Tuesday, July 17 , 2018, 1:59 pm | Partly Cloudy 71º


Jamie Stiehm: A Fresh New Women’s Way Ready to Claim Its Place in World

The female zeitgeist is upon us, a new wind of history blowing fresh as the Chinook.

Hundreds of thousands of women marched on streets across the continent, as a few powerful men shut down the government.

President Donald Trump laid low, seeking shelter from the seething masses of protests against him. His refusal to accept a deal on young immigrants called “Dreamers” led to the shutdown and made matters more dreary, one year into his presidency.

What a ripe harbinger for 2018. It already promises to be the year of the Women, even more than 1992 was the “Year of the Woman.” It’s no secret, it’s no mystery, but it is news, if we only connect dots on the front pages.

The Academy Award nominations show a deep sea change. More than 150 young women athletes abused by a USA Gymnastics doctor each broke their silences in a Michigan courtroom. More women are running for political office than ever in this troubled land of ours, a Time magazine cover story reported. They’re mostly Democrats, a crushing wave of powerful women who may help their party take back the House of Representatives in the November elections.

My slice of the world is the other half of Congress, the Senate. I see change churning even in that august, formal chamber, filled with men’s voices since the days of Daniel Webster. Believe me, change don’t come easy under those chandeliers.

For starters, on Jan. 3, the number of women out of 100 reached 22 for the first time ever, after the vacated seat of Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., was taken by Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn. (Franken resigned under a sexual harassment cloud last year.) That may not seem like much, but it is coming to the point where women don’t feel like outsiders and can make their presence known. Many more are Democrats, 17 of the 22, and the 84-year-old dean of all, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., convenes a monthly dinner for all Senate women.

For so long, it’s felt like a bad marriage in the Senate. Country club Republicans acted like grumpy husbands used to having things their way, like a martini waiting when they get home. Senate Democrats resemble the downtrodden wives who are finally learning to stand up for themselves.

The split is as narrow as it can be now, 51-49, meaning the parties have to listen to the other side when in a crisis. With a cantankerous Trump in charge, they have no choice but to act more responsible, if the country is going to be governed at all.

That’s the takeaway for a brand-new bipartisan group emerging in the recent days: Senate moderates. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, convened about 20 in her office, where one senator chipped her glass elephant while throwing the “talking stick” to another.

Yes, the “talking stick” was good therapy for the most talkative group in town. A “Dreamers” champion, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., played a part in bringing together a real run at common ground. The Senate has a reprieve until Feb. 8 to reach an agreement affecting the 690,000 immigrants who came to the United States illegally when they were children.

It’s not a bed of roses, but the Senate group expanded to 35 in a secret meeting. It’s a change in face and company, and now the middlin’ moderates are a Senate hot spot. The mood is lighter, all smiles in the marble hall, as seen on the front pages. It all started in a woman’s office. Coincidence or karma?

The #metoo hashtag caused a quick change at Hollywood’s Golden Globes — attendees dressed in black for solidarity. And it may influence the Oscar race, where two women in their 60s are best actress frontrunners: Meryl Streep and Frances McDormand.

There’s a rub, though: the lack of one leader.

“A sustained movement needs two key ingredients, solidarity and organization,” said Roane Carey, managing editor of The Nation. “That means white women will need to embrace, not shut out, women of color.”

At the Folger Theatre in Washington, an acclaimed playwright, Theresa Rebeck, created a fresh sparkling rewrite of a classic, capturing the zeitgeist wind in a bottle: “The Way of the World.”

Jamie Stiehm writes about politics, culture and history as a weekly Creators Syndicate columnist and regular contributor to U.S. News & World Report. Follow her on Twitter: @jamiestiehm. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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