by Admin Jen
Well, the House finally found a way to vote on, and pass, the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act. It was the most convoluted, face-saving way possible, but they did it. And as it turns out, most of our representatives don’t like domestic violence. Pop the champagne, people. The House has managed to sit down together and get enough of its members to agree that wife-beating is bad that they could pass something about it. I realize this is a low bar, but we have to start somewhere and if we are really going to entertain fantasies of bi-partisanship or progress in this relentlessly, depressingly divided country, it’s a satisfying enough place to begin.
I’m not kidding. The significance of VAWA’s passage can’t be underplayed. It gives a glimmer of hope that we might see a more reasonable Republican party in the future. As I’ve said elsewhere on this page, I would love to be having a spirited conversation with my conservative brethren and sistren about the role and size of government, the best way to spur economic growth, foreign policy, just about anything else than whether domestic violence should be treated as the serious crime that it is. This really is a big damn deal.
Why do I say this? Well, if you recall, the bill that originally sailed past the Senate last year contained expanded protections for underserved, hard-to-reach groups; namely Native Americans on reservations, illegal immigrants, and LGBT victims. And the bills that were coming out of the House committees were conspicuously missing these expansions. Multiple Republican House members said the expansions in the Senate bill made it “impossible” for them to vote for it, because of gay immigrant cooties or something. America had the distinct impression that the House Republicans felt that immigrants, gays, and tribal women weren’t really women. That they didn’t deserve the same protections as “regular” women. By resoundingly passing the Senate’s bill, it gives the lie to all of that. It codifies a simple recognition of the humanity of these groups. A significant number of Republicans, in voting for this act, voted in favor of the notion that these groups are people too, and that their shared humanity matters. It’s an encouraging thought.
Now, virtually all of the “no” votes were still Republicans… But there were lots who voted “yes”, including my own Pennsylvania congressman, Mike Fitzpatrick, a mushy moderate in a purple district who is nonetheless a Tea Party darling. The partisan in me sometimes sits back and laughs when the rhetoric from that side of the aisle grows too sick, too sad, too hateful and misogynistic, because it clearly hurts them with women voters and, you know… decent people. The evil voice in my head (who sounds suspiciously like Kathy Bates in “Primary Colors”) says, “Go ahead, guys, keep giving yourself that rope, you saw how well it worked out for Richard Mourdock.” But the truth is, I don’t want to live in that world. I want to live in a world where the opposition is sane. Where we really do share the same desire for the same ends, and the wrangling comes in trying to achieve them. Where we can agree that all people are worthy of love and respect, deserving to live in a world that is as sane and safe as our loony species can manage. (Again, a low bar, perhaps, but we can still try to raise it.) I count a few conservatives among my friends, and they’re good people. I promise you, they don’t sit around on their rooftops wearing hoods and taking potshots at their gay neighbors with a .22. They aren’t Minute Men. They really don’t deserve to be stuck with the reputation made by the louder, angrier, more reactionary cousins in their extended partisan family. This vote brings the country one step closer to internalizing that truth.
Now, it’s not clear whether this seemingly sudden turnaround was politically motivated, motivated out of simple human decency, or some combination of the two. It’s possible that the support for the Senate version had been there all along and the gamesmanship revolved around something else entirely. Be assured, we’ll be researching the matter more, if only to satisfy our own curiosity as to what changed and when, and we’ll share everything we learn. But there are two reasons to feel a glimmer of hope for the future. One, because, after months of our own campaigning and encouraging you all to call and write your representatives, we finally have a Violence Against Women Act that reaches that many more women.
And two, because it might, just maybe, represent a tiny step in the direction of sanity for us as a people.
A girl can dream for just a minute. Now give me the damn champers.