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The Equal Rights Amendment may be one state away from being added to the U.S. Constitution. Could Virginia be that state?

Westlake Legal Group ERA-2 The Equal Rights Amendment may be one state away from being added to the U.S. Constitution. Could Virginia be that state? Women's Rights washington D.C. Politics News & Updates Government ERA Equality Equal Rights Amendment equal rights DC Culture Features Culture cultural features
Chairwoman Alice Paul, second from left, the author of the original Equal Rights Amendment language, and officers of the National Woman’s Party hold a banner with a Susan B. Anthony quote in front of the NWP headquarters in Washington, DC, in this Associated Press photo from June 1920. The group of suffragettes, which also includes (from left) Sue White, Benigna Green Kalb, James Rector, Mary Dubrow and Elizabeth Kalb, were headed to the GOP convention to push for ratification of the ERA. (Photo courtesy of Associated Press)

“Mom, it says, ‘All men are created equal,’ not ‘all women.’” Kati Hornung’s then 9-year-old daughter, Ani, was studying the Declaration of Independence in elementary school. “Have we fixed that yet?”

“Um … no.”

Her daughter replied, “What are we going to do about that?”

“It was a painful moment,” Hornung recalls of that after-school conversation with her daughter, “because I wasn’t planning to do anything.”

At the time, in 2014, most supporters weren’t. The long-stalled Equal Rights Amendment had fallen off the radar of many advocates. But that was before the first seemingly conservative majority Supreme Court since Roe v. Wade, before the #MeToo movement, before the Women’s March, before the most-female Congress in American history.

“So I told her, ‘OK, we can do this. Let’s make a plan,’” recalls Hornung, who has two daughters. “I called a leader in the movement, a woman in the Richmond area who was working on the Equal Rights Amendment and Virginia’s ratification. She invited us to a rally. Now, ‘rally’ is not a particularly comfortable word or space for me. I was an accounting major undergrad, and we are not known for rally cries. But I had a kid looking at me and holding me accountable for doing what I said I valued. And so we showed up. And we showed up again and again and again.”

Her passion for the cause ignited, Hornung now serves as campaign manager for VAratifyERA, an all-volunteer organization based near Richmond fighting for Virginia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. VAratifyERA’s work includes community outreach, canvassing, organizing petitions, letter-writing campaigns, social media campaigns, lobbying at the state house and compiling a women’s equality scorecard for Virginia legislators.

Advocates like Hornung aren’t just fighting a philosophical battle. There’s an actual constitutional amendment on the table. First introduced in 1923, the the Equal Rights Amendment states simply: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”

The ERA has had a number of false starts over the last nine decades, but a perfect storm of political shifts and policy maneuvers have made its potential passage a reality—and with just one state needed to finally ratify, Virginia seems primed to be the state that puts it over the top.

Westlake Legal Group ERA-4 The Equal Rights Amendment may be one state away from being added to the U.S. Constitution. Could Virginia be that state? Women's Rights washington D.C. Politics News & Updates Government ERA Equality Equal Rights Amendment equal rights DC Culture Features Culture cultural features
Kati Hornung, Campaign Manager, VAratifyERA. (Photo by Aaron Spicer)
A Century-Long Battle

“There were two major purposeful historical exclusions in the original Constitution: women and men of color,” Hornung explains. “We fixed one, but we never fixed the other. Ever.”

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote thanks to the 19th Amendment. And just three years later, in 1923, Alice Paul, suffragette and a founder of the National Women’s Party, authored the language for the Equal Rights Amendment, which was introduced to Congress. In a political maneuver that still rings true today, the amendment languished in committee and didn’t get a Senate floor vote until more than 20 years later, in 1946. In 1950, an in-name-only version (an attached rider nullified its equal protection aspects, effectively making it meaningless) passed the Senate—and it stalled from there.

In the late ’60s, a newly formed organization, the National Organization for Women (NOW) came on the scene and renewed efforts to get the amendment passed. By 1971, attempts to get it to the floor succeeded, and bipartisan votes nearly got it to the finish line. First it needed ⅔ of the House. In October 1971, it got 83%. Then it needed ⅔ of the Senate. In March 1972, it got 84%. Finally it needed ¾ of state legislatures, or 38 of the 50 states. Yet it only got 35.

It remained mired at that level for decades, three states short of passage. Most people forgot about it, and an entire generation grew up barely knowing of its existence. Perhaps, depending on how you count, even two generations.

Until a domino effect of factors in 2017 changed everything. That March—with a new president in office and inspired by the massive Women’s March that again brought feminist issues to the forefront of national political discourse—Nevada’s legislature resurrected the ERA from the graveyard and ratified it, becoming the first state to do so in decades. Two states to go. In May 2018, Illinois followed suit. One state to go.

Which state would it be? Local advocates are betting on Virginia.

Why Virginia?

Of the remaining states yet to ratify, Virginia seems by far the most likely, in terms of its politics and demographics. Conservative-leaning states like Alabama, Mississippi and Utah aren’t likely to take up ratification of the ERA anytime soon.

But surveys show the ERA has broad public support in Virginia. The Wason Center for Public Policy at Virginia’s Christopher Newport University last year found state residents are 81% in favor of the ERA. That included 72% of men and 69% of Republicans. Plus, the state has cast three consecutive votes for Democratic presidents, currently has two Democratic U.S. senators, a Democratic governor and a majority Democratic U.S. House delegation.

The 2019 congressional session at the state house in Richmond looked promising. First, it passed the state Senate in January by a vote of 26 to 14, including seven Republicans. It was even primarily sponsored in the chamber by a Republican, Sen. Glen Sturtevant of Richmond. Next, it moved to the State House, where more than half of the chamber had signed on as co-sponsors, including a few Republicans. What could go wrong?

Everything, it turns out. In late January, the House Privileges and Elections Committee voted along party lines to prevent the bill from coming up for a vote in the full chamber, by 4 to 2. Undeterred, House Democrats—the minority party—used an obscure procedural move in February to force a vote by the entire House on whether to override the subcommittee’s decision. It tied 50 to 50, which means it failed.

Even though several House Republicans supported the ERA legislation, in the moment of truth, most proved unwilling to go against party leadership regarding whether it should receive a vote by the entire House. That opposition was led by Speaker Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights and the subcommittee’s chair, Delegate Margaret B. Ransone of Westmoreland.

Delegate David Yancey of Newport News was the only House Republican who voted in favor. (Yancey is most famous for tying in his 2017 reelection bid, but winning through the chairman of the State Board of Elections randomly drawing his name out of a bowl.)

“My mother, and other women like her, who have done so much to help me move forward in my life are the reasons why I support the ERA resolution, and not as some acquiescence, but appreciation and gratitude,” Yancey said in remarks on the House floor. “Like my mother, there are so many women in my district, who want a level playing field and to succeed on the merit of their humanity.”

The two House Republicans who had sponsored the actual legislation, but wouldn’t let it come up for a full vote were delegates Roxann Robinson of Chesterfield and Christopher Stolle of Virginia Beach. Had even just one more vote—likely Robinson’s or Stolle’s—gone the other way, the procedural vote would have passed 51 to 49.

That would have brought the ERA up for a vote by Virginia’s full House, where it almost certainly would have passed, considering more than half the chamber had co-sponsored it. And the Equal Rights Amendment would have been poised to become the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.

“I am a strong advocate, I just think it makes no sense not to pass it. In fact, all of our rights throughout history have been secured in the Constitution,” Virginia Sen. Barbara Favola (D) of Arlington says. “There’s nothing to be afraid of with the ERA.”

“Of course, it got caught up in all the political shenanigans,” Favola continues. “What happened was a lot of the evangelical groups and some of those pro-life groups, those groups which provide the motivational juice on the Republican side, turned it into an abortion or pro-life issue. The Republican lawmakers froze.”

What Opponents Say

Those “political shenanigans” as Favola called them, are what have seemingly stalled the ERA over the years. In an increasingly polarized political landscape, what once seemed like an inevitability with bipartisan support (President Nixon even publicly supported the cause in the 1970s) now has renewed opposition.

