New Congress Resolutions for 2013

On January 3, the 113th U.S. Congress sat for the first time. Their predecessors in the 112th Congress left some great big clown shoes to fill: Our least productive Congress on record, 112 failed at bipartisan consensus, failed to pass a budget, and briefly failed to keep the lights on at all. In the last month of 2012 alone, Congress managed to not provide relief for Hurricane Sandy, not reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and not even show up to discuss the “fiscal cliff” until the last moment. The 112th was, according to one poll, less popular than root canals, Brussels sprouts, and head lice.

So, New Congress, while you have been given a lovely fallback for “at least we weren’t as bad as 112,” don’t think you can get away with that. Horse turds may be less unpleasant than cow turds, but they remain turds. In the interest of making your Congressional year as un-turd-like as possible, I’ve laid out a few new year’s resolutions for you.

1. Resolve to stop saying “rape.” Not entirely, of course. This isn’t to say that Congress shouldn’t discuss rape at all. Just stop talking about it the way you talked about it throughout 2012. See, to you, “rape” is just a base-level qualifier for a woman to deserve to get an abortion. (This is followed by such requirements as “was a virgin beforehand,” “fought and said no,” and “will feel so ashamed about getting an abortion that she won’t go through with it anyway.”) To us, “rape” is a real and traumatic thing that is done to real people, enabled by (among other things) a culture that denies uterus-having people agency over their own bodies, disparages women who aren’t “sexy enough” while simultaneously vilifying them as temptresses in turtlenecks, and excuses men who “just couldn’t help themselves.” (“Easy to rape,” y’all.) Until you’ve managed to research, process, and understand this semantic gulf, don’t consider yourself sufficiently informed to comment intelligently on the subject.

Action item: The next time you find yourself about to say the word “rape,” take a deep breath and hold it for ten seconds while you think about what you’re saying. If, afterward, it still makes sense, go ahead and say it, but be prepared to find out you’re actually a complete idiot anyway.

2. Come to that, resolve to just stop talking about things you know nothing about. Again, not entirely, but if it isn’t your area of expertise, try to spend twice as much time listening and asking questions as you do talking. As my imaginary boyfriend Neil Degrasse Tyson said, “Boy, I wonder what profession all of these senators and congressmen have? Law, law, law, law, businessman, law, law. And I said, you know, where are the scientists? Where are the engineers? Where’s the rest of life represented here?” Of the 2012 House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s 37 sitting members, 14 were lawyers, and only eight had any background at all in science or technology — including physician Paul Broun, a young-earth creationist who this year famously announced that embryology, evolution, and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of Hell.” (In the 2012 election, his district provided more than 4,000 write-in votes for Charles Darwin.)

The 2011 debates about SOPA/PIPA and the 2012 debates about access to birth control both underscored the extent to which Congress didn’t bother to seek out subject-matter experts and didn’t listen to the experts they sought out. The Fightin’ 112th closed out 2012 with a “series of tubes”-level knowledge of basic human reproduction (not to mention human decency). Don’t do that. Do better than that.

Action item: Make it your goal to spend two hours chewing gum with your mouth closed for every hour you actually speak while in session. If necessary, keep a chart.

3. Resolve to go into every debate understanding how much of your constituency doesn’t look like you. A common refrain on the Republican side after November’s election is that if it weren’t for POC and women of all races, Obama never would have run. This is true. Had the election been left up to white guys, Mitt Romney would have won in a landslide. But it turns out that white guys accounted for 34 percent of the electorate in the 2012 elections, and thus Romney found himself defeated due to what we colloquially call “citizens” or “voters,” also known as “constituents.” (On the flip side, you 101 female congresspeople just sworn in can enjoy the fact that 51 percent of your constituency is rather like you, so you can understand that you are so vastly disproportionately underrepresented that you’re going to have to bleed your blood to get worthwhile legislation passed on their behalf. Congrats and good luck!)

Basically: Sorry, the 67 percent of Congress made up of white guys; you’re not alone out there. Now, do I realistically expect you to actually do anything with this knowledge? Of course not. I’m not that naive. I’m just hoping that if you really internalize the demographics of your constituency and yet continue to legislate the way you have for the past decade, the cognitive dissonance will make your anterior cingulate cortex swell up and kersplat like a tomato in the sun.

