After a holiday break, the staff of Arkansas Business is back in the weekly rhythm of news. I even remembered to write 2019 on the only check I’ve written so far this month, but I make no promises for how long that diligence will last.
James M. Lindsay, senior vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations, greeted the new year with a blog post listing a bunch of anniversaries to note in 2019, and I was slightly horrified by how many “historic” events seem fairly recent: the 25th anniversary of NAFTA, the Rwandan genocide, Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as president of South Africa and the release of the original animated “The Lion King.”
This is an Opinion
A lot of major things happened 50 years ago, but I was a self-absorbed 7- or 8-year-old in 1969, so I took no notice of the publication of “Slaughterhouse-Five,” the release of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” or the Stonewall riots in New York. I was vaguely aware of anti-war protests the way I was aware of the nightly casualty count from Vietnam, and I remember vividly watching the first moon landing, another event that happened in 1969.
This is the centennial of Congress approving the 19th amendment — May in the House and June in the Senate. But only when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify it in August 1920 did women have the right to vote nationally. My grandmother, Maggie Fullerton Crownover, was born in December 1899, so she was one of the first American women who became eligible to vote merely by turning 21 — just like a man. It never occurred to me to ask whether she immediately exercised that precious right.
A hundred years later, Congress is this close to being one-quarter female — 127 of 535 members. Yes, it’s a record, but not wildly impressive since more women vote than men. And the number of Republican women in Congress is actually shrinking by almost a third — from 29 to 21. 2018 wasn’t so much “the year of the woman” as “the year of the Democratic woman.” The number of Republican women in state legislatures also shrank nationally, according to NPR, from 705 two years ago to 660 after the 2018 elections. There are more than twice as many women Democrats in state legislatures, according to the Center for American Women & Politics at Rutgers University, and their number grew by 27 percent in one election cycle.
Of course, that trend may be fine with both parties. A survey done last year by the Pew Research Center found that only a third of Republicans thought there were too few women in high political offices, while 4 in 5 Democrats felt that way.
This is also the 400th anniversary — that’s quadricentennial, if you like big words — of the first slaves in the American colonies. Lindsay wrote: “In the late summer of 1619, just a dozen years after the establishment of the Jamestown Colony, an English ship named the White Lion arrived in what is now Hampton, Virginia. On board were some twenty slaves the White Lion had stolen from a Portuguese slave ship headed to Mexico.”
They were the first of hundreds of thousands, and their male descendants gained the constitutional right to vote with the ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870, although disenfranchisement was widespread for another century. Suppression of minority vote is not a historic curiosity; in 2016, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that North Carolina legislators had requested data on voting patterns by race and, using that data, drafted a voter ID law that would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
2019 is also the 35th year of publication for Arkansas Business, and we’re going to celebrate the milestone all year with the seal you can see on Page 1. The state had two wildly competitive daily newspapers when this publication launched as a biweekly in March 1984, and it would be another decade before most of us had a clue about that “information superhighway” that would change news and every other industry.
If they let me stick around until August, I’ll mark 20 years as editor of Arkansas Business. Maybe I’m the embodiment of what we used to call the Peter Principle, or maybe I lucked into a role that suits my particular skills and aptitude. Either way, I’m grateful to an incredibly loyal audience that has made this ride possible. Please keep subscribing.
Email Gwen Moritz, editor of Arkansas Business, at GMoritz@ABPG.com and follow her on Twitter at @gwenmoritz.