By 1981, the conservative tide was turning and President Ronald Reagan publically opposed the amendment. While the ERA never lost support among Democrats, the once-fringe socially conservative faction of the GOP surged during the ’70s and early ’80s to control the party. (Presidents actually play no official part in enacting constitutional amendments, a process deliberately designed as such by the Founders, but their endorsement or opposition can make a significant difference among the public and party members.)

Opponents say the ERA is redundant in the modern world; is actually not supported by the public as advocates say; and could cause unforeseen consequences, including federal public funding of abortions, which has been illegal for more than four decades.

Westlake Legal Group ERA-5 The Equal Rights Amendment may be one state away from being added to the U.S. Constitution. Could Virginia be that state? Women's Rights washington D.C. Politics News & Updates Government ERA Equality Equal Rights Amendment equal rights DC Culture Features Culture cultural features
Victoria Cobb, President, The Family Foundation of Virginia. (Photo by Aaron Spicer)

“The ERA could erase many of the gains women have made in employment, education and even sports,” Victoria Cobb, president of Richmond-based The Family Foundation of Virginia, said in an email interview. Cobb previously contended in a Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed that the ERA could lead to the banning of sororities and women’s colleges, while others have claimed it could go as far as eliminating gender-segregated public restrooms.

Cobb also claims that the supposedly favorable public opinion surveys are actually misleading. “Polling [conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy in 2018] shows the ERA is opposed by a majority of Virginians when they are informed that it could force taxpayer funding of abortion,” Cobb says. “Women deserve better than to be pawns in yet another effort of the abortion industry to profit.”

Indeed, while abortion has been protected on a federal level since 1973’s Roe v. Wade, public funding of abortions on a federal level has been banned since 1976 by the recently in-the-news-again Hyde Amendment. That’s been renewed annually dozens of times with bipartisan support, even when Democrats were fully in power.

While supporters say that the ERA has nothing to do with abortion and that it’s all just a scare tactic from the right, “[Wisconsin Republican Congressman Jim] Sensenbrenner and others proposed a rewording of the ERA to make it abortion neutral, but it was voted down,” notes Olivia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life in Richmond.

“If the argument was truly only about providing greater protections under the law to women, women who might be facing legal issues or educational opportunities, then there really should be no discussion at all about putting an abortion-neutralizing language in the ERA,” Turner continues. “But every time that’s discussed, it’s fought intensely by NOW and NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League).”

Opponents also say the amendment is unnecessary for women’s advancement. “Did my grandmother … envision that I would someday lead an organization, earning the same pay as my male colleagues, while having four children with associated maternity leave and a permanent family-friendly schedule? Probably not,” Cobb wrote in her Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed. “But did I do it without the ERA? Yes, I did.”

Other arguments abound, including that the ERA would force women to register for the Selective Service and a potential military draft, from which they are currently exempt. A federal judge in February ruled the all-male draft unconstitutional, but the status quo remains intact as the Trump Administration has appealed the decision.

What Supporters Say

But advocates for the ERA contend the patchwork of laws and legal precedents already in place are simply not enough.

“Those laws and decisions can change as quickly as legislators and judges can change their minds,” argues Lisa Sales, chair of the Fairfax County Commission for Women. “Without the Constitution, there’s no guarantee of equality for women.”

When prompted for specifics, Sales cited several decisions and laws whose existences she claims are precarious without the ERA’s bulwark: Roe v. Wade, the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.

For example, while the ERA would not specifically address maternity leave or child care, advocates say it would make existing pregnancy discrimination laws less vulnerable. Paid maternity leave and family-friendly work schedules, as Cobb mentions in her argument against the ERA, are currently up to private employer discretion.

Hornung echoes Sales, that explicit equal rights for women should be codified in the Constitution. “I actually come from a very conservative background in general,” she says. “Society has started to move and act in a different manner, but our founding document has not kept up with that.”

And perhaps VARatifyERA’s official language describes it best. Its response to the question of why an official amendment is needed?

“The 14th and Fifth amendments require equal protection of the laws, but courts do not hold state and federal governments discriminating on the basis of sex to the same high standard courts apply to government discrimination on the basis of race, national origin or religion. Sex discrimination currently receives ‘intermediate scrutiny’ in the courts, whereas other forms of discrimination receive ‘strict scrutiny.’ Under intermediate scrutiny it is much easier for the government to discriminate.”

Could Virginia Pass it in 2020?

Virginia’s general assembly elections will take place in November and every single seat in the house and senate is up for reelection—realistically putting the ERA in play again.

If Democrats do take control of the legislature, what are the odds of ERA passage? “I think it’s a hundred percent done deal here in Virginia,” Hornung says. “What we ran into was the Republican leadership of the House, and their party fell in line. So, if you remove the Republican leadership, we had the votes.”

They did indeed have the votes, and that was under Republican control. Even if Republicans maintain their slim majority after this November, the ERA could still potentially pass, if enough Republicans vote for the measure. It doesn’t have to be anywhere near half of Republicans—even just a few could do the trick, if all (or almost all) Democrats vote for it, too.

The (non) Looming Deadline

Even if Democrats win control of the state house and pass the ERA, another stumbling block remains: a long-passed deadline.

The original passage of the ERA came with a seven-year deadline of 1979 to obtain the requisite 38 state legislatures’ approvals. As that deadline was closing in, the number still hadn’t been met. So Congress, under President Jimmy Carter’s administration, extended it by another three years to 1982, except by then the number still wasn’t met. After 1982, Congress never officially extended the deadline again—nor did they remove it.

Even some fierce ERA supporters reluctantly agree that the original deadline was valid.

“When the Constitution itself contemplates an amendment process, assumes it will be begun and consummated in a reasonable period of time, not a multigenerational process,” says Saikrishna Prakash, a University of Virginia law school professor and Miller Center senior fellow who recently wrote the article “Of Synchronicity and Supreme Law” on the subject for the Harvard Law Review. “The idea that we want to have a consensus for a legal change, we can’t say it’s a consensus if people are giving consent across decades.”

“Bills become stale every two years, and nobody on either side of the aisle seems to dispute that,” continues Prakash, referring to the fact that if legislation isn’t passed within a two-year session of Congress, it has to start anew during the next session. “Although I actually support the ERA, because I don’t think governments should casually draw distinctions on the basis of gender or sex.”

Advocates counter the most recent constitutional amendment, the 27th Amendment, which deals with Congressional pay raises, was originally passed by the very first Congress in 1789, yet didn’t receive the necessary number of state ratifications until more than two centuries later in 1992.

Gregory Watson was a then-college sophomore at University of Texas when he started the one-person movement for states to ratify the amendment, which snowballed beyond his wildest dreams. He was inspired after writing a paper on the subject for a political science class, which received a “C” from the professor for being unrealistic. But Watson says that the analogy ERA opponents make to his own story aren’t perfect.

“Many supporters of resurrecting the 1972 ERA point to the 202-year ratification of the 27th Amendment and claim that the 27th Amendment proves that an amendment proposed to the Constitution remains pending business for all eternity before the state legislatures,” says Watson.

“They forget, however, that the 27th Amendment had absolutely no deadline whatsoever imposed by Congress upon its consideration in the state legislatures, while the 1972 ERA—depending upon who you talk to—either had one deadline (1979) or perhaps even two deadlines (1979 and 1982), both of which nevertheless came and went literally decades ago.”

Westlake Legal Group ERA-3 The Equal Rights Amendment may be one state away from being added to the U.S. Constitution. Could Virginia be that state? Women's Rights washington D.C. Politics News & Updates Government ERA Equality Equal Rights Amendment equal rights DC Culture Features Culture cultural features
In this Associated Press photo from Jan. 13, 1980, ERA supporters march to Capitol Square in Richmond during a demonstration and rally that drew more than 7,000 participants. (Photo courtesy of Associated Press)
Clearing the Path

Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) has an idea: if Congress introduced the original deadline, they can remove it, too.

“If you can amend it, you can repeal it,” Rep. Speier says. “The question has been raised and opined by numerous constitutional scholars around the country, who have said this is appropriate. Congress has this power and has the opportunity here to assert it.”

