WHM Profile: U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer
As top vote-getter and a champion for electoral justice, the California Senator is the activist-author's 2005 Woman of the Year
Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, the “Year of the Woman,” U.S. Senator Boxer has been a leading force and champion for social justice, economic justice and environmental justice, On November 2, 2004, Boxer made history by mobilizing the 2004 vote, receiving 7 Million votes, which is the highest total for any candidate in the nation, except for the two presidential candidates, and the highest total for any Senate candidate in U.S. history.[i] On January 6, 2005, she also made history by being the only Senator in U.S. history to join 31 members of U.S. Congress, to interrupt a joint session of Congress to champion the fight for electoral justice.[ii]
We all remember the 2000 Presidential Election. It was a cliff-hanger. By 9 PM, November 7, 2000, the election results in New Mexico, Oregon and Florida were too close to call, and neither presidential candidate received the 270 electoral votes it would take to win the election outright. By the time the clock struck midnight, Mr. Gore received 255 electoral votes and Mr. Bush received 246 votes. Americans went to bed believing that we would wake up the morning after to learn who our President would be. Instead, Americans got a rude “wake-up call” when we discovered that because of voting irregularities and “pregnant” chads, the electorate’s vote no longer counted, and that the fate of the presidency could be decided by “just one vote” of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
I used to encourage my friends to vote by cajoling them, “Remember to vote by 8 PM on Election Day because there’s no such thing as a “morning-after” vote.” But I don’t say that anymore. Why? Because our nation, and the world, hung in limbo, for a total of 36 “morning-afters,” without knowing officially who the President of the United States would be between November 7 – December 13, 2000. The Dow Jones plummeted. Our nation’s credit rating changed. Worse, concerns about the fairness and accuracy of the voting process in Florida made American voters lose faith in the integrity of the bedrock of our nation’s the electoral process. The country was on an emotional roller-coaster. Hearts pounded as both parties witnessed the official recount of the Florida vote that ultimately declared George W. Bush the victor by a razor-thin margin of 537 votes and 5 electoral college votes. Emotions ran high when the U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2 to end the recount, and 5-4 that no new recount be conducted. Hearts fell numb as Al Gore officially conceded the election to George W. Bush at 9 PM, December 13, 2000. But nothing compares to the sense of hopelessness that overwhelmed America when members of Congress stood up to express their concerns about voter disenfranchisement, and not one of their colleagues in the U.S. Senate joined them to validate their concern during the joint session of Congress that confirmed the presidential vote on January 6, 2001.
Voters were in a state of denial or confusion. Americans lost faith in their democratic ideals, and no longer believed that their vote mattered, even though Blacks sought the right to vote but didn’t get that right until 1868 when the 14th Amendment was ratified, and women waged a 72-year battle for women’s suffrage but didn’t get that right until 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified. Others who believed in democracy wanted to take matters in their own hands, by advancing the “Help America Vote Act” and mobilizing new and existing voters to reclaim democracy by voting in numbers in the 2004 election. The system was broken, and it was up to every day people, non-profit organizations and 527’s to take charge and mobilize the vote for the 2004 presidential election. In fact that was what inspired so many of us in the non-partisan community – www.shevotes.org, APIA Vote!, Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum – to work with www.onevoteradio.org to produce and air culturally-relevant “Get Out the Vote” Public Service Announcements in 14 different languages, targeting women, and women of color, nationwide, to register and vote on November 2. [iii]
The good news is, we succeeded!
We broke a new record and got 122 Million voters to the polls,[iv] 10 Million more than in 2000! On November 2, 2004, the percent of women who voted increased from 52% in 2000[v] to 54% in 2004[vi] and the percent of unmarried women voters increased by 7.5 M, from 19% in 2000 to 23% in 2004.[vii] The total number of women voters increased by 7 Million, from 59.3 Million in 2000[viii] to 66 Million in 2004.[ix]
I’m also proud to report that my state, California, turned out 11% of the nation’s vote![x] We turned out a record high of 12.6 Million voters in 2004, 1.4 Million more voters than in 2000. Voter turnout was 75%, the highest we’ve had in the last 24 years! The number of women voters who voted increased by 600,000 voters, from 5.9 M in 2000 to 6.5 M in 2004, and the number of men voters increased by 800,000 voters, from 5.2 M in 2000 to 6.0 M in 2004.[xi]
Why did Californians turn-out in record numbers? To vote for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and for U.S. Presidential Candidate John Kerry, in that order.
Boxer was California’s #1 vote-getter, receiving 0.3 Million more votes than presidential candidate U.S. Senator John Kerry, and 1.5 Million more votes than U.S. President George W. Bush.
Boxer attracted first-time voters - 70% of first-time voters cast their vote for Boxer, and 61% for Kerry.[xii] And that’s because Boxer has broad appeal. The majority of women, men, every racial/ethnic group, every age group, and every income group, voted for US Senator Boxer.
Why did California voters vote for Boxer? Boxer’s voting record and her leadership on issues that California’s women care about.
