35 per donor, and her constituents have been so pleased with her that she never has faced a serious opponent. That was not the case with Cantwell, who endured the male incumbent’s calls for recounts in a very close 2000 race. A Seattle internet pioneer, she epitomizes the sort of innovator who understands the modern world.

• California also has two women in the US Senate and has had since 1992. They are Diane Feinstein, former mayor of San Francisco, and newly elected Kamala Harris, an African American. Feinstein has the experience to be an effective leader in any aspect of government; Harris, as former attorney general of our most populous state, could happily replace Alabama’s Jeff Sessions as the nation’s attorney general.

• Catherine Cortez-Masto only recently joined the Senate, but she has been Nevada’s attorney general and a federal prosecutor, and she could add an important Hispanic presence to my visionary government.

• Going to the Midwest, we have North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, Minnesota’s Amy Klobucher, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow, Illinois’ Tammy Duckworth, and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, all Democrats, as well as newcomer Republicans Joni Ernst of Iowa and Deb Fischer of Nebraska. Of these, I’d definitely put Duckworth in charge of the Veterans Administration and probably the Pentagon; she is a retired lieutenant colonel of the US Army. Heitkamp should head the Department of Agriculture, something she did in North Dakota. Stabenow would be an effective Secretary of Commerce, as international trade has been a big issue in Michigan. Missouri’s McCaskill recently made headlines by saying to Republican leadership, “Your Tax Bill is a Fraud,” so for sure, Department of the Treasury. It’s the only Cabinet position that never has been held by a woman. I guess money doesn’t affect us.

• Skipping over to the East, we have Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Kirstein Gillibrand of New York, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, as well as Republicans Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia and Susan Collins of Maine. Capito’s early career was damaged by her father’s scandals as governor; he ended up in prison, but she has gone on to be a moderate who supports abortion rights. Given that and given West Virginia’s ingrained poverty, she’d be good at tackling Health and Human Services in a non-partisan way. The other Republican, Susan Collins, has opposed her party several times, including their attempts to repeal health care, and has been widely respected since her 1996 election. Re the Democrats, it’s a given that Elizabeth Warren has more financial expertise than anyone else in Washington, so I think I’d make her Senate president and accomplish real tax reform. New York’s Gillibrand and New Hampshire’s Hassan and Shaheen can run anything – especially Shaheen, who is the only woman to have been both a US senator and a governor. Hooray for New Hampshire!

Omissions and More Advantages

You’ll notice that there isn’t any paragraph above on women in the Senate from the South. That’s because there aren’t any, even though the very first elected female senator was Hattie Caraway of Arkansas in 1931. In 1998, Arkansas became one of the handful of states that had elected two women, but Democrat Blanche Lincoln Lambert lost her Senate seat to a Republican man in 2010. The same was true of Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, who lost in 2014. North Carolina elected Republican Elizabeth Dole in 2000 and Democrat Kay Hagan in 2008, but currently has none. South Carolina, Virginia, and Mississippi never have had a female US senator, either elected or appointed. Alabama and Georgia had some in the distant past, but they were appointed to brief tenure when a man died. Our Florida elected one only once, Republican Paula Hawkins in 1980. We missed our chance to have a superlative senator with Tampa Democrat Betty Castor in 2004. Instead, Floridians went with Republican Mel Martinez. Do you even remember him? A party puppet, he quickly proved himself a quitter.

Another omission: Speaking of Betty reminded me of her daughter, Representative Kathy Castor, and the fact that there are so many well-qualified women in the US House that I didn’t list them ala the Senate. Kathy would be fine in charge of anything, especially environmental issues. She is akin to most congresswomen in that she didn’t run for personal gain, but rather for good government, and she is knowledgeable on a range of issues. (I do have to add here that her predecessors, Democrats Jim Davis and Sam Gibbons, also were excellent representatives – but, sorry, that doesn’t work with my experiment on “A Decade of Women.”) Kathy’s House leader, Nancy Pelosi, should return to a position of power, and we should be sure that we don’t allow a double standard of ageism. So many of the people who think that Nancy is too old at 77 have no problem with Bernie, who is 76.

On additional advantages, first of all, we can skip the pecking order. These women would just sit down and have a round-table meeting. They would run the government like the League of Women Voters and other such organizations – cooperatively, frugally, and responsibly, with no hidden agendas and no scandals. They would choose officials according to who is willing and able to do what -- not who can win the most brutal race against the other guy. So I don’t know which of these women would be president, but I’d trust them to know each other well enough to determine that. They could emulate the European way of coalition governments, where prime ministers are chosen by those who personally know the candidates, their assets and their liabilities. If we could just make the demonic demagogues, legalistic lawyers, and contemptable consultants go sit in a corner, such women would have things figured out and going forward in a matter of weeks. We could have peace and prosperity. We could shut off the ravers who inhabit our televisions and relax, knowing Mom is behind the wheel. And for those who say this would be unfair to men, what about those many millennia when women were governed solely by men? Let’s turn tables, just for a decade. I highly doubt that we would do worse, and it could be miraculous.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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