In January, she introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the ERA’s original deadline. The legislation has attracted 193 co-sponsors, two of whom are Republicans: Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1) and Tom Reed (NY-23). Now, about 82% of House Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors.

While Rep. Speier’s bill hadn’t received a House vote as of press time, if and when it does, it seems likely to pass the Democratic-controlled chamber. In April, the House held its first official hearing on the ERA since 1983, primarily intended to signal the Democrat majority’s support to the public. The Republican-controlled Senate, on the other hand, is a different story.

Or is it? “I think many more Republicans could come on board,” Speier says optimistically. “There’s a timidity right now in the Republican Party in Congress, where if the president hasn’t come out in support of something, they’re reluctant to get on board. I think more can, and I think more probably will. It’s one of so many issues that we’re dealing with right now, so it’s just a matter of sitting down with members and explaining what we’re trying to do here.”

Then again, even if a Republican-controlled Senate indeed never removes the 1982 deadline, perhaps it could still be ruled invalid by the Supreme Court.

“Article V [of the Constitution] says nothing about any deadlines, but it does say after ¾ of the states ratify, it ‘shall’ be added,” Hornung explains. “For law students, ‘shall’ is one of those big words they spend a full day of law school going over. It doesn’t mean maybe. It means it has to happen.”

Will Virginia Lead the Way?

Even if Virginia passes the ERA, it wouldn’t be added to the Constitution without a fight.
An ERA lawsuit is virtually guaranteed, though the outcome is unclear. “The Constitution does not specify who exactly determines whether an amendment is official,” explains University of Virginia Law Professor Prakash.

“The courts have generally said it’s Congress, although who knows if that could change?” Prakash asks rhetorically. With a now-conservative leaning Supreme Court, for example, it’s not as clear that the third branch of government would certify the ERA.

“The executive branch says it’s the executive branch. Officially, that’s the president, although in practice that usually means the White House Office of Legal Counsel.” Similar to the above example, could either President Trump or a conservative Office of Legal Counsel decide the amendment wasn’t official?

“In the case of the 27th Amendment, it was the Archivist of the United States [Don Wilson] who worked for Congress, rather than Congress itself,” says Prakash.

That remains the only time the archivist has ever been the one to certify an amendment, but since it was also the most recent amendment, did that create a new binding precedent?

A judicial fight over the ERA’s validity could be the most intense one the country has experienced since Bush v. Gore.  And the stakes could arguably be higher: while the winner of a presidential election serves for only four or eight years, a constitutional amendment could remain intact for centuries to come.

Hornung, whose involvement was inspired by her two daughters, shared in a recent TEDx Talk how that inspiration keeps her going, as she fights for women today and the generations to come.

“Our history has always been shaped by children and youth, we just don’t tell our stories that way. In 1776, the Marquis de Lafayette and James Monroe were both 18. And when Barbara Johns led that massive walk-out in Farmville, Virginia, she was 16. Children and their direct action led to the desegregation of our school system in America,” she said.

That history impacts today’s fight for the ERA, said Hornung. “I’m simultaneously leading and parenting my children, while following them: their clear-eyed vision, their open hearts, their open minds.”

This post originally appeared in our September 2019 print issue. To get content delivered to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletters. 

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Daniel Kawczynski: I was scared when I came out. The next generation must be set free of that fear.

Daniel Kawczynski is MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham.

One afternoon some years ago, I was on the train back home to my constituency of Shrewsbury and Atcham and I was sitting on some big news. It was news I was scared to tell, even to my closest supporters in the local Conservative Association, so much so that I was quietly praying the train would break down so I would not have to impart it. The news was that I was now in a same sex relationship.

Upon my arrival in Shrewsbury I addressed the Association, and at the end made my announcement. Full of apprehension, I looked up at the faces of the people I had spoken to, 50 of the most senior members of my local Party, and awaited their reaction. Almost immediately, a gentleman in the front row stood up and said, “I think that’s marvellous news, well done” and began clapping. He was soon followed by the rest of the room who afterwards came up to me with hugs, well-wishes, and offers of drinks at the bar.

The kindness and humanity of people on occasions like this restore your confidence in our society and the warmth I felt from my Association members that night will stay with me forever. As someone who came out in their 40s, I never want young people today to have any of the reservations, concerns or fears that I had. I want them to be proud and open with their families and friends about who they are. No child should feel that they are sinful or wrong for being gay.

Years later, I am holding a Westminster Hall debate on the topic of LGBT acceptance. This debate is so important because it will showcase both Parliament’s view and that of the wider country. It will demonstrate that we are staunch defenders of LGBT rights and will work diligently to create a Britain where telling someone you are LGBT is no more of a surprise than telling them you are left-handed.

I have considered holding a Westminster Hall Debate on this topic for some years. However, two recent events have spurred me to act. The first was the recent spate of protests against teaching children about LGBT people. The second was slightly closer to home. My researcher recently told me about how a close friend of his had come out to him, and had done so through tears. Whilst I was delighted to hear that my researcher had reacted in the way we’d all hope – by embracing his friend and not caring in the slightest – I was still saddened to hear that this young man felt so fearful and apprehensive about coming out, even to a close friend.

With regards to those who are protesting outside Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham, I would appeal to their humanity, and ask them to try to understand the importance of giving young people confidence, of making them feel accepted, and allowing people to be free to be who they are, regardless of their sexuality. Britain is a nation of tolerance, of respect, of freedom, and we must hold these values high as a beacon for the rest of the world to follow.

It is of huge importance that we do set this example, because while we are fortunate enough to live in Britain, there are many nations which do not share this view and do not share our values of liberty and tolerance. There are still 14 countries around the world enforcing a death penalty for homosexual acts, and many more handing down harsh prison sentences, for nothing more than the ‘crime’ of being in love. The only way we can combat this is to prove that there is another way, a better way, and having this education in our schools can only help us to promote this aim and to champion LGBT rights worldwide

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The definitions of “sex” and “gender identity” are heading to SCOTUS… sort of

Westlake Legal Group TransBathroom The definitions of “sex” and “gender identity” are heading to SCOTUS… sort of transgender rights transgender The Blog Supreme Court lawsuit Equality

For some time now, we’ve been waiting for a court case that could clear up some of the rather daunting questions arising from issues of transgender rights and how they intersect with traditional views on privacy and the segregation of the genders. A variety of these cases have produced a mixed bag of results in the lower courts and the Supreme Court has seemed reluctant to do more than nibble around the edges of the underlying questions. That may be about to change, though perhaps not for the better.

The Daily Signal has a good summary of such a case where oral arguments will be presented before the Supremes on October 8th. The case is R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The case centers on Tom and Nancy Rost, who operate a family-owned funeral home in the Detroit area.

Six years ago, one of their male employees announced that he was transgender and planned to begin dressing as a woman at work. Tom reportedly agonized over the decision and the impact it might have on his female employees and, even more so, their grieving clients. In the end, he decided he couldn’t allow the employee to do that and declined the request. In short order, he was sued by the EEOC. And as the Daily Signal points out, it’s a decision that could have a dramatic impact on small businesses around the country.

Later, following the commission’s urging, a federal court of appeals effectively redefined the word “sex” in federal law to mean “gender identity.”

Enacted by Congress in 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has long protected women, along with racial and religious minorities, from unjust discrimination in the workplace.

Redefining the term “sex” in that law to mean “gender identity” would create chaotic, unworkable situations and unjustly punish business owners like Tom while destroying important gains women and girls have made over the past 50 years.

Indeed, Tom Rost’s case, in which Alliance Defending Freedom represents the funeral home, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Speaking as someone who has been digging into the broader aspects of this subject for some time now, I regret to say that this is probably just about the worst case you could pick to send to the Supreme Court, and not just because it looks likely to go against the defendants. The problems here are many, but the biggest one is the type of action that the employer is trying to engage in.

We’ve covered more transgender lawsuits here than I can count, but the big ones that have been of interest almost uniformly revolve around either issues of privacy or fairness, particularly in competitive sports. The former generally deal with public access to bathrooms, lockers, and showers while the latter focus on males identifying as females competing against actual women in sporting events. In all these cases, natural women and girls frequently come out on the losing end when they go before a judge.

