There are some basic things that all politicians can agree on, like protecting women against violence and providing our children with a good education, right? Wrong.
In just the last week we have seen two vivid examples of ‘politics as usual’ at its worst in both Washington and Columbia. The victims were women and children and the perpetrators were mostly Republicans.
Politicians of both parties love to talk. And they do talk on and on, about all the good things they are for — of course they are for good jobs, lower taxes, better schools, cleaner air, safer streets, the list goes on and on. Have you ever heard a politicians say they are against any of these things?
But to clearly understand what they are really all about, you have to look at what they do and not listen to what they say. And it seems that the whole legislative process of setting priorities, writing bills, voting on amendments and such is designed to hide what politicians really do. The system enables them to say they support something while they do just the opposite.
First, Washington and women. Back in 1994, South Carolina’s Senator Ernest Hollings and then Sen. Joe Biden wrote and passed a landmark piece of legislation called the Violence Against Women Act. It did all sorts of good things but essentially it was the most far reaching legislation ever passed to effectively deal with the issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse against women. It is generally agreed that this was good legislation and it has been effective in combatting violence and thus it has been extended by Congress every few years when it came up for renewal. It was simply the right thing to do.
But not this year. Since the bill was originally written in 1994, it has become clear that the legislation needed to be amended by including protection for undocumented immigrants, Native Americans, GLBT victims and abuses of mail order brides from overseas. Yes, abuse of mail order brides has become a huge problem with tens of thousands of women, mostly from Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America, lured to the US with promises of marriage and once they get here they are essentially enslaved, abused and sold into the underground sex trade. It’s awful to even think about, but it’s a real problems and its growing very fast.
Well, the majority of Republicans in the US House of Representatives wanted to strip out these new provisions and the majority of Democrats refused to do along and the result was that the legislation simply expired — the whole law is no longer in force and all the needed services it provided will end.
And what of our South Carolina delegation? Sadly, all the Republicans in both the House and the Senate refused to support the stronger bill — despite the fact that our state ranks 2nd in the nation in the number of women killed by men.
We can’t know what was in the minds and hearts of those who opposed this legislation but if you listen to what they said, it was all political gobbled gook about some ‘technical amendments’ and ‘administrative issues’ with the Immigration Service. But we do know this — the legislation has expired and vital help and protection for hundreds of thousands of threatened and abused women is no longer available.
Another ‘politics as usual’ tactic was on display this week by the Republicans in the state legislature. When they held a big press conference to announce their legislative priorities for the year, they simply left out anything to improve education. They talked about lowering taxes, fixing the cyber-security system and ethics reform but education — nothing. Not one word. (Check out Speaker Bobby Harrell’s full statement on his website.)
They would never in a million years say they opposed fixing our broken education system, it just that this year they have ‘other priorities’ … and our children continue to suffer, condemned to another year in our failing education system.
This is politics as usual; this is how it works. Now Democrats can be just a guilty of this same sort of thing as Republicans, but on these issues, it was the Republicans that did in our women and children with the tactics of politics as usual.
Politicians are great at telling us all the wonderful things they are for — but from Washington to Columbia, the Republican’s double speak and priority setting has had the same results: this week our women and children were left to fend for themselves.
— Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and is President of the South Carolina New Democrats, an independent reform group founded by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform to politics. He can be reached at email@example.com.