Action item: Have your assistant’s assistant print out a demographic profile of your district using colorful charts and pretty illustrations and tape it to your bathroom mirror. As you’re brushing your teeth in the morning, spend those two minutes saying to yourself, “Even non-conservative-white-guys deserve true representation in government,” and you 359 white guys should follow up with, “and I’m a total shit if I try to pretend otherwise.”

4. Resolve to brush for two minutes every morning and night. It’s just a good idea.

Action item: Have your assistant’s assistant’s assistant get you one of those electric toothbrushes that play music.

What other items need to make it on Congress’s list of new year’s resolutions for 2013?


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This entry was posted in Gender, Politics, Race & Ethnicity, Rape Culture, Reproductive Rights and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to New Congress Resolutions for 2013

  1. (In the 2012 election, his district provided more than 4,000 write-in votes for Charles Darwin.)

    *giggling helplessly*

  2. FashionablyEvil says:

    Action item: The next time you find yourself about to say the word “rape,” take a deep breath and hold it for ten seconds while you think about what you’re saying. If, afterward, it still makes sense, go ahead and say it, but be prepared to find out you’re actually a complete idiot anyway.

    I think this should be revised to, “take a deep breath, hold it until you turn blue in the face, pass out, forget what you were going to say entirely, and then go back to muttering about bridges to nowhere.”

    • Nancy Green says:

      While it’s painful and harmful for conservative politicians to slander women this way, it may be more harmful when they are slick enough to hide their real views behind vague language and code words while voting to dismantle women’s rights. We can thank Todd Akin’s TMI for one less Republican in Congress.

      • yes says:

        Yeah, definitely agree with this. I love when republican politicians talk about rape almost as much as I hate hearing them talk about it.

  3. EG says:

    Make it your goal to spend two hours chewing gum with your mouth closed for every hour you actually speak while in session. If necessary, keep a chart.

    Excellent advice for all politicians.

    • Radiant Sophia says:

      Seriously? Un-believe-able.

      • Carl says:

        This comes right before some anti-choice courses designed to teach these experts to stop speaking their mind in public. These groups always ask for their party to push for increasingly dangerous, increasingly stringent restrictions on health care for women, yet when somebody actually says this ugly stuff out loud, it’s cringe time. I guess they finally realized that no amount of patronizing lectures will cause people to believe this garbage about rape and pregnancy, so they’re just going to hide. Gingrey didn’t get the memo.

        http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/gop-looks-for-ways-to-stop-the-rape-comments-86082.html?hp=f2

    • konkonsn says:

      But the fact that a woman may have already ovulated 12 hours before she is raped, you’re not going to prevent a pregnancy there by a woman’s body shutting anything down because the horse has already left the barn, so to speak.

      *facepalm*

    • Cadence says:

      a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’ That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape.

      I’m curious as to whether he understands that maybe if you don’t put so much emphasis on the whole girls-being-chaste-and-pure thing, that distinction kind of disappears?

      • LearnedFoot says:

        Also: why the assumption (Gingrey’s, not yours) that she wasn’t raped? Just because they are dating, does not mean that the sex was consensual.

  4. Nancy Green says:

    I don’t understand why anyone would compare Brussels sprouts to this congress. Brussels sprouts look like cute little cabbages, they are easy to cook and taste good. They are healthy.
    This congress causes indigestion and is bad for our health.
    Please don’t malign cruciferous vegetables– they don’t vote against citizen’s health insurance while enjoying great coverage themselves.

    • Bonn says:

      I don’t know. Brussels sprouts always tasted like bitter dirt to me. But I may be one of those “super tasters,” so that’s why. I don’t actually have to eat Congress, so I’m not sure if they taste like bitter dirt or not, but they tend to be a lot like bitter dirt, so there’s that.

  5. B says:

    If “cognitive dissonance will make your anterior cingulate cortex swell up and kersplat like a tomato in the sun” then DC would already be hip deep in tomato paste. But then we’d have a new batch in Congress. It could work out well.

    • Angie unduplicated says:

      The Reagan admin famously declared ketchup to be a vegetable. Caperton, the maters have been thrown and half-baked. The anterior cingulate cortices (?) are found only in the constituency. If you should erroneously accuse a Congressman (R) of possession of such, he may believe it to be a part of the forbidden vagina, and throw you out of chambers.

  6. Guls says:

    And the guy worked in Ob/Gyn – what on Earth are they teaching in medical school?

