Powerless Empowerment



I can’t think of a better metaphor for the shallowness of our political culture than the recent Golden Globes Awards show.  We’ll get back to the “President Oprah” moment in a bit, but first, let’s look at “Time’s Up,” which was launched by Hollywood Starlets dressing in black to “raise awareness” on an issue about which they were all already aware.  The irony of these starlets protesting their objectification by wearing the most revealing of outfits was apparently lost on most observers. But let’s hear those women roar, right?

If 2018 is finally going to be the often promised “Year of the Woman,” then let’s hope it evolves into something deeper than its flimsy window-dressing beginnings.

Nowhere is the shallowness of this movement more effectively illustrated than in my own township of Upper Providence, Montgomery County.  As one of the Republican candidates for Supervisor in my township, I knocked on thousands of doors.  I was getting very positive responses during my canvassing, until about two weeks before Election Day.  It was then that undecided women who answered the door started telling me that they “would love to vote for me,” but they couldn’t vote for a Republican.  They “had to send a message.”  These words were repeated verbatim at several stops, and then again on Election Day at the polls.

“I’m sorry, but I have to send a message.”

Presumably, that message was to Trump, who was not, to my knowledge, on the ballot in my township.

Nevertheless, they persisted.  The Democrats’ impressive Get Out The Vote apparatus was deployed with a vengeance in Upper Providence.  We watched as visibly angry women marched literally by the dozens to “send a message” to Trump and the patriarchal Republican Party by electing instead Democrats Laurie Higgins and Helen Calci, two politically unknown women, and John Pearson, a two-term Democrat retread.

Vive la Resistance!

Well, maybe not.  The top vote getter was Laurie Higgins and she worked hard for it.  As her opponent, I can only respect the enthusiasm and long hours she put in to campaigning; she may even have knocked on more doors than I did.  Flying mostly solo, but sometimes accompanied by other local Democrat women, Higgins reported her daily door knocking efforts on Facebook while noting on several occasions that John Pearson was back at his place of business, a bar that they called their campaign headquarters, “holding down the fort.”  One would assume for her efforts, if not for her vote totals, that Laurie Higgins would have been elected Chairman of the Board, and if not that, at least Vice Chairman.  She certainly earned it.

So how to explain the fact that not only does Higgins holds no leadership position on the Board whatsoever, but that a vocal Trump-supporter and active participant in the Trump Campaign, Republican Al Vagnozzi, is Vice Chairman to John Pearson’s Chairman?  How to explain that Jim White, a Montgomery County Republican Committee member until literally just days before the election, an RNC delegate and one of the Trumpiest of Trump supporters in Upper Providence, gets the appointment to Chair the vacancy board?  The newly elected Democrats did the Montgomery County Republican Committee a further good turn in keeping the solicitors’ position with Dischell Bartle Dooley.

Is this the female empowerment “message” angry Democrat women wanted to send?  If so, I’m afraid it got a little muddled in the translation because from where I’m sitting, it looks like the patriarchy is still running the show.

You’ve been had, ladies.  And it’s not just Republicans who’ve been taking advantage of you.  Admittedly, my Township is the exception, which was a true bipartisan effort.  Typically, there is not this much of the political chess board exposed to the electorate. The tale of the vote totals shows only one Republican was supposed to make it across the finish line, keeping the Republican majority intact in Upper Providence, which probably would have happened but for the effectiveness of the Democrats GOTV efforts and the depth of Trump anger.  Because when the Democrats take over in Montgomery County, it’s usually simply to hand over the keys of power to a Democrat solicitor, like Sean Kilkenny or Jason Salus, two Democrats who are collecting control of Montgomery County Municipalities like kids collect Pokemon.

But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Democrat-led movements such as Indivisible and Emerge are looking to duplicate the overwhelming successes of 2017 and are now recruiting women to run for PA State Senate and Representative. It seems the only qualifications for candidacy are lady parts and the ability to hit as many feminist talking points as possible.  Katie Muth, a candidate for PA Senate District 44 announced her candidacy by telling her real “Life of Julia” story:  she proudly talks about how she is a “product of public resources” and about her personal need for easy access to abortion.  Sarah Campbell-Szymanski, a candidate for State Rep in PA 150, takes the feminist box checking to a new level:  not only does the blue-haired candidate talk about her “almost” abortion, but the married, unemployed mother-of-one has also decided to run as an openly bisexual candidate.  Mary Jo Daley, the current State Rep for PA 148, dyed a blue streak in her hair to show solidarity with Sarah. And remain relevant.

To be fair, I don’t think any of these political novices know what awaits them after election.  I am sure they are being given every encouragement by the Democrat party while it works to keep their women voters in a constant low state of Trump-induced agitation.

