Weekend Reading on Women's Representation August 12, 2022

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on August 12, 2022

Dear readers,

Happy Friday! This edition is brought to you by the RepresentWomen team, here to give you all the latest in women’s representation.

 

The Case for Longtermism

Source: NYT

This piece in the New York Times by William MacAskill caught our eye as it feels particularly relevant for our system strategies work at RepresentWomen. Philosopher and professor William MacAskill claims that longtermism, or taking the long-term future seriously in our decisions in the present moment, “is a key moral priority of our time.” 

At first, longtermism can seem overly abstract and imagining one’s impact on future people that we don’t know can be difficult. MacAskill’s piece however, highlights the evident need for long-term thinking in our moral and ethical priorities" 

The idea that future people count is common sense. Suppose that I drop a glass bottle while hiking. If I don’t clean it up, a child might cut herself on the shards. Does it matter when the child will cut herself — a week, or a decade, or a century from now? No. Harm is harm, whenever it occurs.

Future people, after all, are people. They will exist. They will have hopes and joys and pains and regrets, just like the rest of us. They just don’t exist yet.

But society tends to neglect the future in favor of the present. Future people are utterly disenfranchised. They can’t vote or lobby or run for public office, so politicians have scant incentive to think about them. They can’t tweet, or write articles, or march in the streets. They are the true silent majority. And though we can’t give political power to future people, we can at least give them fair consideration. We can renounce the tyranny of the present over the future and act as trustees for all of humanity, helping to create a flourishing world for the generations to come.

 For us at RepresentWomen, longtermism means investing in systems change that removes barriers to empower future non-status quo candidates to run, win, serve, and lead.  When elected officials raise policy solutions such as gender quotas, ranked choice voting, funding targets, and more, they are paving the way for underrepresented groups to have a say in what our country prioritizes both now and in the future.

 

Two woman rising stars have a shot at NY’s open House seat

Source: The Narrative Wars

In the United States, incumbent win rates for elections nation-wide tend to be over 90%. The incumbent advantage often comes from name recognition and their campaigns being much better financed. In New York City’s District 10 open-seat congressional race, however, two women are defying this narrative. Carlina Rivera and Yuh-Line Niou, both natives of NY’s 10th District, are in the top four in the crowded, 12-candidate race. Alongside the women stand MSNBC legal analyst Daniel Goldman and NY’s 17th District Representative Mondaire Jones. 

A recent internal poll from the Goldman campaign shows Goldman with 18% support, Assembly Member Niou directly behind him with 16%, City Councilwoman Rivera with 14%, and Representative Jones at 10%. These rankings have wavered over the past couple months, and funding likely played a role. 

Goldman and Jones are the only two to have television ads, respectively spending $2.2 million and $684,000. As of late June campaign finance disclosures, Jones had raised over $3.3 million, more than the rest of the candidates combined. Goldman came in second with $1.2 million raised, and Councilmember Rivera had raised around $400,000. Assemblywoman Niou came in last, with about $241,000. 

Image Source: RepresentWomen 2020 PACs and Donors Report

Although the candidates have spent time criticizing each other’s funding sources, the trends show the need for PAC and donor funding targets, spending limits, and increased public financing. 

Although the seat is technically open, redistricting has impacted who runs in this seat, given Representative Jones’ candidature. RepresentWomen research finds that women have much higher success rates in open seats– a possible contributing factor to Rivera and Niou being in the top four. 

A structural solution such as U.S. House expansion would mitigate gerrymandering, and lessen the impact of money in politics, leading to better representation of women and people of color. 

Moreover, the election is expected to be low turnout, again showing a need for reform. Ranked choice voting has shown to increase voter turnout and participation, uplifting the voices of all residents of NY’s 10th district, including women and people of color. New York City already uses ranked choice voting in its primary elections for mayor and citywide offices and this led to the most diverse council in history just last year. 

Grassroots movements appear important in this race, and Niou has said that although she does not have the same monetary resources as other candidates, she believes that groundwork such as door knocking and phone banking will make a difference. In Rivera’s camp, a voter claimed she had his support because “she’s from the neighborhood and she’s for the neighborhood.” 

District 10’s crowded and competitive race not only shows the political trends that play out one election after another, but also the staunch need for systems solutions such as funding targets and ranked choice voting that make running for office more accessible. 

 

Vermont on a path to elect its first woman to Congress

Becca Balint speaking at the podium. Source: BeccaBalint.com

Women candidates take the lead not just in New York City, but in Vermont as well. This piece by Wilson Ring featured in the PBS NewsHour reports that current President Pro Tempore of the Vermont state Senate, Becca Balint, won Tuesday's Democratic U.S. House primary with 60% of the vote. This puts Vermont on a path to elect its first woman to Congress. 

