“Rent Too Darn High” : A Woman’s Dilemma, featuring Sarah Dusseault, JD

NWPC South Bay Salon Series from December 12, 2020

“Rent Too Darn High” : A Woman’s Dilemma

Forecasts on the Sunset of the COVID-19 Rent Moratorium & Challenges for Women and Children 

A Conversation with Sarah Dusseault, JD

Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Women & Homelessness 

Sarah discusses information on the impact of current legislation & more.

Residential tenants who were protected from eviction while the County’s residential eviction moratorium was in effect must now pay back 50% of the past due rent, by Feb 28, 2021, and the remaining unpaid rent for the same time period by August 31, 2021.

 

 

Madame Vice President – Kamala Harris Makes History – What it Means for Women in Politics, A Salute to Kamala

Kamala Harris Makes History as First Woman Vice President of the United States, What it Means for Women in Politics 

On Tuesday November 3, 2020 Joseph Biden became President-Elect and Kamala Devi Harris, Vice President-Elect of the United States. Biden and Harris sailed to victory.  Harris’s significant success marked breaking one of the highest “Glass Ceilings” on the Centennial of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. This is an extraordinary fete as Biden and Harris won the 2021 election over the most repressive misogynist incumbent President in modern history.

On January 20, 2021 Kamala will be sworn into office and for the first time, the ceremony will be reflecting the true gender and racial diversity of the United States.  This is a history making day as it affirms that the United States is a tapestry of gender, race, and culture.  Kamala is the living embodiment of America’s gender, ethnic, racial, and religious diversity. As Vice President she turns the page on the popular notion that the summit of leadership is exclusively reserved for Caucasian maleness. Biden and Harris will create the most diverse cabinet in U.S. History representing gender, racial, ethnic and LGBTQ representation in the U.S.  Biden’s first 100 days claim to fulfill the campaign promises which significantly address the needs of the diverse underserved United States including a new coronavirus bailout package, economic relief, immigration, etc. There will be a national mask mandate and increasing the doses of COVID vaccine available for people to be able to be inoculated. These are of extreme importance as people of color are more impacted by COVID.

Kamala Devi Harris, was born October 20, 1964, in Oakland, California. Her father, from Jamaica, taught economics at Stanford, while her mother, an Indian emigré, was a biologist specializing in breast cancer research. Growing up in “The Flatlands” area of west Berkley, Harris was “bussed” to Thousand Oaks Elementary school, as part of Berkley’s desegregation program. As a youth Harris attended both an African American church as well as the nearby Hindu Temple, and this multi-ethnic, multi-faith aspect of her background is an important part of her political persona. Harris has spoken of how influential the progressive views of her maternal grandfather, P V Gopalan (a career civil servant in India and Zambia) were in her formative years.

Harris attended the, historically black, Howard University in Washington DC, chairing the Economics Society and interning in the mailroom of California Senator Alan Cranston. She graduated in 1986, before returning to her native California for law-school.

In 1990 she was hired as a Deputy DA in Alameda County. Since then, she has become a breakout star in the democratic party, going from Assistant San Francisco DA to Vice-President in just nine years (via the California DA and Senate seat.) With this meteoric rise, it is reasonable to think that she might one day be the nation’s first female President. With an increasingly diverse House, Senate, and country, it is tempting to think that this future is getting more likely rather than less.

Harris’ as Vice President represents the walking of a fine line for the Biden administration. On one hand she plays well with the progressive side of the party, because of her personal background and life experiences, at the same time, her history as “California’s Top Prosecutor”.

Political success in America is traditionally about coalition building around the middle, and so Harris is expected to “coalesce” with the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Those on the left, who have been protesting the very visible and worrying instances of police brutality feel alienated, but she was able to flip her “law-and-order” image to a sympathetic listener and an advocate for social justice. The far left is not the mainstream, however Harris and Biden gambled, successfully, on the fact that they could pull centrist conservatives away from the Right and that progressives would vote for them because of their more progressively moderate ways of thinking. Their strategy paid off.

