Dems Rely on Black Women Voters: But Why Can’t Black Women Get Elected?

Governor Votes Early Donna Brazile writes in Ms. magazine that in the elections of 2008 and 2012, the group that turned out to vote in the highest numbers was black women. In 2012, 60 percent of 18- to 29-year-old-black women voted, and 76 percent of all black women were registered to vote. A recent Pew study found that in 2012, the voter turnout in the United States was low—53.6 percent of the estimated voting-age population. Only 65 percent of the US voting-age population even bothered to register to vote. Brazile cites “The Power of the Sister Vote” poll from Essence magazine, which indicates that the turnout will again be strong for black women in 2016, “driven by a hunger to institutionalize their gains” in:

  • Increased affordable health-care access
  • Quality education reform and access to low-cost college education
  • Living-wage reforms
  • Criminal justice reforms
But the frustration levels are high for political candidates like Donna Edwards, an African American woman who just lost the Democratic primary race for a Senate seat in Maryland. Jill Filipovic writes in the New York Times that while the Democrats rely on black female voters, only one black woman has ever been elected to the Senate. In addition, while Trump accuses Clinton of playing the “woman card,” Edwards, during her primary race, was accused of playing both the “woman card” and the “race card.” The implication is that these “cards” somehow confer unearned advantages to the women holding them. Yet research shows that for black women, combined stereotypes about both race and gender create double challenges for them to be perceived as competent leaders and elected, or hired, to leadership positions. Filipovic suggests that the problem, in general, is that authority, competence, and power are perceived to be male qualities. Several recent studies show that when the same résumés are shown to both male and female evaluators, the documents are rated more highly when they have a man’s name, John, on the top than when the same documents have a woman’s name, Jennifer, at the top. Filipovic proposes that to fight pervasive prejudices, we need to change our images of competence and power by putting more women, especially more women of color, into positions of authority and leadership so that women in authority becomes normal rather than unusual. Specifically, she says, “we can’t change longstanding assumptions about what a leader looks like unless we change what leaders look like. . . . Democrats should make [the ‘woman card’ and the ‘race card’] central components of a winning hand.” She also suggests that when there are equally qualified men and women competing for positions, Democrats should champion politicians who are not white men. It’s the only way that, in the long run, we are all going to win.   Photo credit: Governor Votes Early. by Jay Baker at Baltimore, MD. via Maryland GovPics on Flickr]]>

Where Are the GOP Women in Congress?

If you are like me, you’ve noticed that there are fewer Republican women than Democratic women in Congress and wondered why. In fact, the number of women in Congress has been steadily rising over the past twenty-five years, but close examination of the numbers reveals a difference between Democrats and Republicans. In a study recently published in the New York Times, the author, Derek Willis, found that the share of Democratic women in Congress has risen steadily to the current level of 33 percent, while representation by Republican women has been stagnant at roughly 10 percent. While only seventeen Republican women have ever served in the Senate, fourteen Democratic women are currently serving there. Why does this gap exist, and why is it important? The author suggests that “a root cause of the gap is that Democratic women who are potential congressional candidates tend to fit comfortably with the liberal ideology of their party’s primary voters, while many potential female Republican candidates do not adhere to the conservative ideology of their primary voters.” In other words, as the parties have become more polarized, the voters in the primaries have come to demand more and more ideological purity. In this environment, both moderate Republican men and women have declined to run because they cannot win. There are fewer highly conservative female candidates compared with male candidates. In fact, in state legislatures, a major pipeline for congressional candidates, conservative women are outnumbered five to one by conservative men. Given these numbers, the gap in congressional representation is likely to persist for some time to come. Why is this gap important? Willis notes that many studies show that “the presence of women in legislative bodies makes a difference, particularly on the policies that many female lawmakers prioritize, such as health care and children’s issues.” A recent study by the Center for American Women and Politics also found that many female legislators see themselves as representing women in general. For this reason, we need women in Congress from both parties to represent our views and, from time to time, to reach across the aisle to collaborate as they did in 2013 in the Senate to break the budget stalemate and avert a government shutdown. Let’s make sure we are all represented. The future of our country may depend on it.   Photo credit: U.S. Senate, 111th Congress, Senate Photo Studio  ]]>