    • Bonn says:

      Reading it I kind of get what he’s saying (stress may delay ovulation, which we know does happen, but not necessarily to all women everywhere at all times), and he does say that if you’ve already ovulated that nothing is going to get “shut down,” but … dude. Don’t agree with Todd Akin. Not 100%, not 50%, not 25%. Just don’t go there.

      Unless you want to lose your next election. Then go ahead. (Please, go ahead.)

      • ChariD says:

        Yeah, but it takes months of full-on continuous stress to cause ovulation to cease (or slow down). So his claim is full of shite.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Or not.

        Look, the whole stress causing infertility thing is a myth. Really, I’ve had plenty of stress-free, birth control-free sexing that never resulted in a baby. That’s why I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility and had to resort to IVF to have my kids. As do millions of other people. Really, if it were just so simple as relax and go with it I would had done so and spared myself a metric ton of grief and hassle.

        It’s appalling that this guy is an OB, but then again, he’s old enough to have attended medical school before much of the recent scientific advances were made in the field of Reproductive Endocrinology. But there are CMEs that will spell stuff like this out for docs that are not up to date. Here’s hoping he takes the time to sign up for a few.

      • magista says:

        And in fact, the acute stress associated with an assault may actually increase a woman’s chance of conception. See here.

  7. William says:

    Come to that, resolve to just stop talking about things you know nothing about.

    Excellent advice for both sides of the aisle. Sadly, I suspect that the likelihood of any politician staying out of anyone’s civil rights just because the don’t have a basic understanding of the fundamental issues at hand is just slightly more likely than Scalia starting a black metal band and appearing on the bench in corpse paint.

  8. Marksman2000 says:

    The sad aspect–or rather, reality–of this thread is that many Americans have given up on our government. I have a good friend who’s intelligent, well-educated, and usually a joy to be around. He dropped by this weekend. When I asked about any new resolutions for 2013 he admitted that he’d decided to “completely give up on American politics.” He’s done. Finished 100% with local, state, and federal politics.

    I know he’s not alone in feeling unimportant and helpless and aggravated; I’d like to see an honest and genuine study on how many people in this country have taken the same path.

    • DAS says:

      Of course, the GOP runs on people having given up on politics: it’s their whole argument — “our political system, in fact any political system, is so broken that there is no point in having government for any purpose but killing people and maintaining hierarchies, which are things government clearly can do”.

      You’d think, though, that in the interest of brand differentiation (if the GOP is the anti-government party, the Dems would be the pro-government party) and brand promotion, the Dems would try extra, double hard to make sure our government actually functioned for the people. But somehow the Dems seem a bit, well, asleep on the job.

      • hotpot says:

        I agree. Since the Democrats advocate for a larger role in government in the economic arena, Democrats have an especially strong stake in making sure that crony capitalism is pushed back through massive campaign finance reform.

        On social issues, civil liberties, and foreign policy however, the left-wing position generally tends to be the one that is congruent with a smaller government. And I think younger voters today are more receptive to that kind of message, so it’s important for our people not to lose sight of this. I really appreciate people like Glenn Greenwald who continues to hold the Democrats’ feet to the fire from the left on these issues.

      • TomSims says:

        <blockquoteSince the Democrats advocate for a larger role in government in the economic arena, Democrats have an especially strong stake in making sure that crony capitalism is pushed back through massive campaign finance reform.

        Agreed. Democrats support a large central government and are anti capitalism.

      • William says:

        Democrats have an especially strong stake in making sure that crony capitalism is pushed back through massive campaign finance reform.

        No, Chicago.

        Democrats are just as big of offenders when it comes to crony capitalism and political corruption. It isn’t political beliefs that breed corruption, its power.

  9. Foxy says:

    I hope some members have guts to question the extrajudicial assasinations carried out by obama administration

    • TomSims says:

      I hope some members have guts to question the extrajudicial assasinations carried out by obama administration”

      Are you referring to Bin Laden?

      • FashionablyEvil says:

        Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen killed in drone strike by the Obama administration. The CIA apparently maintains a list of people who can be killed without due process.

        With Bin Laden, I think they’re on slightly more solid ground (legally speaking).

      • TomSims says:

        With Bin Laden, I think they’re on slightly more solid ground (legally speaking).

        Slightly more solid? Can you explain?

  10. DAS says:

    In re resolution #3: how many conservative white guys in Congress actually represent districts with a large population of people other than conservative whites?