In Harris Funeral Homes, while the issue of bathroom access comes up (and could be easily resolved) this primarily comes down to an employment opportunity question. What the owners have done is basically informed their employee that they can’t keep their job if they dress as the opposite sex. We shouldn’t be in the business of denying jobs to transgender workers, to begin with, and the court will probably read the case that way and find for the plaintiff.

Even worse, this case gives the Supremes an open invitation to ignore the larger, underlying questions we need answered and duck out of a sticky situation with a very narrow, tailored ruling. This case does nothing to address the question of whether or not “identifying” as the opposite gender actually makes you that other gender in the eyes of the law. It doesn’t force the justices to demand answers in terms of the “science” behind transgender claims. It doesn’t take into account the issues surrounding the natural physical advantages males have over females in competitive environments.

No, this case ignores all of that and allows the plaintiff to basically frame this as a question of whether or not the funeral home can force him to dress a certain way for work and fire him if he fails to comply. And of course, the answer to that question is no. It’s not a question of sloppy or inappropriate clothing. It’s gender-specific clothing. And as longs as the clothes are clean and professional-looking, you could no more fire a woman dressed in a suit, tie and trousers than you could a man wearing a gown. Nor should you.

What we need to see is one of these cases of men competing in women’s sports make it to the Supreme Court and attempt to force them to answer these question of whether or not these are actually women and how fair or unfair such competitions are. Don’t be shocked if the Supremes duck away from Harris Funeral Homes on those larger issues and treat this as an equal employment opportunity case. It’s what they love to do in the trickier social conflict cases (as well as with the Second Amendment) and they will almost certainly take that escape hatch here if it’s available.

The post The definitions of “sex” and “gender identity” are heading to SCOTUS… sort of appeared first on Hot Air.

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Income inequality is a big topic for rich Dem candidates, but their audience yawns

Westlake Legal Group EqualSignB-715 Income inequality is a big topic for rich Dem candidates, but their audience yawns The Blog poll gallup Equality economic fairness 2020 Democratic primaries 2020 Democrat debates 2020 Democrat candidates

To hear all the wealthy Democratic candidates for president tell it, economic inequality is a major issue, right up there with other unrealistic proposals like free college and a multi-trillion-dollar government takeover of healthcare.

That message is then multiplied and magnified by mainstream media’s ubiquitous megaphone.

But to hear average Americans talk about income inequality, well, you don’t actually hear much of anything about that. They’re seemingly too busy chasing their own economic dreams to pay much attention to meaningless political primary palaver aimed at a tiny population sliver of even wealthier donors.

Now, here comes a new Gallup Poll designed to measure popular priorities. It’s the regular “most important problem” question that monitors the shifting concerns of average Americans.

Those polling folks have been asking that question off-and-on for eight decades and monthly since the earliest days of this century.

And guess what?

They found hardly anyone cares about income inequality. In this century the average monthly mentions of the rich-and-poor gap has been two percent or less in Gallup surveys.

“Certainly,” the Gallup analysis reports, “this is not a significant top-of-mind concern for Americans and no more of a concern now than it has been in the past.”

Although Democrat candidates who own multiple houses express loud concerns about the income gap, their party’s members told Gallup that inequality clung to only ninth place on their list of important issues.

High above it were far more popular pending problems such as immigration, race relations, healthcare, the environment, healthcare, education and two issues that seem to fit better with Republicans’ list of issues: government and the economy.

The economy has been booming since what’s-his-name and what’s-his-name’s-vice-president-who-now-wants-to-be-president left office in 2017. In fact, the U.S. economy is now going through its longest expansion.

Perhaps you’ve heard Bernie Sanders shout about the need for a more equitable minimum wage of $15 an hour.

This is such a pressing issue that when his own campaign staff pushed to get that $15 minimum, Bernie instead cut their hours. Thereby proving critics’ point that such a pay rate would actually hurt workers more than help.

“Who’s this economy really working for? It’s doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top,” says Elizabeth Warren, who pulled down $400,000 for teaching a single class at Harvard.

Let’s see, at the $15 an hour minimum wage, that works out to 26,667 hours of class time, which she never worked.

The post Income inequality is a big topic for rich Dem candidates, but their audience yawns appeared first on Hot Air.

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Anti-Feminism Has Officially Become More Popular than Feminism

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The day that was always inevitable has finally arrived.

Despite the media, activists, Hollywood, and politicians all pushing it in everything from the news to the movies, feminism has never been able to achieve complete saturation within the populace. It was always coming off as entitled, unfair, and weak, all while trying to bill itself as a movement dedicated to building strong women who support equality.

The public learned that equality was never the goal and the pro-woman aspect fell apart in the face of the way the feminist movement treated women who disagreed with it. Feminism was always at war with femininity, and women weren’t into it for the most part despite the media portraying it as some super popular movement. In fact, not only were women not into it, feminism created too many enemies with its abrasive behavior, nonsensical belief system, and asinine demands.

Thus, anti-feminism has now become more popular than feminism, and what makes this even more delicious is that BuzzFeed of all places has now had to recognize the fact.

Mark Di Stefano of BuzzFeed posted a tweet that shows some of the stats, putting the disbelief primarily on men.

According to BuzzFeed, the group Hope Not Hate commissioned research to see where the idea of feminism lies with the populace and the results cause them to think that we’re slipping into the “far-right” due to the acceptance of “anti-feminism”:

The survey, conducted by YouGov earlier this year, found 33% of people between ages 18 and 24 agreed with the statement “Feminism is to blame for making some men feel marginalised and demonised in society”.

Across all age groups, 42% of men felt that feminism was marginalising and demonising some men, while only a quarter of women agreed.

I want to take a moment here to point out that anti-feminism is not a “far-right” idea. In fact, anti-feminism is geared more toward believing in equality for the sexes than feminism is, which constantly attempts to garner more gains for women while denigrating men with accusations of “patriarchal privilege” and constant claims of sexism over things like air conditioning. It’s ridiculously lazy to assume that any resistance to a leftist ideal such as modern feminism is a result of far-right plotting.

In fact, most people believe that sexual equality is a great thing, they just reject feminism as noted by the BBC, which found that 1 in 5 women in the U.S. and the U.K. identify as feminist, but that eight in ten believe in equality of the sexes.

Feminism hasn’t been popular to associate with, even when the third wave was in full swing a few years ago. Feminism has always been antagonistic in nature, and the constant denigration of society because it wasn’t focusing on what the feminist agenda wanted turned people off. It even went so far as to make itself the hub of intersectionalism, making everything under the sun a “women’s issue.”

Women have enough issues to deal with, they didn’t need more. What’s more, the fact that women who rejected feminist principles, even if it was the most minute, were lambasted and dragged over coals.

Feminism stopped being something to sign on to and started being something to resist very quickly.

And so, both women and men walked away from the circus show. Feminism might not be dead, not yet, but it does look corpse-like.

The post Anti-Feminism Has Officially Become More Popular than Feminism appeared first on RedState.

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Daniel Hannan: The Johnson tape, the Field incident. So much was said about both. But why the silence about the Kirklees arrests?

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

We learned at the end of last week that West Yorkshire Police had arrested 44 people as part of a probe into organised sexual abuse. Not that you’ll have seen much about it on TV or in the weekend newspapers, which were instead obsessed first with the eco-protesters who had invaded the Lord Mayor’s banquet, and then with fact that Boris Johnson’s girlfriend had reportedly shouted at him.

Some columnists worked themselves into a lather about how shocking it was for an MP to manhandle a female protester. Others – and this was trickier since, in the Johnson case, the police confirmed that nothing untoward had happened – sounded off about domestic abuse in general, and how public-spirited the snooping neighbours had been. Almost no-one thought it worth talking about grooming.

It’s true, of course, that we don’t know the details of what happened in Kirklees. The presumption of innocence must apply in this as in any other case. Still, given what we know about similar cases in Yorkshire, and given the gravity of the accusations, isn’t there a pretty strong public interest in the arrests? The investigation, after all, concerns the systematic rape of underage girls. I know there is a growing list of Subjects On Which Male Columnists Are Not Allowed An Opinion, but I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that all of us, men and women, can recognise that prolonged exploitation and sexual abuse is worse than being frogmarched out of a room or having wine spilled on your sofa.