According to the California Opinion Poll, 80% of California’s women are concerned about the well-being of children, 75% about education and the schools, 72% about health, 65% about the well-being of seniors, the cost of living and the war, 58% about crime and law enforcement, 57% about the economy and 53% about the environment. These are areas Boxer championed for California.
So when Californians voted on November 2, they voted because of Boxer's record of leadership on issues California's women care about:
Children: Boxer led the fight in the Senate to require handguns sold in the U.S. to have child safety locks. She co-sponsored the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Working Families Child Care Act, and authored the Children’s Environmental Protection Act and the Violence Against Children Act.
Education: Boxer introduced the law that authorized funding for Local After School Programs and the School Safety Fund Act to fund Violence Prevention Programs at the schools. She also, established the Excellence in Education Award, authored the Computer Donation Incentive Act, and successfully amended the 1999 Juvenile Justice Bill.
Health: Boxer is the Senate’s leading defender of a woman’s right to choose, she fought to remove the Hyde Amendment, and she led the floor fight to ensure passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. She authored the Freedom of Choice Act, she introduced the Family Planning and Choice Act, and advocated for contraception, prenatal care and abortion in the President’s National Health Care Plan. She introduced the Health Insurance Tax Relief Act and the Women’s Autoimmune Diseases Research & Prevention Act and she co-sponsored the Women’s Health Equity Act, the Newborn & Mothers Health Protection Act and the National Research Investment Act.
Elderly: As a former stockbroker, Boxer introduced the 401 K Pension Protection Act and is leading the fight against the privatization of Social Security. She also supports comprehensive prescription drug coverage through Medicare.
Cost of Living: Boxer serves on the Senate Committees on Commerce and Foreign Relations.
War: Boxer voted "no" on enacting an additional $87 Billion for Iraq, "no" the the use of force. She voted for the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
Economy: Boxer fought for the passage of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act and for continued funding for the Market Access Program. She supports a 50% Capital Gains Tax Reduction on Investment Profits in Start-Ups and a permanent Research & Experimentation tax credit that would benefit biotechnologic innovation.
Law Enforcement & Safety: Boxer is the Senate’s Leader to ban junk guns – she supported the Brady Bill and formed the Alliance Against Junk Guns. She co-sponsored the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act. She co-authored the Assault Weapons Ban and the Violence Against Women Act.
Post 9/11, she authored the First Responders Homeland Defense Act, the High-Tech Port Security Act and a provision of the 2001 Aviation Security Law. She co-sponsored the Domestic Defense Act, the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, and a Bioterrorism Bill.
Environment: Boxer is revitalizing the Superfund to make polluters pay to clean up toxic waste they leave behind and blocked a proposed nuclear waste dump. She is leading the fight to remove Arsenic from drinking water & block oil drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge. She introduced the California Ocean Protection Act and the Coastal States Protection Act. She authored the California Wild Heritage Wilderness Act, the Amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act and co-authored the Bi-partisan Revitalization & Environmental Restoration Act of 2001. She secured federal assistance to promote alternative fuel vehicle industry development, wrote the law to repeal the luxury tax on alternative fuel vehicles, and led the effort to fund electric and natural gas vehicles for California transit and the military.
But as Californians cast the largest number of votes ever cast for a U.S. Senator in U.S. history, word of electoral irregularities in Ohio cast doubt on the accuracy of the presidential election.
Ohio’s concerns were documented in the study, “Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio.” The report recommended that Congress challenge the results of the electoral tally in Ohio and immediately appoint a joint committee to investigate election irregularities that may have disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters.
Flash back 4 years to January 6, 2001.
Americans recall the scene from the controversial political documentary, “Farenheit 9/11,” that depicts a joint session of US Congress that meets on January 6, 2001 to certify the US Electoral College vote. Twenty members of the House of Representatives rose one by one to file objections to Florida’s electoral votes, but each was ruled out of order by Al Gore because an 1877 law required that any such objection would have to be sponsored by an U.S. Senator, none of which was willing to do so.[xvi]
Flash forward 4 years to January 6, 2005.
U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones from Ohio, seeks the support of members of the U.S. Senate, to join 30 members of the House of Representatives, to challenge the certification of Ohio’s 20 electoral college votes. The purpose of the challenge was restore our nation’s faith in the electoral process, and not overturn the outcome of the 2004 election.
Only one U.S. Senator rose to the challenge, and that was California’s U.S. Senator Boxer.
She appealed to her colleagues with the following message:
Boxer joined 31 members of the House of Representatives, not in an attempt to overturn the outcome of the 2004 election, but an effort to highlight ongoing election problems that needed to be corrected to ensure every voter who wants to vote can vote, and that every voter's vote is accurately counted.”
And that why US Senator is my woman of the year.
She doesn’t have to use negative campaign tactics to win an election. She can inspire and turnout people to vote because of her integrity, and her willingness to take a stand and lead on the issues that Californians care about.
At the same time, she won’t abandon the nation.
When Ohio was in trouble, she had the courage to take the high road to protect Ohio, and the rest of the nation, by advancing the ideals of electoral justice.