It was Maine’s Republican Sen. Susan Collins who first challenged her Senate colleagues to seek ways to reopen the government. Her words were supported by Maryland’s Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Alaska’s Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
These women were not acting in a random fashion. The night before, all 20 of the women senators had met for pizza and wine. There the formulation of a plan for jump-starting discussions to lead to re-opening the government and extending the debt ceiling began.
I am so thankful and proud of them and look forward to the day when women are the majority in Congress and in many other places where decisions have to be made that affect the quality of all of our lives. The day has come and nearly passed for the good old boy clubs that cater to special interests and cannot see any reason to be concerned about the common good.
While in days past, Republicans and Democrats with opposing notions about how to get the people’s work done, seemed to be a bit more able to find paths to compromise and problem solving. It appears that some of those skills are quite lacking in the present Washington crowd.
One of the biggest lessons that we learned as young activists in the liberation struggles of the 1960s was that nonnegotiable demands meant that you would end up with nothing. So when you put out a series of demands, it is important to be clear about what you hope to achieve and what you are willing to give up in order to get part of what you want.
It is a rather rare circumstance when everyone gets everything that they want. So those angry white men in Washington who still cannot believe the ground has shifted from the old ways need to wake up. There is an African- American in the White House and 20 women in the Senate who are not afraid of power and are willing to take up the mantle of leadership. How marvelous.
I am so thankful that the president stood his ground and made it clear that the Affordable Care Act is a law and is not going to be held hostage by a group of folks who believe that governing by tantrum is a viable political strategy.
I am quite proud of all of the Republicans who said it was time to admit the battle over the Affordable Care Act had been lost, and that they needed to get on with the business of governing. One has to wonder what truly motivated elected officials who were willing to squander the estimated $24 billion that the shutdown cost and to allow the country to default on its debts in order to have their way.
While we are left with mostly our imaginations in trying to understand these folks, it seems clear their ego investment and the enormous amounts of money that come from folks who support them rule far more than their desire to be public servants. Someone needs to remind these men that they were elected to serve all of the people.
It is refreshing to learn that the women senators have a community and meet regularly with one another. They have an agreement to be supportive and to work together. They know how to be civil. The lack of civility in our country continues to be a matter of great concern to all of us who are willing to think about it. There is simply no reason to sacrifice civility in order to maintain your point of view unless you are filled with a fear that you do not know how to manage.
We cannot live in the house built by fear. We have to find a better way and our women senators know that.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.