Why, then, the imbalance in column inches? Google “West Yorkshire grooming” and you’ll mainly find advertisements for dog and cat parlours. The arrests were reported in local newspapers and on regional television, but made barely a dent in the national media.

Is it, as some will allege, a liberal conspiracy to cover up crimes committed by Muslims? Hardly. Yes, there are journalists who are squeamish about cases of this kind, and hyper-sensitivity about imagined racism was an exacerbating factor in the Rotherham abominations. But that doesn’t explain why there was so little coverage in conservative, as well as Leftist, media.

Something else – and something every bit as ugly – is going on. The reason that there was such a disproportionate focus on the Field and Johnson stories is that they could be dragged into the horrible culture war which defines our politics. In both cases, people could (and did) take sides according to their existing affiliations. In both cases, people began with their conclusions and fitted the facts to their prejudices. Depending on their politics, they saw either an MP reacting instinctively to someone who had barged in and might be armed, or a nasty Tory bullying a woman. Depending on their politics, they saw either some vaguely wrong behaviour from Johnson (no one could quite put their finger on what) or a snooping Leftie neighbour fabricating a story.

The point is, in either version, there are villains. That is what makes the culture war at once so arresting and so revolting. People can enjoy fulminating against (delete as appropriate) evil Tory MPs or awful Leftist protesters and sneaks. They can revel in their righteous indignation. In the Kirklees case, by contrast, there is no alternative interpretation. No one, however uncomfortable they might feel about stories like this coming out, is seriously going to defend rapists and abusers.

Culture wars are primarily defined by what and whom we dislike. For example, I am broadly pro-immigration, but I don’t think of people who oppose immigration as morally flawed, so fellow supporters of immigration tend to see me as being ranged against them. Similarly, I was a supporter of equality for gay people long before most Cameroons. But, again, I refuse to dismiss people who disagree with me as numbskulls and homophobes. This puts me on the other side from those for whom the rights of gay people are secondary to the delight in inveighing against imagined bigots.

The tendency to misunderstand, caricature and define yourself against others is encoded deep in our DNA. Studies show that misrepresentation of political opponents is more common among educated people, and especially among the politically active. This might seem counter-intuitive: you’d think that those who followed politics would have a clearer sense of what the other party stood for.

But no, those of us who are politicos (and that includes you, reader) tend to define “our” tribe in ideological terms rather than through, say, sports teams. We are then prompted by our Palaeolithic genes to dislike and disbelieve representatives from rival tribes. It affects, not just how we would like to see the world, but how we actually see it. Conservatives genuinely saw an MP public-spiritedly dealing with a potential terrorist; Leftists genuinely saw a man bullying a woman. (Had it been, say, a female Brexit campaigner being manhandled after shouting at Chuka Umunna, the line-up would have been different.)

This tendency is not new. But it is getting worse, here as in most developed democracies. “Yeah, because of Brexit”, some readers will say, inadvertently revealing their own confirmation bias. Actually – and you might think this a confirmation bias of mine – the polarisation came after the campaign, and has deepened with every passing day as the issue of Brexit has dominated the news. Look at how many people who, before 2016, were not especially fussed one way or the other, are now prepared to go to any lengths to hurt the other side. Witness, for example, the way the Guardian, which campaigned high-mindedly for years against tabloid intrusion, thought nothing of publishing remarks recorded from inside a private house.

What changed? In a word, the division became tribal. Brexit is no longer about trade, budgets or sovereignty. It is now about whom we dislike, caricatured respectively as elderly bigots who fell for lying demagogues or as sneering snobs who despise their own country.

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend,” said Thomas Jefferson in 1800. Neither did I. But plenty of people have withdrawn friendships since the referendum – one of many reasons that stirring it all up again with a second poll would be catastrophic.

Settling the Brexit issue – ideally by leaving the EU and becoming its closest friend and partner – will not, in itself, end this ghastly partisanship. The tribalism will transfer to something else unless we rediscover our sense of common purpose, our understanding that fellow citizens with whom we disagree are opponents rather than enemies.

“Let me now warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally,” said George Washington in his farewell address. “This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.”

Amen, General. Amen.

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Sajid Javid: I’m in this race because I want to level the playing field, to lower the ladder to everyone.

Sajid Javid is the Home Secretary, and MP for Bromsgrove.

The first time I felt like an outsider was when I was six years old. My cousin told me we needed to change our walking route to school because of the ‘bad kids’ who supported the National Front.

At school, when I wanted to do the O levels and A levels I needed, I was told that kids like me should know their limits. When I was a new graduate seeking a job in the City, I met old-school bankers in old school ties who thought what my father did for a living was more important than what I could do. And when, after 20 years in business, I wanted to give back to my country by moving into politics and looked for a place in the only party I had ever supported, there were those who told me it just wasn’t for me, or that I should join Labour.

So I am used to people trying to tell me what I can’t do, and I’m used to proving people wrong. That is why I am optimistic and determined about what we Conservatives can do, together, to fix the problems we are facing as a party and as a country.

I have put myself forward to become the next Prime Minister of our United Kingdom because I believe I am uniquely placed to deliver on the three most significant challenges that our country faces. We need to deliver Brexit. We need to unify our party and our country. And, for the good of that country, we need to keep Labour out of government.

I’ve got a credible and honest plan to deliver Brexit. I’ve got the background, experience and positive vision for the future that will bring us together. And if we get all that right, then we will keep Jeremy Corbyn out of Number 10.

This is a moment for a new kind of leadership and a new kind of leader. We can’t risk going with someone who feels like the short-term, comfort-zone choice. Our party needs to “change to win”, not unlike we did a decade ago.

At a time when our country feels so divided, we cannot afford to divide it still further. We cannot call ourselves a One Nation party if whole swathes of that nation don’t think we share their values or understand their needs, whether that’s young people, people from minority backgrounds, or working-class people who don’t see anyone who knows what their lives are like.

I’m not in politics to be a player in the game of thrones. I want to make a difference. I take people at face-value. I’m more of a man of action than words. I first took an interest in politics when I realised the power government had to give – or not give – people the opportunities they deserve. That will be the acid test for my policy agenda.

For me the fundamental question about the role of the state is whether – as the socialists believe – government should tell people what to do and how to live, or whether – as Conservatives have always said – it should give them the freedom and support they need to achieve their potential. I know where I stand, but for too many people this has become a discussion about abstract ideas rather than very real lives.

I’m in this race because I want to level the playing field, to lower the ladder to everyone. For me hard work, public services, and my family were the success factors. I want everyone in this country to feel that if they have a go, they will have every opportunity to succeed. That requires world-class public services. For me, public services aren’t just names of government departments, they were my ladders of opportunity.

My biggest priority would be education. Our schools, colleges and universities are the biggest engines of social justice we have. I recently laid out a long-term plan for education, ensuring that every child has the chance to get on in life. We need an education system which supports our FE colleges, encourages skills and apprenticeships and allows lifelong learning to become the norm.

We also need to reset our relationship with teachers and other public sector workers, like nurses and the police. I have committed to significantly increasing resourcing for our police, providing enough to get an additional 20,000 officers on our streets.

If we want world-class public services, we need a vibrant economy to pay for them. That means a low tax economy, and a Conservative Government which backs business, rewarding those who work hard and take a chance. It means we need to invest in growth.

I have outlined plans for an ambitious new £100 billion National Infrastructure Fund, to invest in projects which will ensure the British economy is fit for the future. It would prioritise projects outside London and the South East, recognising that we need to rebalance the economy, and deliver economic growth all around the country. This, in turn this will help us build a more united country.

This does not just depend upon economic growth. We must also focus on the root causes which damage life chances. The measure of any society is how we help the most vulnerable. I would focus on early intervention, look at how we tackle addiction, and focus on rehabilitation of offenders.

I believe a vital part of this equation is the role of the family. I was lucky to have a family who constantly encouraged me, but so many problems stem from family breakdown. I would make it a priority to look at how we can strengthen families right across Government.

