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National NOW Times >> Fall 2002 >> Article

The Mourning After: Recovering From the 2002 Elections

by Kim Gandy, NOW President

With Trent Lott running the Senate and George W. Bush in charge of the White House and Supreme Court, the health and welfare of America's and the world's women and families have never been in greater jeopardy. While we have several excellent new supporters of women's rights, many of our candidates went down in a barrage of dirty tricks and smear campaigns run by our opponents.

How could this happen? Still reeling from the tragic deaths of Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., NOW activists worked tirelessly for our endorsed candidates, and NOW/PAC led a top-notch, targeted, get-out-the-vote effort leading up to election day, hoping to keep the progressive spirit alive in honor of these two champions. There's plenty of blame to go around.

Hammering homeland security, Saddam Hussein and the war on terrorism, the Bush Cheney weapon of mass distraction controlled public dialogue for the last few months. Bush's scorched earth campaigning (cynically targeting the very Dems who made his $1.35 trillion tax cut possible) helped ensure Republican control of the Senate. He was helped by Democratic pols who advised candidates to avoid social justice issues and encouraged them to adopt "Bush lite" positions.

Women are bracing for an onslaught of judges and legislation designed to undo many of our hard won gains and we intend to fight.

Roe v. Wade hangs by a single vote. Tipping the balance of the Supreme Court with one more extremist justice would ensure the loss of abortion rights for generations. We know that the stealth legislation disguised as "fetal protection," is really a thinly veiled effort to deprive many more women of their reproductive freedom. And the Senate is primed to confirm a bevy of right wing judges that will make the federal bench look more conservative than a Bush family reunion.

The Bush agenda for 2003 is no secret: further decreases in women's reproductive health options, more reductions in the already limited safety net for the poor, restrictions on civil rights and liberties, Social Security privatization, more power for HMOs and insurers and less for patients and doctors, more lifetime appointments of religious and political extremists to the federal courts, and unfettered corporate influence over regulations that might restrain their greed. Tax cuts that benefit the wealthy will become permanent and programs that help the struggling working families who are the backbone of our nation will be slashed.

So NOW and our hundreds of thousands of advocates will organize, organize, organize cities and towns and communities across the nation. We will work to limit the Republicans' legislative gains in Congress while we campaign for important protections at the state level, such as anti-violence laws and the recent enactment in California of partial wage replacement for family and medical leave.

As the new minority party, Democrats in Congress must abandon their "me tooism" and return to their party's roots, bringing more spirit and commitment to the debate, demonstrating leadership and real boldness on core issues. They must stop listening to the counsel of those who have blunted and stifled their message. They must do no less than engage fully in the battle for our future.

Fighting for our rights will be much harder now, but we bring to it all the passion, determination and courage that these difficult times demand. This country has a deep devotion to the concept of "liberty and justice for all" and we must gather our courage and give our time and resources to that cause.

What creative ideas will capture the imagination and loyalty of the disenchanted? How can government make their lives better and protect their civil rights and individual liberties against the forces of right-wing extremism? Many young people and working families who have benefitted from the women's and civil rights movement see no relevance for themselves in our movement today. It is our job, not theirs, to make the connection—with a revitalized and progressive agenda that resonates with the majority in this country.

This election is a clarion call to everyone who values peace and wants a just and fair society for themselves and their childrenówe must join together with each other and with brave allies to defend fundamental rights and to renew our dream of full equality. We have faced and beaten formidable odds before, and we will do no less now. We must mobilize and organize as if our lives and the futures of our children and families depended on it. They do. And as our numbers double, watch out George Bush—here comes trouble!

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