There they go again.
Caught in a web of their own making, congressional Republicans were observed pointing fingers at their usual suspects — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and members of “The Squad” — in the wake of the deadly siege of the Capitol building.
Their ploy to shift the blame for the insurrection rings a familiar bell. Pleading with President-Elect Joe Biden to help them “lower the temperature” and save the country from an impeachment spectacle that would, in their words, “politicize” the second impeachment of President Trump, Republicans pivoted to a trope as worn out and familiar as an old pair of shoes: Casting women as history’s troublemakers.
Their narrative unfolds like this: These smart, savvy, and articulate women are a liability. Outspoken and disruptive, they can’t be trusted to be reliable partners in the great experiment of American Democracy.
The sectarian violence gripping our country, and the four years of calamity leading up to it, lie at the feet of the Party of Trump. Instead of looking in the mirror and accepting responsibility for the escalation of the far-right extremism on display since President Trump called on his followers to “Liberate Michigan,” his partisan enablers are deploying their time-worn tactics of equivocation, finger-pointing and false equivalence.
That women and people of color are on the receiving end of their assault is not surprising. But its lack of shock value does not erase the toxicity of the Republican leadership’s tiresome tirades.
Thankfully, the dawn of the Biden-Harris Administration will extract what little air is left in the Republican Party’s tires. The moment President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office, Americans witnessed a seismic shift in national leadership resonant with the values and aspirations held by a majority of Americans.
Words matter. In the political arena, phrases such as “lowering the temperature,” “disruptive,” and “divisive” are not gender or race neutral. San Diegans need only look to former San Diego City Councilmembers — and mayoral candidates — Donna Frye and Barbara Bry, as well as current District 4 Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe to recognize the polarizing labels flung at these intelligent and ambitious women, who summoned the courage to challenge the civic status quo.
The resilience of representative government depends on an informed and engaged electorate. Fine tuning our ears to language that tears down people and ideas is key to identifying and challenging gender and racial stereotypes. Indeed, it’s a foundational step toward opening the halls of political power to the authentic spectrum of American perspectives and life experiences.
Compassion, collaboration, and the capacity to view life beyond the here and now are qualities women bring to the political arena. Fulfilling the promise of Joe Biden’s presidency will depend on elevating the voices of women in this brave new chapter in the story of American Democracy.
A second-generation San Diegan, Molly Bowman-Styles is the president of Windansea Communications.