On Inauguration Day  2021 Biden and Harris face the challenge of reuniting and healing a country that historians say is the most divided since the American Civil War. It will take years of political finesse to purge someone as polarizing as Trump from the American memory. The aftermath of the Trump era is likened to a type of Cold War. As we have seen before, “It Takes a Woman” to be able to bring people together.  Harris is that woman, and we know that as Vice President she will be successful in the reunification of our country.

We stand at a moment of optimism for women in politics. First, there are more women in the highest levels of government.  In 2021 this country will welcome 118 women in the House and 26 in the Senate. There are 52 women of color in the 117th Congress. This compares to 2018 in which 110 women were elected to the House and 23 in Senate. This is representative of a massive increase in female participation, from local government all the way, to the very top. Women are now a demographic that candidates cannot afford not to speak to. If this trend continues a moderate democratic candidate with law-and-order credentials will prove that she has what it takes to become the first female President.

Kamala Harris inspires confidence in women. She is a beacon for women of color, as she is the First female Vice President of the United States. She is about strength, ambition, and leadership.  She will initiate the country’s new spiritual direction which will summon a nation to do the work of history and reflects the “strength of our democracy”.   Congratulations Kamala on your excellence.                  

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

National Vice President of Diversity

National Women’s Political Caucus, Washington , D.C

Women and the War For Independence

In 1776, while the constitutional congress was hard at work assembling our government, Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her husband, then-congressman John Adams, asking that the drafters “remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.” It was a timely and well-considered request that the drafters expand their view of the American ‘citizen’ beyond that of white men. Unfortunately, Abigail’s pleas fell on deaf ears; John Adams’ reply was that he could not help but laugh at her “saucy” letter. Even as a well-educated man preoccupied with tyranny and human rights, the thought of women being included in the citizenry was laughable.

Undeterred, however, Abigail responded to John’s dismissal with solemnity, staying that “we have it in our power not only to free ourselves but to subdue our Masters, and without violence throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet.”(vi) In this quote, Abigail Adams co-opted the language of the American Revolution–of masters and servants, of natural and legal authority–to make a deeply compelling argument for women. The unquestioned authority of men over women ran counter to the philosophical framework of the revolution, and she was not about to let her husband forget it.

Of course, Abigail’s argument would not find purchase for many years to come. The Declaration of Independence, drafted the same year as Abigail’s letter, makes very clear that the new government would be one made for men, by men. It begins with an exhortation that “all men are created equal” and goes on to say that governments are “instituted among men”. It does not include any mention of women. Nor does it pay any mind to the many people who were enslaved at the time of its authorship.

Nonetheless, their exclusion from full citizenship did not stop women like Abigail Adams from participating in the Revolution. The Daughters of Liberty held meetings, spun cloth to aid a boycott of British material, and made a public showing of eating only American food and drinking American tea. Many others took the reins of their private property while their husbands went to war, taking over the responsibilities of running the family farm or business. Still others aided in the war effort directly. Betsy Ross famously sewed the first American flag. Another woman, Mary Katherine Gifford, was the first printer and postmaster to the Second Continental Congress in Baltimore, and actually printed the official copy of the Declaration of Independence. According to the Smithsonian, she may have actually been the first woman postmaster, though her capacity as such was never fully acknowledged.

Despite all of those contributions, the American Revolution remains the work of the “Founding Fathers” in popular memory. When the Americans defeated the British, the “natural and legal authority” that Abigail Adams described became the law of the land. Adams’ words did not change her husband’s views on the proper place of women in society, and they did not change the literal meaning of the words “all men are created equal.” Women were not given the right to vote or own land.

So, as we celebrate the 4th of July, it is important to note that while the Declaration of Independence achieved a landmark separation of the United States from the British, it preserved the subjugation of women to the status of second-class citizen. Acknowledging that fact and the limitations of our National origins is essential to an honest and forthright discussion of our future.