We also need to build a stronger national family, including overcoming the sense of haves and have-nots. The housing crisis has driven a huge wedge between generations. As Communities Secretary I increased building rates to the highest levels in decades, but we need to go much further, building hundreds of thousands more homes, whole new towns, and get home ownership back up.

I am passionate about our country because, for my family, Britain was a choice. They came here for freedom, security, opportunity and prosperity. It is because of these strengths that I have always been an optimist about Britain’s future. And I believe if we can unite both our party and our country, we can secure for future generations all the things that make this country a beacon for the world.

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The Conservative Women in Parliament Group’s letter to the leadership candidates

Dear leadership candidates,

The Conservative Women in Parliament Group believes that women should have the same freedoms and opportunities as men.

Conservatives have a proud record of promoting gender equality. We have introduced mandatory gender pay-gap reporting and the right to request flexible working. We have led the way legislating on crimes which particularly target women like modern slavery and domestic violence. And, of course, we have had two female Prime Ministers – showing there need be no limits to a woman’s ambition.

But there is more to do. There are so many ways in which women face greater challenges and fewer opportunities in their lives.

Britain should be the best place in the world to be a woman – a country where your talents and hard work, not your identity, background, or gender, determine your success.

As a candidate to be the next Conservative leader and Prime Minister we call on you to explain how you will build on this record and achieve the Conservative vision of a fairer, more equal society.

For instance,

  1. How will you end discrimination on the grounds of gender?
  2. How will you close the gender pay gap and make sure women have equal opportunities to succeed at work?
  3. How will you help families share caring responsibilities and career opportunities more equally?
  4. How will you help women gain equal financial security and independence?
  5. How will you tackle inequalities in health outcomes for women?
  6. How will you tackle sexual harassment and violence against women at home and abroad?
  7. How will you increase the number of women elected to public office?
  8. How will you increase our Party’s electoral appeal to female voters, particularly young women?

We look forward to your response with interest.

  • Helen Whately MP
  • Rachel Maclean MP

Other signatories:

Victoria Atkins MP, Maria Caulfield MP, Mims Davies MP, Vicky Ford MP, Nus Ghani MP, Trudy Harrison MP, Gillian Keegan MP, Maria Miller MP, Nicky Morgan MP, Victoria Prentis MP, Maggie Throup MP, Chloe Smith MP, Dame Caroline Spelman MP, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP.

Baroness Altmann CBE, Baroness Berridge, Baroness Bertin, Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen, Baroness Couttie, Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist, Baroness Eaton DBE DL, Baroness Fall, Baroness Finn, Baroness Helic, Baroness Hodgson, Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, Baroness McGregor-Smith CBE, Baroness Newlove, Baroness Pidding CBE, Baroness Redfern, Baroness Rock.

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Eve Allison: The barriers that women politicians still face

Eve Allison is former Kensington and Chelsea councillor.

Although we make up half the human race, women were usually confined to the estate, house or hovel until relatively recently.  We were not doctors, lawyers, dentists, accountants and CEOs.  Indeed, we were not in the military, armed forces, police, or even accepted as undergraduates at Oxford or Cambridge.

Women were tea-makers and ‘mothers’ and guardians of their cultural heritage: rather than being leaders, they were led their husbands.
But we are now coming through in roles in which we are nonetheless still marginalised, and in which the spotlight shines more harshly on a woman, especially as a politician. 
That spotlight is trained on our dress sense rather than our principles and policies – on every word, every nuance and every shoe worn, including heel height.

If one is a woman, a politician (and of colour), one is often met with “the glance”. (“How did you get here?” it asks) or, on the odd occasion, one is told that “you are in the wrong place” and even, sometimes: “oh, you cannot come in here”.

Women need to be in positions of power and should be, where leadership roles are played out, at the heart of where decisions are made and carried to fruition. Women need to be taken seriously in such roles.

If we are talking about real power and acceptance, then women should comprise 50 per cent of the representation in politics, locally and nationally. The grinding issue is related to women standing as councillors and as Parliamentary Candidates – and hence being Members of Parliament.

That last equates to being selected in the first place, and then to actually being elected, and remaining in the role. So what can be done to address the overall retention of women politicians? Are more courses and training workshops the answer, and if so should they pertain to such aspects of a women’s identity as ethnicity?

The ones that stand out to me as a former Conservative councillor are those that purport to “highlight political leadership” aimed at those politicians that are of colour. Are such courses run for politicians who are classed as “white”?

Instead of leadership and any real positive information for politicians of colour, sure enough, cliques open up along ethnic and party lines. Being a lone ‘Blue’ surrounded by a sea of ‘Red’ can often be most frustrating and stifling.

Such courses need to be rooted in proper fact and debate, and not just be check boxes for local councils.  What is evident is that when forums, workshops and development weekends are held for politicians, they are usually well attended by men.

It’s men that write most of the political articles, it’s men that dominate most of the decision-making in local councils and who select committees: it’s mostly men who are cabinet members, locally and nationally.

Perhaps part of the issue is that women do not deal as effectively as they should with being challenged. It is condescending to hear  “What are they doing?” “Why are they doing it?”, “Do they know what they are doing?” and so on.

Equally, for any relatively ambitious female politician, whether local or national, it can be disconcerting in no uncertain terms to be regarded as a “dustbin” case –  and, unlike most of your male cohort, face years of not being offered roles such as lead member, vice chair of a committee, working group lead and perhaps, worst of all, years of ‘the glance’  (as described earlier).

For such women, perhaps the biggest frustration is that of being surrounded by primarily women politicians with no ambition at all, and who expect you to follow suit.

Politicians are elected to represent all sectors of the community and not identities within those communities. So for women politicians, divisions of role, should not equate with division of place or position. The shackles of ‘social conditioning’ must be thrown off and by women themselves going forward.

So the big question is: what is going on with women in politics? What is preventing us from reaching their full potential with regard to political leadership in politics ? Is it a lack of financial stability, or the responsibility of caring roles, such as being parents and mothers, or of being carers for elderly family members ?

Even when women are in senior cabinet roles, these tend not to be in Finance, Planning or Security. They are ‘Cinderella’ senior cabinet roles in Children & Families, Adult Social Care, Public Health, Education and Libraries.

Is this all connected with the perceived inflexibility of the role and, if so, why cannot some of the work be performed from home, and not lead to a demeaning of the role? And what about the use of Skype or video conferencing as tools to help be part of and in place for positions of power?

Surely political leadership in politics is not all about meetings – and yet this seems to be the case. One is measured by not by how many constituents you have assisted, but by how many meetings one has attended.

Furthermore, even in politics the conditioning is persistent in that politicians are judged as either being ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ in relation to these meetings – whether one has uttered a word or not, whether one agrees with what happens or not, or simply makes up the numbers there.

For women politicians, fear and anxiety can be a factor in politics, from the emotional anxiety arising from non-support; from constant chastising and belittlement from fellow political colleagues; from angry and bewildered constituents and the constant grind of social media and beyond.

Histrionics will abound, and yet political leadership opportunities are held by the ‘gate keepers’. This is frustrating if one is not part of the inner circle – or if the lens is not trained on you as a woman politician who wants to go forward, break the mould, break down barriers and perceptions, no matter how long held.

But as a woman politician, irrespective of particular variables, you have a duty as a public servant to keep pushing upwards, keep asking, keep finding ways to circumnavigate and penetrate.  One must work to create fissures and furrows in the inevitable hope that wide canals will follow.

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“The Conservative Party should stand up for all those who feel powerless in Britain today”- Gibb’s reformist speech

This is the full text of a speech delivered today by Nick Gibb, the schools minister, to the Social Market Foundation.

Thank you, James for that introduction. And thank you to the Social Market Foundation and Edelman for hosting and organising this morning’s event.

The SMF notes prominently on its website, “British politics is in flux”. Well, you can say that again. And after several years serving as a minister and very much sticking to my brief under two prime ministers, I wanted to take this opportunity to draw on my experience at the Department for Education and offer a wider perspective on some of the particular challenges that we face.

And by ‘we’, I mean several groups.

