TPM Cafe: Opinion

The Ms. Foundation for Women held a star-studded gala last week heralding its 40 years of activism, and celebrating feminist icon Gloria Steinem's 80th birthday. Founded in 1974, the Ms. Foundation has been devoted to eradicating economic inequality for women -- and Steinem in particular been a thought leader in the many ways in which women’s labor is valued less than men’s.

Their work is far from over.

Just one day prior to the gala, the Senate Republicans successfully filibustered Democrats’ attempt to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour. The measure would have phased in over two years, and it would have also raised the tipped minimum wage (currently a meager $2.13 per hour for servers and other tipped professions).

This vote -- and Congress’s overall lack of will to raise wages for U.S. workers -- disproportionately affects women. According to last month’s analysis by National Women’s Law Center, some two-thirds of all minimum wage positions are held by women. In at least four states (Nebraska, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Vermont), more than 70 percent of all minimum wage workers are women. In at least 20 states (including Texas, Oregon, Georgia, and Alabama), 60 percent of all minimum wage workers are women.

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For “Establishment” Republicans, the good news is that their Senate candidate in North Carolina, House Speaker Thom Tillis, won yesterday’s GOP primary without a runoff, easing comfortably past the 40% victory threshold. Fiery “constitutional conservative” Greg Brannon was second with 29% of the vote, and Christian Right candidate Rev. Mark Harris trailing with 16%.

The bad news is that the victor emerges from the contest hard to distinguish from the extremists he defeated.

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There’s still a lot to unpack in the Donald Sterling audio; it’s an amazing accomplishment of racism, sexism, and emotional manipulation. Regardless of how or why someone recorded this conversation or why they leaked it, one must note Sterling’s insistence that his personal assistant V. Stiviano keep her associations with African Americans out of the public eye.

That this comes from Sterling, who owns an NBA team with a predominately African American roster and who employs an African American coach, is ironic in its own way. But the idea that only a certain amount of blackness should be public is not a new concept and is often played out in sports, film, television, and music industries.

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When the anti-government rancher Cliven Bundy stepped before the cameras to “tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he also stepped into far-reaching and noxious American historical myths about self-sufficiency, race, and rugged individualism. Bundy’s actual words - delivered in a Western drawl by a man in cowboy hat and boots, against a backdrop of sagebrush and desert scenery – were mostly the same old “government makes people dependent” arguments that saturate the right-wing blogosphere and FOX News.

But there was something else embedded in Bundy’s observations about "the Negro" that bears mentioning.

Students of the history of the American West have long known that the strong, rugged individualists that populate our movies, TV shows, and myths always depended on government – to give them ownership of their farms and ranches, to subsidize private corporations like railroads for access to markets, for federal troops for protection from Indians, and federally funded dams and canals for irrigating their fields and sustaining their livestock and towns.

The idea that Bundy’s pioneer ancestors somehow made their fortunes (“built that”) without any help, before the invention of government assistance, the Bureau of Land Management or federal regulations, is preposterous.

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On the surface, a business decision by Google doesn’t have much in common with a pending court case involving women’s health. But both involve abortion, and both just might show a way to break out of the morass that the national debate has fallen into. When it comes to abortion, it’s far too easy to let emotion and assumptions take precedence. But here more than ever, it pays to take a step back and give the same respect to the evidence and facts as less sensitive subjects receive.

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As midterm elections grow closer and the battle for Congressional control heats up, the Democratic rallying cry of the Republican “War on Women” will likely continue to play a vital role in the Democrats’ attempt to retain control in the Senate. But Republican women are trying to combat this pervasive catchphrase with their own claim: we’re women and we’re Republicans; therefore there is no Republican War on Women. Unfortunately for them, simply being a woman doesn’t mean that you vote for women.

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Fans of the right to vote got two great pieces of news this week.

In Wisconsin, a federal judge has blocked a voter ID law that Gov. Scott Walker signed into law in 2011.

A few states away in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, the Commonwealth Court issued a new ruling against that state’s voter ID law, confirming an earlier decision that prevented the bill from taking effect.

In both cases, judges based their ruling on one basic fact: laws like these prevent a huge number of people from voting, without solving any real problem.

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A smartphone app could end the voting wars – but only if Republicans are willing to let all adult citizens vote.

Yesterday, a federal judge invalidated Wisconsin’s voter ID law.

While voter ID opponents, myself included, could not be happier, Judge Lynn Adelman’s words will not be the last on the issue. Both sides are gearing up for appeals that could go as high as the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, groups of Republican lawmakers will continue to push voter ID laws in other states, and Democrats and civil rights groups are organizing to resist them.

It does not have to be like this. Ironically, half the solution to the voter ID crisis is already law in Wisconsin. And the other half is sitting in your pocket.

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As we move into the heart of the 2014 election cycle, it’s not surprising that many Republican observers are predicting a 2010-style “negative referendum” on Barack Obama’s presidency in general and on Obamacare in particular, augering very well for Republican chances of a power-consolidating “trifecta” in 2016.

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When I think of the world’s worst boss, I think of Bobby in the movie Horrible Bosses, portrayed brilliantly by the actor Colin Farrell. Bobby is a business owner, and in his first major scene, dialogue between him and one of his company’s managers (played by the actor Jason Sudeikis) goes like this:

Bobby: "Oh yeah, we've got to trim some of the fat around here."

Kurt: "What do you mean by trim the fat?"

Bobby: "I want you to fire the fat people."

Kurt: "What?!"

Bobby: "They're lazy and they're slow and they make me sad to look at."

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