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

Marginalized, Unsheltered and Isolated: Invisible Homeless Women

Homelessness is a chronic issue in the United States, particularly in our major cities. Despite our expansive financial resources, thousands of people fall through the cracks each year due to addiction, mental illness, or sheer economic necessity. As such, homelessness is a sort of “canary in the coalmine” for problems in our social safety net. When the infrastructure doesn’t work, people end up on the streets.

The scary reality is that, in modern America, many people are only one unforeseen event–an illness, losing a job, a sudden rent hike–from homelessness. Many are not addicts or mentally ill. They simply couldn’t afford to have a home. That economic reality has endangered a fast-growing population: homeless women and children.

Women are 35% more likely to live in poverty than men, thanks to a compounding set of economic factors. The gender pay gap means that women often take home less pay, and women’s societal role as primary caregivers means that they often have more mouths to feed. These conditions keep women in a vulnerable economic limbo. Coupled with an affordable housing crisis in major cities, women face a daunting path in the face of economic downturn. A single unforeseen event could push these working women onto the streets before they have a chance to make a contingency plan.

Furthermore, the factors that drive women into homelessness differ from their male counterparts. The majority of homeless women (63%) are survivors of domestic abuse, and 1 in 4 reports domestic violence as the main factor in their homelessness. Women who are out of the workforce and rely on abusive partners financially are at high risk for unstable housing after leaving an abusive relationship. These women are forced to make the impossible decision of choosing homelessness rather than enduring continued domestic violence.

While all homeless people are exposed to violence and uncertainty, homeless women are particularly vulnerable. They are far more likely to experience sexual violence. Up to 92% of homeless women have experienced severe sexual or physical assault at some point in their lives.Not having a home often means sleeping in male-dominated shelters. Homeless women have very little access to healthcare and maternal care, should they become pregnant. They are lacking even simple supplies like pads or tampons for their basic health needs. The physical and emotional toll of this daily trauma becomes physically damaging. The average homeless woman in her mid-fifties is as physiologically aged as housed women in their seventies.

Institutional barriers to women’s economic independence fit into the larger picture of misogyny and sexism in the United States. It is no coincidence that the US has the largest number of homeless women amongst developed world nations. Where other countries would provide support structures to ensure women’s safety and provide for their economic well-being in times of need, the United States allows them to fall into dangerous conditions that are near-impossible to overcome. If a society cannot protect its women and children, there is something seriously wrong.

We need to create policies and support institutions that provide people–particularly women and children–with footholds to stop their fall into homelessness. People in economically tenuous positions should not be one bad day away from homelessness. That sort of slippery slope is dangerous for the citizen and expensive to taxpayers. Once someone becomes homeless, it is exceedingly difficult to rehouse and re-stabilize their lives. The economic and social cost can be mitigated greatly by intervening at the earlier stages.

© Carmen Schaye

It Takes A Woman: Connecting and Empowering Voters Through Social Media

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decided to run against Joe Crowley in the democratic primary, she saw an opening: despite being a leading democrat in Washington, Crowley was too out of touch, too comfortable, and too removed from his constituency. She ran her campaign straight at Crowley’s weak spots, fostering a direct, emotional connection to the people of her district. She was out knocking on doors, handing out flyers, meeting the people who would be casting a ballot. And at the same time, she was building her skill-set of direct engagement through a different avenue: social media.

Since she defeated Crowley and coasted to a general election victory in 2018, AOC has demonstrated the enormous political power inherent in social media. Rather than tailor her messaging through carefully focus-grouped campaign ads, AOC’s social media posts can be funny, angry, playful, or indignant. In short, they are oddly human. They sound like the impassioned thoughts and opinions of a young progressive with witty comebacks and a comfort with internet vernacular.