None of this is about putting women in power; it’s about capitalizing on a newly “woke” voting block so that the folks who are already wielding power can solidify or increase their hold thereof.  They are effectively manipulating women to do it. And they will continue to manipulate them as long as they can keep Democrat women angry and engaged enough to vote Democrat, but not so engaged as they take the time to look beyond the hashtag social media activism and an annual pink-pussy hat march.

Point being, we are not electing ideological leaders or change agents; that would change the balance of power and those in power promoting these candidates like the power structure just fine where it is, thank you very much.  This is about electing placeholders who will cede power to anointed party leaders, unelected appointees and backroom deal makers or face defeat in their next election.  It takes a little bit more than donning a pink hat and baring your soul on Twitter with your #metoo moment to be successful in politics.  But more importantly, it takes an electorate willing to invest time and effort to educating themselves beyond the flimsy window dressing to distinguish real leadership from malleable ingénues with a positive electability quotient.

So a President Oprah is not all that farfetched.  As long as she wears black at the proper awards functions and speaks the right platitudes to the sisterhood, why not elect her?  It’s not like her lack of policy knowledge or experience really matter.  It’s not like her devotion to quack medicine or fad diets make her any more or less unqualified than anyone else.  She’s a woman.  She says the right things to women.  She has a following.  She can win.  She is the perfect candidate for this moment in time.  Why not elect her?

She’s not going to be running anything, anyway.

15 thoughts on “Powerless Empowerment

  1. Cindy James

    After finishing reading this rant, I actually went and searched the author because I was certain this must have been written by a sexist man impersonating as a woman. Throughout the Trump campaign I often asked myself how self-loathing any woman would have to be to vote for Donald Trump. The answer to that question is very much within this bitter, sore-loser rant. The author opens with shaming the attire of celebrities at the awards, that tired “old boy” story along the lines of “she was asking for it”, by the way she dressed. It may surprise the author to know that many women are proud of their bodies, that a woman’s body could be beautiful, that we could love ourselves for who we are, and not how men see us or any need to seek their attention. If I was writing in the same vain as the author of the above article, this is the point I would insert something about her “uptight” attitude. The author then continues with the female shaming of very viable female candidates who are strong on issues relating not only to women’s health, but women’s justice, because the 2 are inseperable. Our freedom takes many forms, and our access to healthcare, our access to reproductive health, our access to to available care following rape and sexual assault gives us freedom over ourselves and our futures. This author still hasn’t reached bottom yet, she then feels then need to inflict her narrow views on judging not only a woman’s hair color, but her sexuality! I raised two daughters who had many friends who were members of the LGBTQ community. My daughters went through their middle and high school years hearing derogatory remarks such as this towards their friends and it was spirit-breaking for them to hear such intolerance. It is appalling to see it called out by a bitter adult. We women are strongest when we hold each other up. We are strongest when we fight together for respect and justice and equality. I align myself with the spirit of Katie Muth and Sarah Campbell-Szymanski, two women who have put much on the line (including being derided by the likes of this author), to fight for retaining the values that they hold dear. May their strength prevail, and overcome the hatred, bitterness and lies of the type displayed in this article.

  2. John Coffey

    Wow, Cindy. I really do feel that you are onto something about this “woman”. I do not believe that even the most woman-hating man could write such vile things about women. This person has some *very* serious problems. However, it may give you some insight how one woman could have possibly justified voting for a childish misogamist racist in 2016.

  3. Janine Gilmartin

    “It seems the only qualifications for candidacy are lady parts and the ability to hit as many feminist talking points as possible.” Wow. I encourage all voters to do their own research on candidates and not listen to these bitter rantings, I know Katie Muth and she has a lot more qualifications than lady parts – and thanks for trying to be fair, but don’t worry, Katie is aware what awaits her after her victory. Lisa, I am sorry you got ousted because the Republican party elected a complete idiot president of the United States, but your anger and energy are misguided.

  4. Vivian Schoeller

    The only point I would like to add is that the Democratic Party didn’t come looking for us. I, and others like me, went to them and said “let me in”. The fact that any woman (or man for that matter) would vote for or support a man who brags about sexually assaulting a woman really hit me hard. I thought “well, he’ll lose and this will all blow over”, but that didn’t happen. Everyone who voted for him is responsible for the blue wave of up and coming female candidates.
    So, to the author, you did this to yourself. You are on the team that does not support woman’s rights or the rights of too many other demographic groups to list. If you don’t like being lumped in with the likes of trump, perhaps you are on the wrong team.

  5. Seamus Doylisto

    Wow. If this writer is not the textbook definition of “troll” I don’t know how else you can define the word. She is what epitomizes the GOP – anger. Anger at women. Anger at minorities. Anger at those that may have relations they don’t “agree” with. Anger at those that have lady parts. Anger with those that have lady parts AND blue hair (I take it the writer is not familiar with the older women that are considered “blue hairs” in the hospitality business. Many of these older “blue hairs” have been lifelong members of the GOP – ya know : the grand OLD party”.

