Are women’s votes the next target in the war on women?

In the ongoing quest for women’s equal rights protections, I’ve come to accept that there are certain topics, particularly abortion, that are always going to be controversial. But occasionally, I’m blindsided by the resurrection of debating topics that I thought had been settled by my mother’s generation—like birth control. Or a topic that I thought had been settled by grandmother’s generation—like women’s suffrage.

You read that right. Women’s suffrage, a woman’s right to vote—a thing wasn’t constitutionally protected until my grandmother was already 9 years old, and old enough to sneak her father’s cigarettes (she had an early gift for mayhem). The elimination of the Nineteenth Amendment, which bans discrimination on voting based on sex, is, in a far off corner of the Right Wing, up for discussion.

Last Friday, on a National Review blog, author Michael Walsh1 wrote, in a response to fellow blogger, Mario Loyola: “Nevertheless, you’re on to something I’ve been advocating for years now. And that is the repeal of all four of the so-called “Progressive Era” amendments, including the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th, which were passed between 1911 and 1920.

The income-tax amendment was a self-evident attack on capitalism and led to the explosive growth of the federal government we currently enjoy today. (Without it, there’d be no need for a Balanced Budget Amendment.) Direct elections of senators has given us, among other wonders, the elevation of John F. Kerry to, now, secretary of state. Prohibition was directly responsible for the rise of organized crime and its unholy alliance with the big-city Democratic machines. And women’s suffrage . . . well, let’s just observe that without it Barack Obama could never have become president. Time for the ladies to take one for the team.

Who’s with me?”

To be fair to Loyola, his original post2 was in regard to the possibility of repealing the Sixteenth Amendment (the one that allows the Federal government to collect income taxes), and used the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition) as the precedent that could be used to repeal the Sixteenth. (It’s worth mentioning that it took creating and ratifying the Twenty-First Amendment to repeal the Eighteenth, so it’s only logical that any future attempts at repealing any other amendments would likely follow that same path.) But anyway, in Loyola’s original post, it looks like he got his amendments mixed up, and was calling for an end to women’s suffrage when he really wants to explore the idea of repealing the Sixteenth Amendment instead of pursuing a Balanced Budget Amendment—and has already issued a correction to the post.

And Walsh decided to have some fun with that at his expense. However, if he’s attempting to make funny about women’s suffrage, he misses the mark, if only because he seems genuinely serious about actually repealing the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments. While I understand the tax argument behind repealing the Sixteenth, I find his choice in attacking the Seventeenth rather odd—the Amendment calls for the direct election of Senators by popular vote, as opposed to the old way of being elected by state legislatures. The reason I find it odd is because if the Seventeenth had never been passed, there’s still no guarantee that John Kerry would never have been a Senator. I mean, the Senate has 100 people—no matter who picks them, you’re not going to love or hate all of them all of the time.

However, I don’t think a genuine discussion matters all that much to Walsh. His contempt for the “Progressive Era” amendments strikes me as a bit of a red herring: his real contempt appears to be for voters.  In his put-down of John Kerry, he seems to believe the people of Massachusetts were morons for electing and reelecting him. And as for Obama—he blames women for giving Obama a second term, when really, he should blame his own party for throwing a generation of women voters away.

In the 2012 election, it did appear that the Republican Party seemed to develop a kind of collective amnesia that the Nineteenth Amendment exists, and that women can vote. There appeared to be no shortage of male (and the occasional female) conservative candidates who would eagerly wax poetic about what women’s bodies are actually intended for (sperm receptacles, right?), justifying their lame attempts at turning women’s health and safety into political foosballs.

GOP female anatomy

I probably would have dismissed Walsh as just another Right Wing blogger in love with the sound of his own hyperbole if it wasn’t for the fact that I stumbled upon another notable righty with his toe in the anti-suffragette pond not that long ago: Sean Hannity. Ok, Hannity has never (to my knowledge) said that he wants to repeal women’s right to vote, or anyone else’s. But there is something a little eyebrow-raising about the company he keeps.

Last year, Hannity had Rev. Jesse Peterson and Daily Beast reporter Kirsten Powers on his show, and this happened:

To give full context of that conversation, what Powers is referring to is a talk that Peterson gave here (specifically the good stuff that starts at about 8:30):

For those of you who sat through Peterson’s entire chat, I commend you on your iron stomachs. And it also means that you noticed that in addition to being a woman-hating asshole, he’s a just a complete moron as well. In relation back to Hannity, I don’t know that he continues to have Peterson on either his TV or radio shows. But Peterson is still listed on Hannity’s site3 as a regular guest, and really, I can’t help wondering why. I know that many of these types of shows have regular guests that the hosts disagree with—Bill Maher has frequently had Ann Coulter on his shows, and Bill O’Reilly has regularly had an assortment of disagreeable sparring partners. But to give voice to someone who wants to repeal a group’s right to vote is just unthinkable to me. I’m glad to see I’m not alone, because the comments on Hannity’s site are mostly against having Hannity ever having Peterson back. (The link is down below in the footnotes.)

What really gets me about this is that I want to believe that Peterson is just an element of the lunatic fringe, and that Walsh is just kidding. But I also used to believe that the anti-birth control crowd was limited to a few religious nutbags, and that separation of church and state would be respected. The Republican Party is currently the party of religious fanatics. So if I’ve developed some paranoia, I think that I, as a woman, have earned it.

My own father defined himself as a Barry Goldwater Republican, and so I’m amazed at how the Party has evolved, particularly on women’s issues: Goldwater and his wife poured their own money into building the largest Planned Parenthood Clinic in Arizona, and now Arizona allows employers to fire employees for taking birth control. So just for that, I’m letting Sen. Goldwater have the final word:




  1. National Review Online Michael Walsh: the 19th Amendment
  2. National Review Online Mario Loyola: Re: Simplify the Balanced Budget Amendment
  3. Guests: Rev. Jesse Peterson

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