She is also native to the idea of reinforcing her own “brand”. This past week, AOC went back to work as a bartender in Jackson Heights, Queens in order to support the #raisethewage campaign to raise the national minimum wage to $15. The videos of her bartending went viral, giving a huge boost to the campaign. In the videos, she speaks as she prepares drinks for patrons: “The federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour. That is unacceptable. Any job that pays $2.13 an hour is not a job. It’s indentured servitude. All labor has dignity and the way that we give labor dignity is by paying people the respect and the value that they are worth at minimum.” Far from hiding from her past as a service worker, AOC uses it as her bona fides in speaking for the poor and middle class. Working as a bartender demonstrates her intelligence in using her own platform and story to bolster a national issue that could benefit millions of Americans.

AOC’s uncanny candidness has cemented her status as a disruptive force to be reckoned with in the democratic party. Unlike many of her colleagues who must fight to have their message heard, she can easily command attention and demand action from her massive social media following. In her short time in office, she has already championed the Green New Deal, which failed to pass the Senate, yet has more name recognition than any progressive legislation (if not legislation writ large) in recent memory. Conservatives discuss the Green New Deal breathlessly, demonizing its regulation of the free market. Progressives applaud its steps towards combatting climate change and creating jobs. Whether you love her or hate her, AOC has forced a landmark bill into the conversation as a first-term congresswoman. That is a monumental paradigm shift.

It is important to note that AOC has carved out in this niche in the shadow of another social media renegade: President Donald Trump. President Trump’s rise to power is inconceivable without his runaway twitter antagonism. He weaponized the access that twitter gave him to create a constant swirl of attention around himself and his candidacy for president—insulting and demeaning anyone that criticized him, from his primary opponents to news anchors to late night comedians. He effectively commands attention by proving just how low he will go in order to stay in the news cycle. And, to our great national dismay, the media has proved more than willing to follow his lead. Just like AOC, whether you love him or hate him, Donald Trump has completely shifted the paradigm of modern politics.

The phenomenon of politics via social media is not going away anytime soon. Insofar as we can prepare for a future in which getting elected to office means commanding a massive social media following, we can look to AOC and President Trump as concrete examples for the power and danger in this new type of power. For each, social media provides a means of side-stepping the powers-that-be to speak directly to an audience. Donald Trump did not need to wait for a debate to call Jeb Bush “low energy”; AOC does not need to filibuster on the floor of Congress to advocate for a national minimum wage. The force of their personalities, channeled through their social media accounts, allows them to set the agenda for the day.

It seems clear that President Trump will not use this power responsibly. AOC, however, is cognizant of its power and the risks of overuse. “I actually think that social media poses a public health risk to everybody,” Ocasio-Cortez said. She added, ” I think it has effects on everybody: increased isolation, depression, anxiety, addiction, escapism.” How she proceeds to use her platform will be interesting to say the least, and will likely set a precedent for how politicians of the future wield the power of their social media to promote themselves and their ideas.

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

Is the United States Hostile Territory For Women?

A 2018 study by the Thomson-Reuters Foundation ranked the countries where women are most endangered by violence, coercion, and subjugation. India was ranked as the most dangerous country on earth for women, followed by countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia.

Also included on the list: The United States of America. After the surge of #metoo and #timesup allegations, voters in the survey felt that the US was hostile territory for women. The US tied for third when respondents were asked where women were most at risk of sexual violence, harassment and being coerced into sex.

Thomson-Reuters polled 548 aid professionals, academics, healthcare staff, policymakers, and social commentators across Europe, Africa, the Americas, South East Asia, South Asia and the Pacific. The US was the only Western democracy in the top ten, marking a new low in our global reputation as a protector of human rights; when half of the population is at risk of violence, our status as a world leader on human rights is dubious at best. “People want to think income means you’re protected from misogyny, and sadly that’s not the case,” said Cindy Southworth, executive vice president of the Washington-based National Network to End Domestic Violence.

While abortion rights were not considered as part of the survey, they certainly fit into this larger picture. This past week, Alabama passed a law that forbade abortions past six weeks, even in cases of rape or incest. This draconian law exhibits a flagrant disregard for the wellbeing and life of a woman, as she is forced to carry a pregnancy that is the byproduct of rape to term. Even in countries like Russia and China, where civil rights are impinged upon with regularity, abortion remains available to all women up to twelve weeks.  Where other first-world countries make strides towards equality, the United States continues to lurch backwards to further restrict and complicate women’s healthcare and bodily autonomy.