    THIS writer is an example of the anger that is turning people away from GOP and towards anyone else. They are angry because they don’t like “progressives” (even though the word ‘progress’ composes most of the word) and are losing their grip on power. They will scapegoat any threat to their hold on power: women; Mexicans; Muslims; science; community organizers (how they referred to Obama; but cheesy bad-tv personalities are OK).

    This writer says that the winners of recent election (and the women running in 2018) have no experience and have no idea what they are doing. Electing “placeholders”, unelected appointees, backrooms dealmakers – does she not know the traitor that occupIes 1600 Penn. Ave?
    Someone who knows NOTHING on ANY policy – just what pisses off the white man.

    Someone who appointed a Sec. Of Education that does not know how to measure success in the classroom.

    An EPA official that’s sued the EPA because they have regulations that protect citizens vs corporations.

    A Sec. of Energy that proposed to eliminate that same department when he ran in 2012. Who thought being Sec meant he just traveled around touting fossil fuels. Imagine that wake-up call when it meant he is in charge of our nuclear arsenal.

    If the writer was a child saying just a portion of this after losing a game she’d be called a “poor sport” (among other terms). YOU are why a voting block “awoke” and came out in huge numbers. Big giant numbers. Unbelievable beautiful numbers. The best numbers. But that volume was nowhere near the wave coming in Nov.

    Faster your seatbelt buttercup.

  6. Nancy Entwisle

    As a woman, I feel insulted by a lot of what you said here, but the most insulting thing you said is that the only reason I vote Democratic is because I’m “being manipulated.” Typical, misogynist statement; a woman can’t think for herself, so she has to be “manipulated.”

    You insulted Muth and Campbell-Szymanski by proclaiming, “It takes a little bit more than donning a pink hat and baring your soul on Twitter with your #metoo moment to be successful in politics.” You really think that’s all they do all day? I know for a fact how hard they are working to have a chance at representing the people of their districts.

    And this is CERTAINLY about putting women in power so that we can finally have the kind of representation we deserve. However, you have just proven that there are still some women who will continue to to be victims of their own oppressors; who will NEVER give us the representation we deserve.

    Your rant is just sour grapes. You lost the race because you raised taxes and spent SIX MILLION DOLLARS for an unneeded, 200-seat auditorium addition to the brand, new township building, ostensibly for township meetings that draw 50 people on a GOOD night. You also claimed to need it for “emergency services,” after which funding for Black Rock Fire Company was inexplicably reduced. Newsflash: People are finally starting to catch on that Republicans — at every level of government — are the ones raising taxes and causing deficits for unwise expenditures (and God knows what else) and then blaming the Democrats for “giving away the store.” You also sent out postcards that hit our homes the Friday and Saturday before the election, LYING that John Pearson was under investigation by county detectives. Your other postcard placed the investigation language between Pearson and Higgins, thus implying that Higgins was under investigation, too.

    Your loss is on you, and you deserved to lose. I don’t want dishonest people — female or male — running the government at any level. I am proud to have Higgins, Pearson and Calci as our new Upper Providence Supervisors because I know they are honest and transparent (unlike your past regime), as well as hard-working.

    As for your comments about Oprah? Ridiculous. You wrote, “It’s not like her lack of policy knowledge or experience really matter.” You are right, considering we have Mr. “Your Fired” sitting in the President’s seat today. Who knows if Oprah will run, but I believe the majority of this country would find her far preferable to the maniac who is putting our lives on the line every single day.

    You knocked on MY door well before two weeks before election day, and I told you I would not vote Republican then, and I did NOT say it was because I wanted to “send a message,” it was because my Republican Senator, my U.S. Rep., my state senator and my state rep have been voting in lock-step with the cheater-in-chief ever since. If I disagree with everything about Trump, why on earth would I vote for those who vote with him?

    You understand so little, and I’m so glad you’ve been rendered irrelevant.

