Amid the sudden uproar over sexual assaults in the military following a Pentagon report Tuesday that 26,000 members of the military were assaulted last year, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, released portions of a Facebook page, “F’N Wook,” denigrating women in the Marine Corps.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Marine Corps Commandant James Amos and deputy inspector general Lynne Halbrooks, Speier said she is confident that “you would also be horrified by the culture of misogyny and sexual harrassment depicted on the website.”
A whistleblower called the page to Speier’s attention Tuesday.
Speier has been working for two years, with no results, to call attention to military rapes. She has done 25 speeches on the topic on the House floor. She has introduced three pieces of legislation to address the issue, but the House Armed Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County) has refused to hold a hearing.
Speier said there are many similar pages such as “Just the Tip, of the Spear,” “U Suckers Missed Christmas -USMC,” and “POG Boot F..ks.”
The “F’N Wook” page and others like it “promote the idea that women are inferior and only useful as sexual objects and sandwich makers,” Speier said in her letter.
“There are too many examples to recount them all here, but a few of the attached pictures and memes should give you an indication of the tone of the site,” Speier wrote. “You’ll find pictures captioned, ‘This is my rape face;’ ‘She burned my bacon only once,’ above a woman with a black eye; ‘I can bang even when I’m not on my back!’ for a picture of a woman holding a gun….”
Speier asked for a review of the pages and demanded “planned actions or responses” by May 31.
These are the bills Speier has introduced according to her office:
The STOP Act (HR 1593) will take all cases of rape and sexual assault outside of the chain of command by creating an independent office within the military to handle the reporting, investigation, and prosecution of these crimes. The bipartisan bill has 122 cosponors.
The Military Judicial Reform Act (HR 1079) is a bipartisan bill that will strip commanders of the authority to overturn convictions or lessen sentences handed down by judge or jury at a military court martial.
The Protect Our Military Trainees Act (HR 430) is a bipartisan bill that requires the military justice system to acknowledge the power imbalance between trainer and trainee and strictly penalizes any instructor who engages in sexual acts with a trainee during the time of instruction and for 30 days afterward.
EMILY’s List 2013 Inauguration Brunch (EMILY’s List photo)
Before President Barack Obama was officially sworn in for his second term as President of the United States of America, a group of pro-choice women who had worked for his re-election gathered for the EMILY’s List 2013 Inaugural Brunch.
The activists enjoyed their 2012 victories: having re-elected a Democratic president, having elected a Senate with twenty women, 16 new pro-choice Democratic women in Congress, the first open gay senator, the first Asian-American woman senator and the first two congresswomen who have served in combat.
“This is what history looks like,” EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock said.
But that’s not enough, she added.
“We have fought so hard. We have so much. We have come so far. And I am so proud — not just as the president of EMILY’s List, but as a woman, and as an American. Now, make no mistake: We’re not done,” Schriock said just moments later.
Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Schriock issued a rallying cry to women across the nation for 2014 and 2016.
The message was clear: This is our time.
That means the speaker’s gavel back in Pelosi’s hands in two years — and a woman as president in 2016.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaking at EMILY’s List 2013 Presidential Inauguration brunch on Sunday Jan. 21, 2013. (EMILY’s List photo)
According to Pelosi, the only reason that she – a woman – was able to rise to the leadership position is because there were multiple women now serving in Congress.
“Well, reason we are successful is we are not just asking women for their vote, we are asking them to serve. We are asking them to give women a seat at the table,” she said.
Pelosi urged women lawmakers to take control of the full congressional agenda, saying “every issue is our issue,” including economy, national security and immigration.
“We have 2014 coming up next, and we hope to elect many more women to the Congress,” Pelosi said. As far as female candidates are concerned, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” insisted the California Democrat.
“We are ready to take the next step, ready to be the springboard for the next generation of Democratic women leaders, ready to elect more Democratic governors in 2014, ready to help Nancy Pelosi get her gavel back,” Schriock said in her keynote speech.
While Pelosi kept focus on 2014 and reclaiming of the majority, at the core of the event was the desire to see viable female candidate in the 2016 presidential election.
EMILY’s List premiered a new video featuring newly elected and re-elected female lawmakers. They joined in a common cause, and delivered the messaged about 2016 that Schriock hopes women across the nation will heed:
“Now is the time.
“The voters in U.S. are ready.
“Oh yeah, we are ready.
“For a woman president.
“It’s time for a female president.
“It’s about time.”