The unfortunate fact is that there is a strain of misogyny built into the culture and legal framework in the United States. Tracing the lineage of that thinking is difficult, but certainly borrows a good deal from religion. Though a secular nation by definition, the US has always employed religious thinking to relegate women to a secondary role in society.  For instance, the belief that life begins at conception is a relatively modern belief, having been mobilized after Roe v. Wade became law in 1973.  Before that, many Christians believed that abortion was not sinful, and in fact wanted to organize to protect it. In 1971, the Southern Baptist Convention agreed “to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and…evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother” (SBC – St. Lous, Missouri, 1971).

In the wake of Roe, however, the use of abortion as a political issue proved massively effective and became the central, if not sole, issue for many conservative voters. The power of abortion is certainly fueled by some voters’ desire to protect the lives of unborn children, but is also undeniably reflective of a societal desire to control women’s bodies. Outlawing abortion removes a woman’s ability to define her own life. Prioritizing the unborn fetus over the autonomy of the pregnant woman demonstrates a contempt for women’s sexual freedom and civil liberty.

Having said that, it would be hypocritical to highlight abortion without acknowledging that the scourge of #timesup and #metoo allegations are predominantly the doing of well-educated, metropolitan liberals. The rampant abuse by men in positions of power demonstrates that even in environments committed to equality and inclusion, women are subjected to unwanted sexual advances and coercion. These men build trust and goodwill by donating to egalitarian causes and supporting female politicians, only to exploit them to take advantage of women. They are just as demonstrative of the strain of misogyny present in American life as the republican legislators trying to strip away abortion rights.

Uprooting that strain is going to take time and serious self-interrogation, but #metoo was a powerful step in the right direction. As they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant. By giving women the opportunity to speak without fear of reprisal and to legislate in their best interest, the US can work towards reclaiming its status as a leader in human rights.

Of course, that effort is made more difficult by the sitting President. President Trump and his “America First” mentality blocks exactly the sort of honest self-examination that could reverse the tides of anti-woman legislation. He would do well to consider why many of the countries who he characterizes as “rapists” or from “shithole countries” are not included on the Thomson-Reuters list, while the US is.

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

Speaking Out To #StopTheBans in West Hollywood

On May 21, Dr. Carmen Schaye spoke at the City of West Hollywood’s National Day of Action to #StopTheBans and to Support Reproductive Freedom and a Woman’s Right to Choose. Speaking in her capacity, as National Vice President of Diversity of the National Women’s Political Caucus, Dr. Schaye spoke along with Women’s March Foundation and other impassioned other community leaders to protest recent legislation in states like Georgia and Alabama that severely limits access to abortion.

The city of West Hollywood is America’s first pro-choice city, having declared itself such in 1993. It has supported state and federal legislation protecting and advancing women’s reproductive rights, access to healthcare, and funds for preventative health care services. Last week’s event pushed the City even further into the activist cause, as they became the first city to impose financial sanctions against states with retrograde abortion legislation on the books. City officials voted unanimously to pass a resolution that suspended official travel to Georgia.

Lindsey Horvath, the city’s Mayor Pro Tempore, also spoke at the rally. “We will not conduct the city’s business in places that do not honor, respect and protect a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “We will not spend taxpayer dollars on goods, services or travel in or from any state that undermines women’s health, dignity and privacy, and we denounce any and all efforts to endanger the lives of women and girls who cannot survive a pregnancy physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially.”

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

The War on a Woman’s Right to Choose

Across the country, on stages big and small, legislators, activists, and judges are waging a war on women’s right to choose. Though this right has been a settled law for almost half a century, having been decided upon in the Supreme Court in 1973, it has nonetheless become the central issue in the American culture war. And for good reason: for the Christian right, abortion is the immoral termination of a life; for the left, it represents a woman’s right to control her body and adjudicate if they are economically, emotionally, and physically ready to have a child. Each side is uncompromisingly dogmatic about their position on the issue, and equally convinced that it is critical to fight for complete victory.

