It’s been a tough week for Democrat-women’s relations. What’s the adage about getting burned once then twice?

In the years following the 20th anniversary of the watershed “Year of the Woman” in American politics, do Democrats really ‘get it’ when it comes to women’s issues? The actions of Washington State Democrats this week give reason to wonder.

During just one critical week of legislative action in the Washington state Legislature, Gov. Jay Inslee passed around a woman’s personal phone number without her permission and Senate Democrats executed a political power play during Republican state Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry’s breastfeeding break.

NEWSFLASH: In 2014, the Year of the Woman will have been 22 years ago, and the avalanche Democratic campaign rhetoric and political hyperbole should not be considered as credit on account when it comes to the actual treatment of women.

For their part, Democrats have sidestepped criticism of their blunders.

Even the gold standard of low-brow male apologies – “I’m sorry, baby. It will never happen again.” – expresses more contrition than what has been heard from Democrats this week.

Inslee’s office said their decision to give state Rep. Maureen Walsh’s phone number to former U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords so the gun control advocate could lobby Walsh’s vote was “inadvertent,” but a member of the House Republican Caucus staff confirms that the personal numbers of members were given to Inslee with the understanding they would not be used for political purposes.

State Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) told left-wing blog Publicola, “No one from the majority had indicated that she was leaving the floor for that reason and if I had been aware I would not have made the procedural motion at that time.”

Even Publicola characterized State Sen. David Frockt’s (D-Seattle) move as “oafish,” but the truth about Frockt’s awareness of Holmquist Newbry’s need to nurse might cause them to turn up the volume on their disgust.

Erik Smith of Washington State Wire (the 14-year veteran of Olympia’s shrinking press corps who broke the story of the breastfeeding controversy) spoke with Linda Thomas of KIRO Newsradio Thursday morning. Smith revealed that the subject of Holmquist-Newbry’s breastfeeding had come up during early negotiations between Republicans and Democrats about Senate rules.

“As a matter of fact, the Republicans actually went to the Democrats and said, ‘Look, you know, Janea Holmquist Newbry she has this issue and we’d like to get some sort of accommodation for her,’ and [the Democrats] were saying, ‘Well, you know what, if you want some sort of accommodation for her, you have to give us a few bills,’” Smith said.

[Smith’s comments come near the 3:52 mark of the podcast clip below.]

Using a mother’s right to breastfeed as a negotiating chip in hardball political negotiations? Classy.

In fact, legislators need only to go back into their own laws to learn that our state has a breastfeeding rights law. From the Seattle Times in 2009:

Kimberly Radtke, program coordinator for the Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington, said she hopes the law educates people who feel uncomfortable when they see women nurse their children.

“It’s not just that women are asked to go somewhere else or are asked to stop, it’s those looks and glares that women have to deal with, people looking at them or rolling their eyes,” she said.

“The reality is young babies need to eat frequently, and you need to feed that baby when you’re out and about.”

Rolling of eyes pales compared to forcing a mother to decide between depriving her child of sustenance or depriving voters of their representation in the Legislature. Democrats in Olympia should count their fortunes that they have not yet been buried in an avalanche of nursing blankets and breast pumps care of mothers and pro-breastfeeding groups such as Radtke’s coalition or La Leche.


[featured image credit: flickr]