Though they weren’t able to pick up the 25 seats necessary for a majority in the House, Democratic leaders are touting the incoming class of freshman Congressman, particularly for its diversity.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.., and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel, D-N.Y., introduced the newly elected lawmakers this week on Capitol Hill.
“These new members reflect the priorities and diversity and the values of the districts that elected them,” Israel said. “The Republican Caucus, if you look at it, it looks like a re-run of the show ‘Mad Men.’ Our caucus looks like America.”
The DCCC estimates there will be 200 members in the Democratic caucus at the beginning of the 113th Congress, that number includes five Democratic candidates that are leading in races that are yet to be called.
Among those 200 members, Pelosi said there will be 61 women, 43 blacks, 11 Asians/Pacific Islanders and six gay members, marking the first time straight white males will make up a minority of either party’s caucus.
The diversity is highlighted by a Democratic freshman class that is comprised of one-third women and boasts eight Latinos, four blacks, three Asian Americans, one Indian American and the first Hindu ever elected to Congress. It also has the first gay person of color to serve in Congress.
The Republican caucus has a 36 confirmed freshmen with three more candidates in races they deem too close to call. All 36 are white and just three are women.
According to an email from the National Republican Congressional Committee, the GOP still considers the Arizona District 9 race to be in contention, which leaves them one chance of adding a minority representative: Vernon Parker, a black councilman and former mayor of Paradise Valley, Ariz.
Most news sources tracking the elections have called the Arizona District 9 race for Parker’s opponent, Krysten Sinema. Republicans trail by a few hundred votes in the other two tight races.
Texas reflects the diversity disparity between the two parties.
Among the eight first-time congressmen headed to Washington via the Lone Star State, the five Democrats consist of one white, one black and three Latinos while the three Republicans are all white. All eight are men.
Pelosi said the Democratic House caucus was a “picture of America” and she expects the incoming members to accurately reflect the diverse ideologies of their constituents.
Israel said the diverse members of his party represent the beginning of the end of far-right Republicans dominating the House.
“With these new members the Tea Party starts to roll back and the progress starts to move forward,” he said.
The tea party was in finger-pointing mode Wednesday, and the digits weren’t aimed at President Barack Obama.
Tea partiers placed the blame of the “epic election failure of 2012″ squarely on Mitt Romney and the Republican establishment during a press conference at the National Press Club.
“What we got was a weak, moderate candidate hand-picked by the Beltway elites and country club establishment wing of the Republican Party,” Tea Party Patriots national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin said. ”The presidential loss is unequivocally on them.”
Romney’s flaws? The list went on and on. Martin said that if candidates don’t start playing the game Constitution-style, it won’t be pretty for the GOP.
Martin and representatives from the Susan B. Anthony List, Americans for Tax Reform and The Paul Revere Project, among others, warned future Republican presidential and congressional hopefuls will be doomed if they don’t stick to traditional conservative values and small-government ideals.
Even if the former Massachusetts governor was conservative enough for tea partiers, his Etch-a-Sketch moves to appease both the religious right in the primary and independents in the general election ultimately cost him the presidency, speakers said.
But congressional candidates backed by the party didn’t enjoy the wave of success that gave the movement momentum in 2010.
Newly elected Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was the tea party poster child. He emerged victorious from the primary and glided to an easy win Tuesday.
Iowa Rep. Steve King also was reelected for his sixth term, but there’s where the good news ended.
Failed presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., barely scraped 51 percent of the vote for a victory against Democrat Jim Graves.
And several other candidates with Tea Party support were defeated..
Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock both lost Senate seats they had been favored to win before their comments on rape garnered national criticism. Reps. Joe Walsh, R-Ill.; Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.; and Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-Texas, all lost their House seats. So did Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., who was trying to step up to the Senate. Allen West, R-Fla., is trailing in his House district but refuses to concede and called for a recount.
“The tea party’s flag drooped pretty severely in Senate contests around the country — everywhere except Texas,” Rice University political scientist Paul Brace said. “The question is whether Cruz still finds it useful to carry the tea party banner as he moves forward.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List — a political action committee dedicated to electing pro-life women to Congress — vowed to spend more time coaching candidates on sensitivity and message before giving them official endorsement. They’re not changing their views to appeal to minorities, but they do plan to listen more to what is important to groups like Latinos and African Americans to find common ground on social issues, Media Research Center President Brent Bozell said.
And they insist, despite the rough start, that someday the tea party will be the savior of the GOP.