While Roe v. Wade has ensured Americans’ right to choose on a federal level, some states are adopting limitations on abortion that effectively foreclose the possibility of a safe and legal abortion. There are currently ten states with so-called “heartbeat bills”, which ban abortions once the fetus has a detectable heartbeat, which is typically about six weeks into a pregnancy, when many women still don’t even know that they are pregnant. Some states force women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound before they terminate the pregnancy; others force women who successfully get an abortion to have a funeral for the remains of the fetus.

Many of these laws flagrantly violate the standards for abortion access laid out in Roe v. Wade, and there is reason to believe that the GOP is deliberately violating those standards as a strategy to bring a case before the Supreme Court. While Roe v. Wade is settled law, it could be overturned if a case challenging a state’s restrictions on abortion is brought before the court. It is unlikely that the court would use that opportunity to ban abortion altogether, but it is entirely possible that it could return the ability to do so to individual states.

There is no telling how disruptive repealing Roe v. Wade would be to our current political system. On the left, women have become the lifeblood of the party, and their representation in Congress is all but certain to grow in the years to come. Rolling back a woman’s right to choose would be received as a direct threat to their equality as citizens of this country. A repeal would divide the country into pro-life states and pro-choice states, essentially creating two Americas.

This scenario is speculative, of course, and Chief Justice Roberts seems to resist the pressure to make the court an activist body. It is perhaps more likely that he will simply allow the status quo to continue, in which abortion rights are eroded and hamstrung but not summarily banned. That strategy spares the GOP the potential blowback of repealing Roe v. Wade while allowing for de facto bans.

Regardless, there is undeniable pressure on Roberts and the other conservative justices to dismantle Roe v. Wade. While running for office, President Trump was clear about his desire to appoint judges to the Supreme Court who would repeal Roe v. Wade, and memorably said that were abortion to be outlawed, there would have to be “some sort of punishment” for women who illegally underwent the procedure. Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s two appointees to the Supreme Court, are both conservative Christians, and were both selected in part for their willingness to vote to repeal Roe v. Wade. While a repeal remains hypothetical, the pieces are certainly in place to make it a reality.

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

It Takes A Woman: Kirstjen Nielsen, Claire Grady, and the President’s Border War

This past week, frustrated with Mexico’s inaction on illegal immigration into the United States, the President threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border. This would’ve been an unprecedented—and extraordinarily costly—escalation in the President’s fight to curb the flow of immigrants entering the country. The President relented, however, thanks to pushback from within his administration led by Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, after Nielsen and Pompeo stressed that such an extreme measure would do more harm than good.

That pushback would prove to be the end of Nielsen’s turbulent tenure in the Administration. After Nielsen was excoriated at a cabinet meeting last week, she drew up a “list of things that needed to change,” in preparation for a meeting with the President, according to reporting by the New York Times. When she went to said meeting, however, the President ignored the list and insisted that she resign. After their meeting, Nielsen submitted her letter of resignation, adding her name to the lengthy list of administration officials who either resigned, were forced to resign, or were fired.

Nielsen is perhaps most notable for enduring intense public scrutiny while steadily checking the President’s more extreme policy agenda items from within the administration. A lifelong bureaucrat, Nielsen was the rare member of the administration equipped with both pedigree and relevant experience. Nielsen was educated the Georgetown school of Foreign Service and the University of Virginia School of Law, then worked as a special assistant to the security council in George W. Bush’s administration. Before being appointed Secretary of the DHS, she worked for John Kelly, first in his role as Secretary of DHS and subsequently as Chief of Staff in the current administration.

