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]]>

The “Woman Card”: What Is It?

According to Donald Trump and others on the right like Rush Limbaugh, Hillary Clinton is playing the “woman card.” What does that really mean? Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times explains that the implications are that women, and in particular Hillary Clinton, have some kind of unearned advantage because they are women. Kristof challenges this assumption with the following facts:

  • There has never been a woman president of the United States.
  • Only one-fifth of senators, 20 out of 100, are women.
  • Women earn 92 cents to a male worker’s dollar.
  • A bare 19 percent of corporate board seats are held by women.
  • An assault on a woman happens every nine seconds.
  • Men and women judge women more harshly for the same job application, résumé, or essay when, in several research studies cited by Kristof, the names on the documents are switched from John to Jennifer.
  • In the same studies, salary recommendations for the job applicant with the masculine name were 14 percent higher than for the same applicant with a feminine name.
Kristof notes that these disadvantages for women reflect unconscious bias, which he defines as “a patriarchal attitude that is absorbed and transmitted by men and women alike—which is one reason women often aren’t much help to other women.” I talk about this same dynamic in my book, New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together, as an example of internalized negative stereotypes that result in women not supporting other women and being harder on each other in the workplace.

Why Do We Need More Women in Politics?

Jill Filipovic of the New York Times suggests that we need more women in elected office. Because of our life experiences as white women and women of color, many elected women:
  • Get more cosponsorship for legislation.
  • Bring more money home to their districts.
  • Focus on priorities such as the need for access to affordable health care, contraception, quality education and low-cost college tuition, living-wage reforms, and criminal justice reforms.
Kristof concludes that if the polls show Clinton leading Trump, it is not because she has a “woman card,” which is less than worthless. He notes that a “woman card” is “like a credit card that isn’t accepted anywhere but carries a $3,000 annual fee.” If Clinton wins the election, it will because of her “experience, policies, temperament and judgment.”   Image credit: Freeman-Woolpert]]>