    • TomSims says:

      In re resolution #3: how many conservative white guys in Congress actually represent districts with a large population of people other than conservative whites?

      I would say none

    • hotpot says:

      Due to gerrymandering, lots.

      • TomSims says:

        I was just reading about Speaker Boehner and it was talking about of the 233 GOP members in the House, that only 15, which is less the 7% are in districts that Obama carried. The rest are all in districts carried by Romney

      • William says:

        A large population does not equal a statistical majority. That asspipe Joe Arpaio keeps getting reelected in Maricopa County specifically because the majority population is full of racists who have a beef with a large population of Mexicans.

  11. Foxy says:

    Liberals are as bad as conservatives when it comes to foreign policy

  12. DAS says:

    William @ 10.14 am. I don’t think the point is that Democrats are any less corrupt than Republicans (and I, and not just I, would argue that certain kinds of.corruption, such as log rolling, are actually good for democracy as they help get things done in a democratic manner — witness how our no longer porktacular congress no longer is able to buy support for Sandy relief) but that Dems cleaning up their act would help them politically whereas when Republicans are incompetent or corrupt, it only reenforces their arguments. Ergo, if the Democratic party were strategically smart (which it is not), it would clean house and do everything it could to demonstrate that it does a good job at governing.

    • hotpot says:

      That’s exactly it. Certain kinds of legal corruption (e.g., those benefiting elites), if they go unchecked, do a lot to damage the popular perception of government and rightly so. Conservatives then find it easy to seize on that abuse to argue that government shouldn’t exist. But I don’t think this is a constant– it has ebbed and flowed in our history. There has always been corruption in government, but sometimes it was mainly to the benefit of the poor, such as with urban machines and some New Deal programs. That is not as damaging. When you have the perception that the banking industry, or super-wealthy donors of any kind, are legally buying Congress, that is very damaging. Progressives have a great stake at pushing back against this and making sure government becomes as clean as possible against the economically privileged. I don’t think this is impossible, but it ill have to start by changing the Democratic party.

      • William says:

        There has always been corruption in government, but sometimes it was mainly to the benefit of the poor, such as with urban machines and some New Deal programs. That is not as damaging.

        Again, I’ll have to point to Chicago. We’ve been a Democrat stronghold forever and we’re one of the few places where the machine never went away. The corruption we see, however, isn’t the kinder, gentler corruption you describe. Its rich white mobsters with political connections pressuring minorities to be technical owners of companies on a wide scale so that they can monopolize the minority-owned-business contracts and then not actually do any work. Its Old Man Daley building an expressway to separate the white neighborhoods from the black neighborhoods. Its Bridgeport being downright dangerous for anyone dark. Its Daley the Younger building his career by convicting innocent men of murder based upon confessions gained through torture and then obstructing any attempt to hold anyone involved accountable. Its Daley helping his son make a hate crime go away and his nephew make a murder go away. Its arranging an education system to systematically disenfranchise minority neighborhoods and then arranging a police assignment system that puts the youngest, most inexperienced, most aggressive officers into neighborhoods that are already distrustful of law enforcement. Its Rahm Emmanuel Lisa Madigan using scarce resources to lose battles in the courts over whether or not they get to deny people civil rights.

    • William says:

      but that Dems cleaning up their act would help them politically whereas when Republicans are incompetent or corrupt, it only reenforces their arguments.

      I guess I don’t buy that argument because I don’t buy the premise that the Democrats are the party of big government while the Republicans are the party of small government. They both attempt to make that argument but, in practice, both sides are parties that support a substantial governmental scope. The only real difference between the two is what they choose to target for regulation or deregulation and even that difference breaks down once you’re looking at representatives who need to be reelected by constituencies that are generally ignorant, hateful, and reactionary. Remember, the GOP needs government to be efficient when it sells bombing brown folk into democracy as much as the democrats need government to be efficient when it sells health care regulations and both need government to at least appear efficient for social security and medicare because old people vote in droves.

      More importantly, from a purely strategic position, I’m not certain that increased government efficiency is good for the democrats in the long term because later republican administrations will reap the benefits of that efficiency. Perhaps the perception might be useful for convincing some poorly informed swing voters when they’re feeling more scared than angry, but do you really want to imagine how much worse Dubya could have been if he had an efficient swarm of bureaucrats to enforce his halfbright fundie bullshit?

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