  7. Richard L. Wallace

    It is interesting to read such unselfconscious ignorance of what the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is—and has for a year been—working on, tirelessly, passionately, and yes, insightfully. Ms. Mossie appears to lack the bona fides that would support her supposed insights about who the Dems are electing and for what purpose. Her condemnations fall flat to my eyes and ears, as they likely do to the other commenters above and any other readers with even a shred of experience in the southeastern PA Democratic community. This is because we have all been in the trenches, exerting daily efforts as newly elected or appointed officials, Dem committee members, campaign workers, fundraisers, lobbyists, political advisors, networkers, resistors. We have worked tirelessly this past year to build both capacity within the Democratic Party and social capital within the resistance to the GOP. We know not only our party’s structure, but its players, its movers and shakers, its new and its old guard. We are devoted daily to our efforts to reform the party where and when and how it is needed, and we have been working to this end, with ambition, experience, strategy, and compassion. The road is long, but anyone who spends even five minutes really talking to Katie Muth, Sara Campbell-Szymanski, and our other progressive woman (and men) will understand why we are so hopeful in our ability to achieve the change we desire. But Ms. Mossie’s failed political ambitions within the GOP appear to have somehow conveyed upon her a self-absorbed anger that she misunderstands as wisdom. And I guess that makes sense; she has a good role model in fashioning anger from ignorance and mistaking it for insight. But neither she nor her role model will shake the Dems’ confidence in our path, and efforts. She, not we, will be the footnote to Pennsylvania’s political fortunes in 2018, 2020, and beyond.

  8. David Powell

    Lisa, I could stipulate to every single argument you make here and still heartily applaud what happened last November as a needed backlash. You seem to lack a fundamental grasp not only of just how far beyond the pale Trump is for the decent majority of the electorate, but of how thoroughly he is soiling the brand of the party that has, however reluctantly at first, now accepted him as its standard bearer. I’ll take the typically cynical machinations of the Democratic machine, if that’s indeed what they are, ten times over before I ever again vote for anyone, however well intentioned, who has willingly associated themselves with the shambling zombie of your once-respectable party.

    Two years ago, I’d have said the GOP needed a reboot, but we’re past that point now. It’s time for any remaining conservatives of conscience to abandon ship, leave the husk of capital-R Republicanism to the fascist fringe, and give the country a credible opposition party again. We don’t have one, and we need one.

  9. Mike Burkhimer

    This is a rather pathetic screed that I think will backfire on the author.
    It such a long winded, rambling, and bitter piece of bile that I am not sure why the author thought it was a good idea to put her name on it. Did she think it painted her in a flattering light? Did she think any of this came off as wise or witty? All I see is a childishness after losing an office, that as far as this piece is concerned, she seems to think is her birthright and a bunch of cheap shots making fun of the appearance of other female candidates.

    Despite the length, what this screed does not say is that Montgomery County has been turning blue for years now. The only thing keeping some of the lower state reps. in power is the gerrymandering done by the Republican Party at the state level. Montgomery County is a highly educated county. There is a strong positive correlation that has developed over the past few years of education and voting Democrat.

    Democrats control every line office in the county (They can’t be gerrymandered or stolen in fake elections by the GOP) and the highest ranking Montco Republican is the comically unqualified Joe Gale who is so clueless that he didn’t even realize he didn’t make the age requirement when he announced his run for Lt. Gov. today. I mean a party that lives in a glass house (Montco GOP) shouldn’t be throwing stones about unqualified candidates.

    I think it would be better for the author to simply accept she lost, and either try again or do something more productive. This ill-advised and ugly rant is not helping her.

  10. Dr. Gene Halus

    I know a number of the Democratic women that you portray. As an elected official I first met them on the campaign trail and then over time got to know them as people. Your comments at best are gross generalizations, and in some cases your comments are simply cheap shots. You blatantly ignore parts of each candidate’s story so that you can imply that there is something terribly wrong with them. It is all just very poor form on your part, and should not be considered journalism.

  11. Sara Campbell-Szymanski

    Thank you for the mention! I really appreciate you bringing attention to my campaign and my platform. Unfortunately, you spelled my first name wrong. I spell it without an ‘H.’ Thanks again!


    PS. And thank you for calling me more feminist than Katie Muth! I can’t remember receiving a better compliment. Your support means a lot.

  12. Jennifer Stomsky

    Damn straight women were “sending a message.” Change starts from the bottom and moves up, not the other way around. Don’t fool yourself, Trump was very much on your ballot, along with Ryan, McConnell, and the rest of the Republican sycophants currently in office. You , like many other Republican candidates who lost, just sound bitter that the Democrats were more organized and motivated this year.

  13. LM

    I see a lot of anger in the comments here, and if I have sounded bitter, or upset that I lost, plese understand: that is not the case at all. My six years on the Board of Supervisors has taken a toll on my health and my mental well being, and being out of it is a relief. My point, which seems lost on most of you, is that the people you elected are not the ones running the show. I’m never going to agree with a liberal agenda, and therefore my point of view will never align with any of you nor will I ever support the agendas of any of your candidates. But, Township politics is not ideological. If you get nothing else out of this post, please understand that I want nothing more than the power of the government put into the hands of the people who were elected, especially in my own township. I would absolutely love to see Laurie Higgins and Helene Calci take control of that board. They earned their positions and they have the votes, but for some reason they have been shut out of leadership in favor of a Trump supporting Republican. The question you should be asking yourselves is “Why?” — Lisa Mossie

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