Then the Women Spoke, and the Tide Turned

The dust is still settling from the 6 November midterm elections in the United States, but one thing is clear: It was women — especially women of color — who made the difference in this election. And not only that: Women, as a bloc, asserted themselves as the primary force of resistance against FPOTUS (Fake President of the United States) Donald Trump and his neo-fascist political agenda. And just in time, too.

I predicted in my last blog posting that we might see a tidal wave of women’s voices in this election. It turned out not to be the tidal wave of change that many of us were hoping for; unfortunately, the Democratic Party (once again) did not shake up the political terrain enough for such a wave to gather force and roll ashore. But it was most certainly a turning of the tide, putting the Republican Party on the defensive and giving voice to more and more women in the political process, from voting at the booths to delivering as donors to organizing campaigns to occupying a record number of House congressional seats in Washington DC.

“In a sense, Republicans had been evacuated to high ground, away from the beach,” the New York Times noted in this post-election piece. Yes, indeed. With the rising tide of a browner, more diverse face of Congress nipping at its privileged, pudgy little white-male toes, the Republican Party establishment was forced to move to safety up the hill to where most of its political base resides. And they won’t be coming back down to the beachside anytime soon.

Breaking barriers of age, gender, race and even religion, voters put into place a number of firsts: Democrat Sharice Davids of Kansas and Democrat Deb Haaland of New Mexico were the first Native American women elected to Congress; they are headed to the House. Democrats Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota become the first Muslim women elected to Congress, and they too will be going to the House. Connecticut and Massachusetts will send African American women to Congress as firsts for their states, while Tennessee and Arizona will receive their first female senators.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Puerto Rican American, defeated a male Republican challenger in the race for a congressional district in New York. Ocasio-Cortez, at age 29, becomes the youngest women ever elected to the U.S. Congress. And on and on the electoral victories went.

When the troubled times called for it, women stood up in this election in record numbers and spoke out loud and clear for the world to hear. American males? Nah, forget it. They didn’t have the balls to stand and deliver this time. Especially not men in the Democratic Party, which long ago ceased to be anything of an opposition force in U.S. politics. This election saved the soul of the Democratic Party in the U.S., placing women on the frontlines of the American resistance now.

I remember well how the same kind of thing happened here in Japan 28 years ago, back in 1990, when women voters and candidates spoke up and made all the difference, temporarily dethroning Japan’s right-wing ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party (a misnomer if there ever was one), due in large part to the popularity of then-Japan Socialist Party member Takako Doi. “The mountain has moved,” Doi famously said in describing the political power shift at the time. You can read my in-depth interview here with the late Ms. Doi, and a follow-up interview here some years later. It was my great honor to have known her; she stills stands as one my all-time heroes.

Now in 2018, with a much more feminized U.S. Congress in place, the real work lies ahead. Will the House investigate FPOTUS Trump and start the process of impeachment, as many of us are calling for? Nothing would give many people greater pleasure than to see this unrepentant crook of a U.S. president being led away in handcuffs and clad in an orange prison jumpsuit. But things will not be that easy.

Still, we can rest a bit easier knowing that women in Washington DC will stand up and resist when times get tough. That’s more than we can say for males across the political spectrum, both conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat, who have let Trump get away with far too much bad stuff since he has taken office two years ago.

Has it really been that short of a time? It feels more like two decades since the fuzzy-haired Muskrat-in-Chief crawled into the U.S. president’s chair in the White House and began gnawing away at the constitutional foundations of the USA and the nation’s standing in the world. And we have this reminder constantly in front of us: The next U.S. presidential election is coming in two more years. Much work still needs to be done.

As it turned out, the day after the recent U.S. elections, I went with my son to see U.S. filmmaker Michael Moore’s latest documentary movie, Fahrenheit 119, which is now showing at Japanese movie theaters. It was somewhat of a surreal experience, like watching horror and reality blend into one. I was only partly reassured that the day before, in the actual U.S. election, some very positive results were achieved. As Moore’s movie points out, though, there are some highly negative forces at play in the U.S. political process. We would be wise not to believe that Trump will just grow up someday soon and go back to New York to play with his Lego collection, and leave the world alone.

It will take constant vigilance and political backbone, such as women have shown in this recent election, to make sure we set things right in the coming years. The sisters are on the case, and we all need to continue to do our part, across the social spectrum, to make sure they are listened to, supported and empowered, whoever they are, and wherever and whenever they stand and speak truth to reactionary power. The times, we can be sure, will demand nothing less of us.

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