“The battle to take over the Republican Party begins today,” ConservativeHQ.com chairman Richard Viguerie said. “Mitt Romney’s loss was the death rattle of the establishment of the Republican Party.”
Fiona Ma was termed out, reducing the number of women in the Assembly by one. (Susana Bates/Special to the Chronicle)
In January, Washington will welcome a record number of women to Congress exceeding the storied Year of the Woman of 1992 when five women were elected to join two other women serving on Capitol Hill. The opportunity to elect female legislators arrives every 10 years with redistricting when new seats open up. A record 20 women (17 Democrats and 3 Republicans) will serve in the Senate, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. At least 76 women (56 Democrats and 20 Republicans) will serve in the House. Three more seats are still undecided.
But the story is less rosy in state legislatures, suggesting it will take more work to keep female candidates heading toward the halls of Congress in years to come. Nationwide, women gained 1 percent of the seats in state legislatures in this election. “We would have liked to have seen more,” said Anne Moses, founder of the Oakland-based IGNITE. “There needs to be a sustained effort at the state level. We’ve got to build a pipeline of women behind them.” IGNITE, which also has offices in Texas, is a nonpartisan organization that seeks to close the gap in electoral politics by building political ambition in young women.
There are some notable successes, such as New Hampshire, where no-nonsense New England voters elected an all-female congressional delegation and a female governor. The state had already notched a place in history as the first state to have a female majority in its state Senate.
California, however, has backslid. Women represent 28 percent of the Legislature now but come January the percentage will be 25.8 percent. The Assembly lost one seat held by a woman (Democrat Fiona Ma pictured above) and the state Senate lost two, leaving 21 women in the Assembly and 10 in the Senate.
Despite the need to have women’s voices in our democratic processes, it remains difficult to get women to run for office. The reasons? They feel too encumbered by family roles; they don’t get recruited as often as men and women feel less qualified when they are objectively more qualified. “We encourage the women who come to IGNITE for training to examine those feelings — and get over them,” Moses said.
Why is gender parity in elected office important? Two reasons: process and policy. Women are more productive, that is, they will work together and compromise to get stuff done. They take up issues of concern to everyone but typically ignored by male legislators, for example, equal pay, reproductive rights, immigration. “If we can get to a tipping point of equal representation of women in all of our elected bodies, then we have a different kind of conversation,” Moses explained.
Moses’ program, IGNITE, works with high school and college students to give them the know-how, confidence and goal-setting skills to encourage them to run for office while they are still young. “We say — start moving now, don’t wait until you are 38. Get involved with your community, build your network, be explicit about your goals.”
Her 3-year-old program has some young women who are positioning themselves for elective office and some who are discovering they have a stake and a voice in civic activities, even if they never enter politics. One of her high school students started following the campaign around Proposition 30, the California governor’s successful bid to raise more revenues for the state’s programs. “She Tweeted about it,” Moses said. “She’s following the process. That’s an enormous success, and she is just one of many.”
Interested in IGNITE’s programs to build political ambition in your women? Contact Moses at igniteca.org
As Kathryn Schulz, a book reviewer for New York Magazine, tweeted: “Elected to the Senate today: the first disabled woman, first openly lesbian woman, first Asian woman. Binder full of (bleeping) awesome.”
Think back to early September, right after the political conventions. Republicans believed they had a shot at taking the Senate from the Democrats.
Then, Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Akin — thought to be up against an easy target in incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill — introduced mainstream America to the concept of “forcible rape.”
Akin lost. By a lot.
Last month, Republican Richard Mourdock of Indiana– a Tea Partier running for the Senate in a pretty red state who had defeated longtime GOP Sen. Richard Lugar in the primary — introduced mainstream America to the concept of God and “intended” rape. He lost.
Republicans didn’t benefit from the night of historic gains for women. Warren bumped off incumbent GOP Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin will become the first openly lesbian senator after defeating former four-term Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson to fill an open seat from the Badger State.
In Illinois, Democrat Tammy Duckworth became the first disabled woman to be elected to the House when she defeated Tea Party fave freshman Rep. Joe Walsh, who said he opposed abortion even when the life of the mother was at stake.
A demographic tidal wave helped President Barack Obama win a tight but decisive re-election victory Tuesday with record-breaking support from Hispanic voters, massive turnout from African-Americans and continuing enthusiasm from young Americans.
Although Republican nominee Mitt Romney won a larger share of the white vote than any presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan scored a landslide re-election in 1984, the former Massachusetts governor ended up a loser at the polls because of the racial, ethnic and generational changes that have altered the U.S. electoral landscape.