Those qualifications also made Nielsen the target of the President’s suspicion. In an administration where loyalty is prized above insight, she was seen as a Washington insider who only knew how to play by the rules. And for good reason: repeatedly throughout her tenure, Nielsen had to be the voice of reason in order to explain why something that the President wanted to do—stop offering asylum, for instance—was illegal and therefore impossible. Nielsen also hesitated to toe the party line on issues like family separation, and only complied when the President pressured her to do so. While she remained a thoughtful and practiced bureaucrat, she did whatever possible to assuage the President’s concerns that she was undermining his agenda, even adopting his language of a “crisis” at the border.

Needless to say, Nielsen’s efforts to comport herself as a border ideologue did not sufficiently convince her critics in the administration. Nor did they allow her to appoint her own successor. As the undersecretary for management and acting deputy, Claire Grady was next in the department’s line of succession, as outlined in federal law. Like Nielsen, Grady was eminently qualified for her position, having nearly three decades of experience at DHS and the Defense Department. But Grady was also forced to submit her letter of resignation this week, after the President announced that he would instead be appointing a hardliner, Kevin McAleenan, to become the acting Secretary of the DHS.

Though it would be difficult to say that Secretary Nielsen’s time in office was an unmitigated success, it is clear that her breadth of experience and her humanitarian instincts played a role in checking many of the administration’s more extreme impulses. Some have speculated that the specter of family separation will follow Nielsen long after she leaves office. I hope that this is not the case, as it seems fairly obvious to me that Nielsen was doing whatever was necessary to remain at her post and prevent a catastrophe. Further, we need more, not less, women like Nielsen to step up and serve in the current administration. If we place the blame for family separation squarely on her shoulders, we only pave the way for the President to fill his ranks with those who will never challenge him.

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

It Takes A Woman: Lori Lightfoot Becomes Chicago’s Next Mayor

After Rahm Emanuel announced that he would not seek re-election for the mayor of Chicago, a host of qualified candidates piled into the race. Having previously served as chief of staff in President Obama’s administration, Emanuel was elected mayor in 2011, and his tenure as mayor had been exceedingly fraught with scandal. Many Chicagoans came to view the entire political class of the city as corrupt, elite, and out of touch with everyone outside of the Loop.

Enter Lori Lightfoot, a civil servant who had worked behind the scenes in two mayoral administrations. Prior to the mayoral race, Lightfoot was most widely known for having served on an investigative task force examining police misconduct in Chicago. The investigation was far-reaching, and its results were striking: the ensuing report found that the Chicago P.D. had widespread racist tendencies, and that residents of the city viewed them as dangerous and untrustworthy. Following the publication of the report, Lightfoot entered the race.

Lightfoot staged her campaign on similar grounds to that damning report, claiming that Chicago politics were systematically corrupt and in need of a major overhaul. Her campaign slogan was “Let The Light In”. It also didn’t hurt that Lightfoot fit the description for an ‘outsider’; Lightfoot is black, openly gay, and has never served in elected office.

In the February primary, Lightfoot emerged the frontrunner of 14 candidates, narrowly edging out the second-place finisher, Toni Preckwinkle, another black woman and the head of the Democratic Party in Chicago. Most notably, both Lightfoot and Preckwinkle defeated Richard Daley, a member of the infamous Daley family that has been a dynasty in Chicago politics. Daley’s supporters were certain that he would at least land in the top two and get a chance at a run-off, but voters showed that they were sick of the same-old names and mentalities.

This past week, Lightfoot won her run-off against Preckwinkle, having successfully positioned herself as the more progressive candidate and widening her lead from the primary. She will become not only first black woman to serve as Chicago’s mayor, but also the first openly gay person. She pledges to bring equity and prosperity to the entire city, which is notoriously segregated, claiming that she would transform Chicago into “a place where your ZIP code doesn’t determine your destiny”.

The wider implications of Lightfoot’s victory are all-too-clear. In a nation frustrated with corruption and dishonest leadership, voters turn to candidates who can credibly claim to be outside the influence of the powers that be. More and more, those candidates are women and particularly women of color. As we approach the primaries for the presidency in 2020, this trend only stands to grow stronger.

© Dr. Carmen Schaye

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