Mrs. Thomas's call to Anita Hill: our call to action
By now, if you haven’t heard that, almost two decades after the infamous hearings, Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Ginni, called Anita Hill and told her to apologize to her husband, you may be the only person in America without a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, or a television.
But yes – it really happened. Called her, left a voicemail message, told her to “pray about it” and to apologize. Most of us who remember those demeaning stories and those chilling hearings remember too the political wave they brought about – a sort of collective revulsion on behalf of women who, instead of merely shaking their fists at the images on the TV, marched out the front door and looked for a way to make things different.
Out of this motivation came a new chapter for EMILY’s List – incredible growth in our community, and, in 1992, the remarkable “Year of the Woman” – the year all those woman determined to make it different sent a historic number of women to the House and Senate, including Sens. Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray.
But there’s a twist to this story that I haven’t seen too much coverage of: Virginia Thomas, who called Hill, is a prominent – and provocative – tea party leader. She founded her group, Liberty Central, which works with other tea party organizations to support the candidacies of people like Ken Buck in Colorado who told an alleged rape victim that she was experiencing “buyers remorse”, Dino Rossi in Washington State who wants to turn back the clock on reproductive rights, and Sandy Adams in Florida who opposes a woman’s right to choose without exception, and she appears regularly on television and at rallies promoting the tea party.
And so can’t this odd story be read as something more than simply the ill-conceived airing of a 20-year-old grudge? Isn’t this a perfect example of the ultimate tea party fantasy – “let’s go back”? Let’s pretend the early years of this country were perfect, that we can undo everything that’s happened in between, and that if we say something enough times, it’ll become true. Like Sarah Palin hoping she can “party like it’s 1773,” Mrs. Thomas wants to undo those ugly memories, rewrite the history, start with a clean slate.
And Mrs. Thomas’s tea party involvement is far from benign. She has called the Obama administration “tyranny,” has advocated “overthrowing” it, and funds her group, Liberty Central, with corporate donations. Is Mrs. Thomas’s 7:30 AM voicemail message (left on Professor Hill’s work line) little more than a publicity stunt, designed to catapult Ginni Thomas to the level of tea party star like Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann? Perhaps.
I prefer to think of it as the perfect reminder. A reminder that our work is never done. A reminder that the gains we’ve made are never safe. A reminder, for sure, that election day is right around the corner, and that the difference between a Senate made up of tea party radicals like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, right-wing roll-backers like Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina, and corporate appeasers like Dino Rossi—or a Senate made up of women like Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray, and Robin Carnahan, who fight for families, for basic equality for women from the doctor’s office to the boardroom – that difference is once again in the hands of women throughout this country.
If we work for and vote for these Democratic women in less than 14 days, we say no to Ginni Thomas and the tea party’s fantasy of turning the country back and rewriting history. So at the risk of being retro, I’m going to find my old “I BELIEVE ANITA HILL” bumper sticker and display it proudly. And then I’m going to make some GOTV phone calls. Because what was unforgivable and intolerable twenty years ago is just as wrong today.
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