I mean the country…as we face up to testing times and seek to find ways to bring people together after years of rancour and division.

I mean the people who run businesses…as trust in business – and in the economic consensus that sustains it – continues to fall.

I mean the Conservative Party…now so consumed by Brexit that our great successes as a government over the past decade – and all the progress we have made as a country – has been forgotten.

And I mean politics as a whole…because what we know from Edelman’s own research is that trust in – and respect for – our political system is falling. And that creates the space for the populists, with their divisive rhetoric and easy solutions, to fill.

That is what we are witnessing today. Populism is on the march. It threatens to upend not just our political system, but so many of the old certainties on which we have come to rely. And it’s on the march for a simple reason: because mainstream politicians have not done enough to listen – let alone respond – to the priorities and concerns of the people who pay our salaries and give us our jobs.

But my conviction this morning is this: it is not too late to turn things around.

For if there is one thing my time at the Department for Education has taught me it is that if you do the hard work nothing is impossible. If you approach each challenge with what Martin Luther King described as the “fierce urgency of now”, change can happen. And a clearly articulated vision, the drive to make it happen, and the determination to see it through can yield extraordinary results.

That is why I believe so passionately in the capacity of politics and politicians to make a difference – to change lives for the better, which is what we all set out to do. Because I have seen it happen. And it is why I recoil when I hear politicians attacking the political process in this country. There will always be disagreements between parties and politicians. But I believe that politics is a noble calling; that people enter a life in politics with good intent; and that politics at its best can provide the forum in which we settle our differences, overcome divisions, and find the compromises that allow us to all move forward together.

Clearly, this may sound like a romantic view given where we are today.

It is widely accepted that we are in the midst of a political crisis, the like of which few of us has experienced before.

We are witnessing a clash between the twin forces of direct and representative democracy which has unbalanced our system of government and thrown it into a tailspin.

But this clash between the two forms of democracy is – like the issue of Brexit itself – about something even more profound. It is about power. And where we believe power should lie.

As much as anything, Brexit is an argument that says power should reside at the level of the nation-state – not at a supranational level where institutions are often unaccountable and typically all too remote.

The vote to embrace Brexit and to leave the EU was partly about the issue of where political power should lie, but it was also driven in large part by people who felt utterly powerless themselves in the face of macro political, economic and social forces over which they had too little control, or none at all. In other words, Brexit was and is about the assertion of power at every level.

And the determination to deliver Brexit is driven by a simple belief: that power should ultimately lie with the people of this country – not with any other body, group or organisation.

In 2016 Parliament and the Government were explicit: the decision whether to leave or not leave the European Union would be decided by the referendum. The people’s decision was final. That is why so many MPs have set aside their own concerns, or have been prepared to compromise by accepting a deal that they think is imperfect, in order to deliver the will of the people. Because ultimately, in a democracy, the people are sovereign. They are the masters. And government is their servant.

It is to the Prime Minister’s eternal credit that she has never once forgotten this fact. Despite all the difficulties, she has always been determined to deliver the will of the people: because she knows that to fail to do so will only reinforce the sense of powerlessness that drove so much of the Brexit vote and risk opening the doors of our democracy to populism.

The crisis of capitalism

Yet, this is where we are today: confronted by the very real prospect of the rise of a narrow-minded and nasty populism of the right led by Nigel Farage or Tommy Robinson and a romantic but equally nasty brand of populist socialism on the left led by Jeremy Corbyn. A man who seeks to create and exploit perceived imbalances of power; who attacks and demeans the media – and encourages his supporters to do the same; who despises our allies while refusing to condemn the actions of our foes; who uses the language and the rhetoric of the populist as he seeks to set one against the other.

Yet who, despite this, continues to command a loyal following among younger voters and managed to attract substantial number of their votes at the last general election just two years ago to put him on the brink of Number 10. And we Conservatives must not kid ourselves that Corbyn’s brand of socialism is so-outdated and extreme that it will not be attractive to those of all backgrounds and economic circumstances who nevertheless feel ignored by our current polity or whose concerns have been left unaddressed.

This fact was brought home to me recently during a trip to the theatre.

The musical Hadestown is a love story, but it carries a deeply political – and undeniably left-wing – message. It denounces the values of capitalism while venerating the ideals of a socialist society.

And as I watched it being performed, I became aware of a remarkable phenomenon. I looked around me. The theatre was full of what would best be described as middle-class young people. Intelligent professionals. The future of this country. Full of idealism and hope. The kind of people who cheered Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury and gave him their vote two years ago. And they cheered again at Hadestown.

It was a revealing moment for me. Because those young people were essentially cheering the destruction of an economic and social system that has done so much more to advance their goals and values than any other the world has ever known.

The capitalist system has done more than any other to lift the poorest out of poverty, to open the world up to exploration, to inspire the inventions that have transformed the ways in which we connect and talk, expand our knowledge, broaden our horizons. It’s a system that has helped us treat diseases that were otherwise regarded as death sentences; that has supported the expansion of freedom where previously repression and dictatorship reigned; that is developing technology to help tackle climate change. And let us remember that it is a system that quite simply helps us to fund the lifestyles we want and the public services we rely on. That helps us to lead the good life we want for ourselves and others.

No other economic or social system comes close to being able to make the claims that capitalism can make. And yet here we are, in 2019, with an audience of intelligent and informed young people cheering its destruction and replacement with something we know to be much worse: systems that crush the spirit of those with an enterprising bent. Socialist systems that always end in one-party states, with freedoms smashed by the jackboot of the secret police. It happened right across Eastern Europe until 1989 and it is happening in Venezuela and North Korea today. Which is why we should worry when a generation of young people seem oblivious to its horrors.

A host of recent studies have shown a creeping tendency for young people in the West to think that democracy – the very thing we so often take for granted – may not necessarily be the best or most viable form of government. One such study from January 2017 found that a quarter of the young people surveyed agreed that “choosing leaders through free elections is unimportant”.

Given the near unimaginable sacrifice of countless people in the past and in some other parts of the world today, it should come as a profound shock that so many could be so blasé about such fundamental liberties.

The causes of that crisis

This is a political crisis. And it goes to the heart of the crisis of capitalism too as the two things so often go hand in hand.

But if we step back, it is not hard to discern the roots of the crisis. For the evidence is all around. And we – moderate, mainstream politicians – must accept our share of responsibility.

Yes, the capitalist system has lifted people out of poverty and generated millions of new jobs, but it has also created a world in which the average pay ratio between a FTSE 100 CEO in the UK and their employee is 145 to 1. To me and to many, that just doesn’t seem fair.

Yes, the wealth created by the capitalist system has extended educational opportunities and helped to increase our collective knowledge, but it has also fostered a system in which a university vice-chancellor can earn £450,000 a year while students leave university plagued by debts as they start out on their working lives. That just doesn’t seem fair.

Yes, the globalised capitalist system may have broken down borders and fostered a more connected world, but it has also allowed big corporations like Google, Amazon and Facebook to make huge profits and use outdated double tax treaties designed for a mercantilist era to undermine the spirit of taxation that says you should pay your fair share. That just doesn’t seem fair.

Yes, the capitalist system has benefited many – but it is far from perfect. There will always be those who try to exploit it and so Government has a crucial role to play to enforce the rules, to change them where necessary, and so to maintain public consent. Over the last few decades, Labour and Conservative governments have been guilty of ignoring the steady scream of dissatisfaction, anger and powerlessness that is now overwhelming our political system. So it is essential – both for the defence of capitalism as the best system to govern our economic and social life, but also for the future of the Conservative Party as we face up to the threats of populists like Jeremy Corbyn – to seek to swing the balance of power back in favour of those who too often feel powerless in the face of the big economic and social forces that hold sway.

A party that stands with the powerless

And that means embracing the zeal of the revolutionary and adopting the fierce urgency of now, as we seek to take up the mantle of change.

The starting point is to be clear that the Conservative Party should stand up for all those who feel powerless in Britain today. It should stand for all those who feel they have too little control. It should stand up for the weak and stand up to the strong. It should be the party for all those who feel their voice is unheard as they go about their lives in modern Britain.

