- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Tight. Tight. Tight. So vote, vote, vote. If you ever wondered if the ballot you cast really counts, today you might well know the answer after the final count is tallied.
By all analysts' and pundits' accounts, most of the races are so tight they are too close to call. Where elections are tight, politicians target certain constituencies who can provide the margin of difference. Hence, in the slugfest for Maryland governor, we've witnessed the likes of former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former President Bill Clinton making appearances on behalf of their respective parties' candidates.
For his part, Mr. Clinton loves to patronize black voters who not only handed him victories but also provided the slim margin needed for Parris N. Glendening to gain his governor's office.
Another sizable sector of the population that has made it possible for marginal politicians such as Mr. Clinton to win and who should not be overlooked is the growing number of women who are still waking to their political power.
Some call it "Girl Power." Others have dubbed it the "Soccer Mom Syndrome." No matter. Women attained the right to vote some 80 years ago. Still, two feisty female authors recently released an informative and insightful book that contends that women need to harness their underutilized political power and take a more active role in the political process at every level as important issues affecting them and their families are being debated and decided. I might add debated and decided predominantly by male politicians.
In "Unfinished Business: A Democrat and a Republican Take on the 10 Most Important Issues Women Face," Julianne Malveaux, a black, liberal Democrat, and Deborah Perry, a white, conservative Republican, bring their perspectives to such topics as reproductive rights, child care and equal pay in addition to racial profiling, globalization and foreign policy.
Yes, foreign policy. For example, they note that while billions of U.S. dollars are allocated for foreign aid, the issues of slavery and genital mutilation take a back seat.
Understandably, they disagree on much, but they agree that human rights, the plight of women and the education of girls worldwide should be priorities for the United States. But this thought-provoking book is not only for women. Men of every political stripe can learn a great deal within its 300 pages. Their opinions aside, this is a political primer that is as educational as a voter's guide that could have just as easily been published by the League of Women Voters.
"It's impossible to read this book and not go out and vote," said Lawrence Guyot, a D.C. activist and advisory neighborhood commissioner who is on today's ballot. "Unfinished Business" is "a testament to the ability of people to forcibly present arguments that differ in ideology but not in intensity, and will move the political dialogue forward, regardless of whether you are on the left or the right," Mr. Guyot said.
Indeed, while Ms. Malveaux and Ms. Perry take turns with each of the topics, each chapter ends with a future reference list of "Resources on the Right," like the Independent Women's Forum in Arlington or "Resources on the Left," like the National Partnership for Women and Families in the District.
Much of "Unfinished Business" deals with the economy cited as the No. 1 concern of voters in this midterm election cycle and particularly as it affects women in the work force.
While equally passionate about their ideologies, the authors agree there is a need for an economic safety net but disagree on the extent to which it should be utilized.
However, as suspected, they disagree on what role government should play in retirement savings but agree that women need to be more engaged in their financial futures.
Surprisingly, each chapter offers a "common ground," session in which they speak to their shared support of solutions such as telecommuting, flextime and job sharing or the need for smaller class sizes and teaching abstinence to teens.
About the only chapter where they could find no common ground was the criminal justice arena. Ms. Perry is "tough on crime period." Ms. Malveaux acknowledges the adage that "a liberal is a conservative who hasn't been mugged," yet when writing about gun control, prison reform and the death penalty, she says, "I say step back, assess and make sure the system is both compassionate and fair."
Complete with a political glossary, the authors also provide a list of "Seven Ways to Lift Your Voice," which includes writing letters to officeholders, joining an advocacy group or organizing a Capitol Hill Day to lobby for a cause.
However, at the top of their list for political engagement is voting. It is "the most simple, direct and powerful way to affect government," as they state. Again, this point cannot be stressed enough.
"Women have made a lot of headway in society, but we haven't come this far because things have been handed to us on a silver platter," the authors argue.
"Women's progress has been a direct result of the pressure that women have put on structures and systems in our society. And if we want continued progress, we need continued involvement."
To that end, "politicians will listen if you make them. Grab their attention by making your vote count." And it doesn't matter in these tight political times if you are woman or man.
Just vote.

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