Contrary to how we view civil rights in the affirmative action mindset, most people are in one protected class or another. There are civil rights protections for women, children, persons of color, persons of certain ethnicities in different locations (including Italians in New York City) persons with disabilities, persons who are pregnant, persons with predispositions to genetic diseases and illnesses, persons over the age of 39, and persons who are LGBTQers.
The best political line I heard this February was not in House of Cards but in Downton Abbey. Dowager Countess Grantham Maggie Smith said something poignant to the effect that: “Men don’t have rights.” What Julian Fellowes, creator of the series, really meant was that SLAMs and SCAMs — or, in the American context, men between the ages of 18 and 39 — don’t need rights.*
You don’t have (or need) rights if you control the social, economic, and political processes, as the aristocratic class in England did until their Empire’s end.
Even acknowledging the existence of rights puts you in the kind and self-deprecating column, which goes a long way when you want to claim you even understand the need for rights. (That’s code for ahh shucks, SLAMs and SCAMS
realizing they are gonna have to share and can’t bully everyone off the playground.)
All identity politics (including Hillary) is first about power, not rights or duties, let alone obligations (the latter, being cultural, social, economic, political and legal, are more comprehensive than a combination of duties and rights). The group that has the power to make the rules does not need rights.
So any time any group starts belittling rights (e.g. conservative commentary on the Selma march, and about using its 50th anniversary to honor the civil-rights movement by marching), beware. And any time any group starts reversing rights, beware. Reversing rights is simply the conservative way of hitting the less powerful the hardest where they live.
Look what happened to Frank Underwood (FU) when First Lady Claire Underwood stood her ground. House of Cards raised many issues this season that involve women, power, and violence — and the season spoiler is: Who will come out on top?
As is the case with most TV shows, it ends with a strand of three — three women – 1) Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel), FU’s rival for the 2016 Democratic bid; 2) FU gets Rep. Jacqueline Sharp (Molly Parker), who betrayed Claire by backing out of sponsoring legislation against violence against women in the military; and 3) Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan), the call girl FU used to engineer a debased and debauched no-nothing SLAM member of Congress. FU’s fixer and enforcer, season three’s Chief of Staff, Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), obsessed with protecting the religious, demure, repentant-lost-call-girl, finally comes to Chief of Staff senses when she nearly beats him to death. He beats her back, taking his”right”-ful position as FU’s Chief of Staff after not only digging the grave all by himself, but putting the religious and demure Rachel in it personally after she almost tricked him out of it one last time. Will FU do Claire in; or does Claire control the upper hand to do an FU (making Claire a proxy for HC’s humiliation during BC’s impeachment)?
When groups belittle and reverse rights for protected classes — those who did not historically control the entire political process — and/or reverse rights, there can be only one reaction — violence or the threat of violence against women and all protected others.
When the GOP pokes Hillary, along with all the not-so-properly-blue men who retreat from the Democratic party, she should not react. HC has learned what my boys learned on their very first playgrounds — and that’s that you have to stand there and take it, protect your friends and especially your brother, but don’t poke back. Stand your ground.
And of course this means releasing great reports for CSW, the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. Hillary must. But this does not mean that HC is framing herself, does it?
Is HC launching her campaign with Women’s History Month? I doubt it was more than a trial balloon now that she’s faced the full blowback while giving her email speech from the UN podium.
Hillary wouldn’t dare do that officially, any more than Barack Obama relied on Black History Month. Obama has to speak for everyone, which pretty much sums up the main frustration of the Obama presidency.
While women account for 51 percent of the population, there is a much stronger argument. But HC knows better than most the perils of being a “first.”
We are now set up for season four (the finale in February 2016) with three women and one ghost while Downton Abbey devolves turns into a feel-good prime-time PBS soap opera with one Dowager Countess making us feel good about how women have collected their “rights.” Don’t think so. No matter what: On February 27, 2016, the new season of House of Cards will set the tone for Hillary’s run against whatever GOP candidate has emerged by February’s end after Iowa: New Hampshire; Colorado caucuses, Minnesota caucuses; New York; Utah; Nevada caucuses; South Carolina; North Carolina; and Michigan have been decided. Prof. #RuthOBrienGC*
^This is reprinted since the Weasel Zippers deleted it from all sites but one. So, from this I conclude it had “Idea Impact”
Ruth and the dowager countess are correct that if you have privilege (from the Latin for “private law”), you don’t need rights. Custom is stronger than any legislation — until it isn’t. And by the same token, when a privilege decreases or disappears, rights that were created specifically to oppose it should decrease or disappear as well.
To be sure, some privileges don’t go away. People with disabilities, by definition, require accommodation, and they have a right to it (though as my favorite political scientist has pointed out, the best solution is to make “disability rights” universal by recognizing that everyone is a member or potential member of this protected class). Women need more restroom space in public places than men do, and should have it written into the building code; no amount of consciousness raising will change this.
By contrast, consider the Voting Rights Act. When Congress passed it in 1965, the Selma march had taken place just a few months before, and the official ballot symbol of the Alabama Democratic party still contained the slogan “White Supremacy.” Things changed greatly over the next few years, and in the ensuing decades, and now in much of the South, black voter-turnout rates exceed those of whites. Yet the VRA’s burdensome pre-clearance rules and other bureaucratic requirements are still in effect in nine entire states and assorted localities (including New York City) because those places had voting problems back when LBJ was president. And there’s no serious chance that the VRA will be repealed anytime soon: The Democrats won’t let it happen, because that would require admitting that it isn’t 1965 anymore.
And the Republicans? They oppose repeal too, not only because they would be portrayed as racist, but because the VRA effectively mandates the creation of heavily black and Hispanic districts for Congress and state legislatures, to ensure the election of black and Hispanic officials. This isolation of non-GOP voters in a handful of districts works in the Republicans’ favor. The best estimates are that if congressional districts were drawn in a race-neutral fashion, the Democrats would have a dozen more seats.
In other words: If an identity group relies on rights, it will get what the rights require — and nothing more. The best way to eliminate privilege is to make rights universal and apply them equally to all. Editor #FredOBrien**
*House of Cards Season 3 Spoiler alert
**Frederic O’Brien are entirely his own, not reflective of Ruth O’Brien.org CUNY Politics Professor views or those of any campus of The City University of New York(CUNY)