“We are an American family and we rise and fall together as one nation and one people,” Obama said in a victory speech that sought common ground with the Republican he defeated and unity for a deeply divided nation. “These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty.”
With more than 85 percent of the votes counted nationwide early Wednesday morning, Obama led Romney by 50 percent to 49 percent in the popular vote. But Obama already had won enough states to clinch the 270 electoral votes needed to secure re-election.
In a gracious concession speech delivered, a subdued Romney called on disappointed Republicans to “earnestly pray” for Obama to succeed.
“This is a time of great challenge for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation,” the GOP nominee told a quiet crowd in Boston.
Obama’s challenges include tackling a stubbornly high unemployment rate, a slow-growth recovery, record-breaking federal deficits and a burgeoning national debt. He also will preside over implementation of the controversial health-reform law approved by Congress in 2010 and due to take effect fully in 2014.
“While our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come,” Obama told supporters in his hometown of Chicago.
To succeed, Obama will need to break through partisan polarization that was reflected Tuesday at the polls. The president received the support of 92 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of liberals, while Romney was backed by 94 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of conservatives.
Romney ran up large majorities in heavily Republican states, but the GOP nominee couldn’t dent Obama’s Midwestern firewall and fell short in other targeted states across the nation, including Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Nevada and New Hampshire.
Obama’s electoral vote landslide is a reflection of the changing face of America. The portion of nonwhite voters in the electorate has tripled over the last four decades to 28 percent on Tuesday. The Democratic incumbent led among African Americans by 93 percent to 7 percent – the best performance by a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Heavy African American turnout in Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Richmond and Miami changed the dynamic in five battleground states. In key swing states, Romney received just 1 percent of the African American vote in Florida and 3 percent in Ohio and Virginia.
Meanwhile, Latino voters, energized by tough Republican rhetoric on immigration, voted Democratic by 69 percent to 30 percent, tipping the balance of power in a string of states including Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado.
“Gov. Romney’s shift to the right on the issue of immigration during the GOP primary season made it impossible for him to equal the number of Latino votes that George W. Bush received in 2000 and 2004,” said Aaron Kall, director of debate at the University of Michigan. “Efforts by numerous states to curtail early voting and require photo identification seem to have motivated these groups to record turnout numbers.”
In addition to minority voters, Obama’s majority-making coalition included young voters, highly educated citizens and women.
For the first time in American history, Latinos made up 10 percent of the electorate, up from 9 percent in 2008. The overwhelming Hispanic support – and strong turnout — helped Obama win New Mexico and Iowa, and kept the race close in states such as Florida, Colorado and Virginia.
In contrast to Obama’s rainbow coalition, Romney’s core supporters were older, evangelical and white. Among white voters, the Republican nominee topped Obama by 20 points, 59 percent to 39 percent. Romney scored particularly well among older white men, white women who have not completed college and rural white males.
“We’re seeing a Republican party whose support base continues to shrink,” said Mark P. Jones, chairman of political science department at Rice University. “The GOP is going to have to address that support over the next few years, particularly as they approach the next presidential election.”
Considering the deep divisions in the electorate, 2012 could easily be called “the year of the gap.”
There was the gender gap. Women favored Obama, 55 percent to 44 percent, while men chose Romney by 52 percent to 45 percent. Mothers were more likely to support Obama (56 percent to 43 percent), while fathers sided with Romney (53 percent to 45 percent).
“Democrats effectively made the case that issues important to women, not just issues like abortion and reproductive rights but economic issues of equal pay and access to jobs, those issues resonated with women,” said Ron Schurin, a political scientist at the University of Connecticut. “The Romney campaign seemed at times to be tone deaf on those issues. They tried to make a case, they just didn’t do it effectively.”
In addition to the gender gap, there was a yawning generation gap. Voters under the age of 30 were strongly pro-Obama, 59 percent to 37 percent, while voters 65 and older favored Romney by 57 percent to 43 percent.
Angry Republican conservatives say they the only way to rebuild a majority is to purge the party of its old-fashioned pragmatists like Romney.
“Tomorrow morning we launch the battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party between small government constitutionalists and Tea Party types, and those like George Bush and Karl Rove who want to expand government,” veteran conservative activist Richard A. Viguerie, chairman of ConservativeHQ.com.
Summer Ballentine of the Hearst Washington bureau contributed to this report.