I generally have a pretty steely stomach for political machinations (seven years in Washington will do that to a person—I hear tolerance only increases), but there was something a little nauseating about watching the pre-determined defeat of the Paycheck Fairness Act in the Senate yesterday. (“Paycheck Fairness fails in the Senate, as expected,” reported The Washington Post. “Senate Democrats knew they had little chance of passing the Pay Fairness Act on Tuesday,” said NPR.)
This legislation addresses the wage gap between men and women. The exact size of the gap is debatable, but the gap itself is real and should be addressed. It wasn’t the defeat of the bill, however, that was motion-sickness-inducing. It was the merry-go-round, here-we-go-again sensation that this latest front of the “war on women” prompts. Despite the earnest endorsements from the president and Valerie Jarret (she dedicated her first tweet to the subject), there seems little doubt that politics motivated the vote.
That’s not to say that this isn’t an important issue. It’s worth banging the drum about pay inequality. But, I worry that fanning the flames of this “war” threatens to obfuscate the legitimate issues that should be at its core. It’s hard to fault the Democrats or President Obama for voicing support of this, but it saddens me that their support and the timing of this vote makes everyone assume that gender-based pay inequality is going to be (primarily) just another political pawn. It’s unfortunate that people seem so comfortable playing politics with civil rights.