Democracy's Grande Dames: Opposing Trump's Forces

By Jamie Stiehm

December 4, 2019 5 min read

WASHINGTON — Wise women elders are our nation's saving grace at a moment when democracy is in peril from the president. Thankfully, a critical mass has aged gracefully into power.

It's high irony, little noted, that women in high government posts are the principals opposing the forces of President Donald Trump.

A female senator, 70, is running hard for president. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a feisty policy wonk and former professor, might be Trump's last pick to debate. She projects a dewy exuberance and idealism about economic equity that makes him look like a robber baron without the charm or art collection.

More immediately, a woman of 79 is leading the way to impeach Trump. That would be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who says the constitutional process is "prayerful." It is a truth universally acknowledged that the speaker's timing was deft. The nation's most powerful Democrat is keeping her caucus marching together.

Yes, Pelosi looks and dresses younger than her years, energized by her lone stands against the president and his men at rocky White House meetings. Recently, she scolded him in front of everyone: Why do "all roads lead to Vladimir Putin"?

Frankly, there's no man in this town with the courage to confront Trump like that.

Meanwhile, on government's front steps, actress Jane Fonda is up to her old activism again, getting arrested by the Capitol to protest zero action on climate change. She turns 82 on Dec. 21. "We get braver as we get older," she declared at a Washington Post Live forum.

Also noteworthy, the oldest Supreme Court justice is the celebrated Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 86, the fastest opinion writer on the court and its most stalwart liberal champion. The oldest senator is another Jewish woman of 86, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Ginsburg and Feinstein are not as visible on the day-to-day frontlines against Trump's egregious conduct, such as urging a foreign power to investigate a political rival for personal gain. But each sits atop her sphere, the Supreme Court or the Senate, with a body of work that speaks volumes against the president's positions.

For example, in her branch of government, Feinstein authored a bill banning assault weapons, now expired and hostage to the gun lobby. Despite the rise in deadly school shootings, Trump refuses to support renewing her 10-year ban.

As a benchmark, American women did not win the vote until 1920.

Both born in 1933, from San Francisco and Brooklyn, respectively, Feinstein and Ginsburg heralded the first generation of American women with the chance to rise to the peaks of power. Pelosi, seven years younger, was born in Baltimore to a political dynasty. Yet she belongs to the same first wave of women with power.

Perhaps we'll look back and say they saved the day.

As a lawyer advocate, Ginsburg advanced the status of women, just as Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights lawyer, won landmark cases striking down segregation, notably Brown v. Board of Education. Marshall joined the Supreme Court bench in the 1960s, while Ginsburg was appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. She was only the second woman on the Supreme Court.

Ginsburg, an expert on women in the workplace, is an exemplary worker and colleague on the court. She and the late Antonin Scalia, the court's biting conservative, were friends who enjoyed the opera together. Her convictions never waver as the senior justice in the minority on the 5-4 Supreme Court, narrowly dominated by Republican appointees. She can be counted to vote against the Trump administration every time.

Even though Ginsburg is a Supreme rock star and an inspirational figure, there was a push to get her to resign so President Barack Obama could appoint a younger justice. She wisely ignored the buzz and pressure, which likely wouldn't have come a man's way in the same place.

Ginsburg's health may be fragile, but her constitution is iron. Her voice and record is a learned counterweight to the conservative men in their 50s who Trump put on the court. Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, groomed at the same all-male Catholic prep school, oppose reproductive rights.

These four — Warren, Pelosi, Ginsburg and Feinstein — are democracy's grande dames, profiles in courage, defending the ramparts.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the webpage.

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