Perspectives that bring change

Politics has always been contentious. People differ. Beliefs differ. But the orderly process of democracy deserves support that supercedes politics.

Gary Cameron/Reuters/File
The total number of women in the US House of Representatives (shown) and Senate passed 100 in late 2014.

The year 1920 was in many ways similar to this year.

Americans drove cars, chatted on the phone, tuned their radios, and followed the twists and turns of baseball, football, and that year’s presidential race. They worried about terrorism (anarchists were setting off bombs, including a huge one that devastated Wall Street); racism (the KKK was at its murderous height); immigration (the influx of Southern and Central Europeans concerned many Anglo-Saxon Protestants); and international peace (no one wanted another war like the one that had just ended). 

One other thing about 1920: That was the year that all American women won the right to vote. It is sometimes hard to believe that the 19th Amendment is only 96 years old. There are people living today – maybe in your family – who were born before women could vote.

Today, 20 US senators, 84 members of the House, 3 justices on the Supreme Court, and about one-quarter of state legislators are women. The prime ministers of Britain and Bangladesh, the chancellor of Germany, and the presidents of South Korea, Chile, Liberia, and Croatia are women. And it is possible that the United States could inaugurate its first female president next year. Granted, the percentage of women holding elected office is still small, but the effect they are having on politics is noteworthy.

The different perspectives women bring to public life and their different styles of negotiation and collaboration are changing how business is done in Washington and other capitals.

I’ll stop there. Instead of my mansplaining what the rise of women in public life means, I’ll just urge you to read (click here) Linda Feldmann’s excellent cover story.

* * *
Democracy is a restless idea. It forces those who want it for themselves to accept it for others. That can be especially painful if you don’t agree with the politicians or policies that prevail on Election Day.

One of the most extraordinary moments in the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was when the candidates were asked if they would accept the outcome of the Nov. 8 election. The question should never have to be asked. The answer should always be a given. But both campaigns have raised doubts about the integrity of the ballot, whether via alleged voter fraud or alleged Russian cyber-meddling. And both sides have so denigrated the other that many partisans cannot imagine any outcome other than total victory.

It’s worth remembering that at the end of the most contentious and extended presidential election race in modern history – the Supreme Court-decided drama between Al Gore and George W. Bush – Mr. Gore graciously accepted the outcome. “While we yet hold and do not yield our opposing beliefs,” he said in his concession speech, “there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party.”

Embracing that higher duty isn’t just an act of generosity. It allows us to set aside politics and partisanship, at least for a season. Sixteen days after votes are cast is a day at least as important as Election Day: Thanksgiving.

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