We must talk with passion and conviction about the everyday problems of modern life. We need answers to the challenges parents face with the rising costs of child care and the concerns confronting the children of elderly parents navigating their needs for social care. We need answers to the difficulties of would-be first-time house buyers. We need to take action, and be seen to take action, to deal with this generation’s greatest challenge: the devastating impact of climate change.

I believe that there is much for us to learn from the approach we have taken with education over the past few years. We have broken the stranglehold of Local Authorities and shifted the power to parents and pupils. The academies and free schools programme has revolutionised educational provision in this country partly because those schools know they have to be more responsive to local parental demands. We have introduced greater competition, given parents and pupils an element of control – and outcomes have been transformed.

We have successfully taken on the education establishment and changed the way that reading is taught, pushing our country up the international league tables for reading. We have transformed maths teaching both at primary and secondary, reformed our GCSEs, removed thousands of worthless qualifications that the poorest in society were being duped into taking. Grammar, punctuation and spelling are now being taught as never before and we’re testing to ensure children know their times tables.

There is a great deal more to do. Sometimes I feel as if we’ve only just begun when you consider the fact that in Nottingham, which is the 8th most deprived area in the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, 80 per cent of secondary schools are rated good or outstanding compared to just 50 per cent in prosperous Hertsmere, 243rd most deprived out of 326 local authority districts in that same index.

In other words if it is possible for schools to be good or outstanding in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country, why can’t it be so in all areas of disadvantage? And if it is possible in some areas of disadvantage, why are there some prosperous areas with too many underperforming schools and poor standards?

Why is it that one state school in east London, Brampton Manor Academy, recently reported that 41 of its students have received offers from Oxford and Cambridge but, although the DfE does not centrally collate information on university offers, looking at the 2017 destination tables, there were no students with an Oxbridge destination from Blaby, Bassetlaw, Braintree, Broxborne, Broadlands (in Norfolk), to name just the local authorities beginning with a B; and none from Chorley, Corby, Castlepoint, – you see where this is going! Overall, there were 45 out of 323 local authority districts with KS5 students without a single student with an Oxford or Cambridge sustained destination. A good education is the fundamental building block for a good life. Ensuring that every child attends a good school must be central to the Conservative Party’s mission to stand for the powerless, ensuring the success of our reforms, the opportunities they represent, is spread to every corner of the country.

So there is more to do in Education, but with vision, drive and determination we have already come so far. And it is this spirit – this revolutionary zeal that has informed our education reforms – which we Conservatives must apply across the full realm of political life as we seek to tip the balance of power in favour of the hardworking people of Britain.

There are some who argue that the anger in our political discord is also driven by the pace of social reform that we have seen over the last two decades. Some seem to relish the kind of culture wars that dominate debate between many Democrats and Republicans in the United States.

I am, unashamedly, a socially liberal Conservative. How could I not be? My life has been completed by legislation introduced by Tony Blair and David Cameron to recognise same sex relationships. Having always believed that marriage and family were the cornerstone of a strong, free and happy society, being able to marry as a gay man was the greatest moment of my life. And what have I discovered since? That my joy has been shared by so many of the people I work with every day, by members of the Bognor Regis and Littlehampton Conservative Association, by constituents who I meet at my surgery, at community coffee mornings, in local businesses, out on the street. I simply don’t buy the argument that the British are a moralistic, disapproving and mean-spirited people.

We are a nation that embraces change, gets on with it, and doesn’t worry too much about what other people do unless it gets in the way of their lives. We laugh at, rather than obsess about, what goes on in the bedroom: we are the nation of ‘Carry On’ and ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’. Innuendo is a national pass time. Isn’t it, Mrs?

What people do worry about is a feeling that change is being imposed and they are unable to express a view. That an elite in Westminster has little interest in or knowledge of how change can impact everyday life. Where concerns about immigration are dismissed or ignored, where people feel talked down to, where long held values can become out of fashion overnight, it is hardly surprising that a sense of powerlessness grows.

Tackling this sense of powerlessness over the actions of vested interests – whether in the political class or in large economic corporations – offers a way forward for the Conservative Party.

Let us think, for example, of the role that big tech plays in our lives today – and of the way in which the behaviour of the big tech companies has damaged the reputation of capitalism as a whole.

We embrace all the advantages of new technologies. We share details of our lives with family and friends. We click a button and have almost anything we want delivered to our door. A question that once involved a trip to the library can now be answered by a simple tap on a screen that we all keep in our pockets. As an Education Minister and as a citizen of course I welcome that. And of course, none of it would have happened if we didn’t live in capitalist, democratic societies.

But at the same time, elements of the tech revolution have gone too far. They have produced new concentrations of power. Supranational companies that see themselves as alternatives to the nation-state. Organisations and corporations that think they can’t be controlled.

Now, because the capitalist system still works, these big tech companies may soon have had their day. New start-ups are emerging to take on the behemoths with better, more people friendly alternatives.

Again, this simply wouldn’t happen under a socialist economic system of command and control.

So, we need to support these endeavours. But in the meantime, we need to take action too.

That means having the courage to regulate where we need to regulate. It means enacting policies that disrupt these concentrations of power. And it means ensuring that these companies are paying their fair share of tax.

There is nothing un-Conservative about this. Capitalism does work best when least fettered by rules and regulations that can crush innovation and stifle enterprise. But the free market has always relied on rules and the rule of law for it to function. It relies on the state to provide security, infrastructure, enforcement of contracts, title to land and the protection of intellectual property.

We need to make sure those rules and regulations are fit and proper for the challenges of the 21st century, as Teddy Roosevelt did to tackle the concentrations of power at the start of the 20th century.

But ‘Big Tech’ has become a common target. What about other areas where the balance of power has become inverted and has grown out of all control? Where can – and must – politicians act?

Utility companies who use confusing, complicated policies and tariffs to bewilder and exploit consumers. Who know that they can get away with it because our lives are busy and therefore they have effective power and control. A Conservative Party that stands up for the powerless shouldn’t stand by and let people be exploited by these multinational corporations. There’s nothing un-Conservative about that. We need to show the will and desire to tackle these monopolies of power and give people more control.

Insurance companies who ramp up premiums on the unwary and loyal, hoping we won’t notice or will be too busy to care. Hoping that the busy lives we lead will mean we acquiesce too easily.

Bosses exploiting their workers. Creaming off vast profits while cultivating or tolerating a culture of bullying and intimidation further down the chain. We should be angry at such people and such companies. The unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism of today.

Investment banks foisting investments they know to be worthless on unsuspecting savers in their retail division.

Estate agents promising higher valuations to home owners in exchange for higher commissions knowing full well the ultimate sale price would be less.

House builders, increasingly dominated by just a handful of companies, building homes of questionable design and resulting in thousands of complaints about poor construction, while making ‘super profits’ that the free market is meant to be designed to compete away.

Banks which are supposed to provide capital for new businesses and young people wanting homes but which are caught deliberately driving small business to the wall and which refuse young people mortgages because of their own malpractice in the past – denying a generation entry to property ownership, the foundation of a capitalist system. Is it any wonder that a musical rendition of a non-capitalist society sounds so appealing to that generation?

An agenda for a bold renewal of Conservatism

It should be our task as a party to act with urgency to correct these abuses and address these injustices, driven by a determination to speak out for the powerless at all times. It must be our mission to restore trust in the political system and in politics as a noble calling; something that with vision, drive and determination can change lives for the better.

To do so is not to validate Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. It is to thwart them. For if we fail to do so – if we fail to address the very real areas in which the capitalist system is failing – a long period of left-wing, socialist government is surely on its way. And it won’t be long before the cheers fade and the idealism is at an end.

This is an insight as old as Conservatism itself. Change to conserve has always been our mantra. Make change where the system is failing to preserve faith in the whole. As Burke put it “A state without the means of some change, is without the means of its own conservation”.

So let us harness that insight and embrace this agenda for a bold renewal of Conservatism. Safeguarding and shaping the future by addressing the challenges of today.

A party for the powerless with a revolutionary zeal to pick up the mantle of change.

Determined to take on vested interests and monopolies of power.

Determined to stand with the people every step of the way.

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