Moreover, Balint is an adamant supporter of ranked choice voting (RCV), a reform that ameliorates representation of women and minorities across the board. Balint cosponsored S. 229, an initiative that would implement RCV in Vermont’s federal elections. Although the bill never made it out of committee BetterBallotVermont continues to work with state Senators to push this reform forward. RepresentWomen’s RCV Dashboard shows how localities with ranked choice voting tend to have a more even breakdown of who is in office in terms of both gender and race. 

In terms of women’s representation, Vermont ranks 32nd in the country according to RepresentWomen’s 2022 Gender Parity Index. With a score of 18 out of 50 points, Vermont received a D grade– The state has received a D since 1993. 

With Vermont being a deep-blue state and Balint having received the support of many prominent figures such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Elizabeth Warren (MA), and Reps. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Jamie Raskin (MD-08), she is projected to win the general election. Her win in the primary along with RCV picking up momentum in the state shows a promising future in terms of gender balance and fair representation in Vermont. Election officials ask Congress to better address harassment ahead of midterms

 

Would We Have Paid Parental Leave if More Moms Were in Congress?


Source: NYT

We were thrilled to see this piece by Jessica Grose in the New York Times, which asks the question, “Would we have paid parental leave if more moms were in Congress?” Our minds immediately went to Melida Gates’s powerful campaign for paid leave, and our knowledge at RepresentWomen that, if we want paid leave, we need more women in office; and if we want more women in office, we need systems strategies. Not only do our policy solutions remove barriers for women to run and win, they create a healthier environment for elected officials to actually represent the wants and needs of their communities (not party extremes). Therefore, paid leave = systems strategies that remove barriers for women to run, win, serve, and lead.

Jessica opens with a personal story about Senator Amy Klobuchar, and the Senator’s personal experience of giving birth and then immediately getting rushed out of the hospital to save costs while her baby had to stay behind due to complications. Jessica writes:

...it inspired her, as a private citizen, to lobby for a guaranteed 48 hours in the hospital together for moms and their newborns (a requirement later enshrined by the Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act). This maternal activism kick-started Klobuchar’s legislative career, and ultimately led her to run for office.

She wasn’t the only candidate to tie her maternal identity to her “political fire” during the 2020 presidential election, Vitali points out. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York “centered her candidacy on womanhood: framing policy proposals around how they’d impact families, promising that ‘as a mom, I’ll fight for your family as hard as I fight for my own."

She goes on to say:

It’s not just Democratic women, either. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican in the House, is also a new mom. In March, The Times’s Annie Karni reported on a House Republican retreat where Stefanik “was running the show, working the room with her 7-month-old son on her hip.” In 2019, Stefanik was part of a bipartisan group that introduced paid leave legislation that would allow families to receive advance child tax credits up to $5,000 during the first year of a child’s life or the first year after a child’s adoption — not as generous as I’d like to see at the federal level, but better than what we have now, which is nothing. And though paid leave is often framed as a Democratic priority, according to a Morning Consult poll from September: "Consistently, more than half of Republican women support paid family and medical leave, even when it’s framed as a Democratic proposal. Republican men, meanwhile, haven’t always been on board but are coming around on the idea."

We agree with Jessica that, since it’s mothers who are out there on the front lines of communities fighting for these supports, we need more of them in positions of true power in our legislative and executive bodies. Paid leave = systems strategies that remove barriers for women to run, win, serve, and lead.

 

Election officials ask Congress to better address harassment ahead of midterms


Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Protecting Our Democracy's Frontline Workers" on August 3. Source: The 19th*

Across the country, election workers are facing unparalleled harassment and threats to their safety. Notably, this workforce consists predominantly of women

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said during a Senate Judiciary hearing that workers are facing “an unprecedented wave of continuous unrelenting harassment and threats.” 

“Enduring these threats creates a near-constant strain of anxiety and stress on our work,” the Democrat said. “The status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable.”

[...]

The election workforce is nearly 80 percent women, according to one survey, and ahead of the midterm elections, election workers around the country have said they’re facing cases of harassment and threats of violence. Many, from both major political parties, say they’ve had to take extra steps to protect themselves and their families. According to a survey by the Brennan Center for Justice, more than 3 in 4 local election officials feel that threats against local election officials have increased in recent years.

In order to properly address concerns that disproportionately impact women, we must achieve gender balance in Congress. Research shows that women legislators are more likely to bring women’s issues to the table. However, social norms and structural barriers continue to suppress to voices of women and minorities. RepresentWomen’s 2022 Gender Parity Index shows the variations in women’s representation over time, and consists of suggestions for systems solutions that can ameliorate our democracy. 

 

Recommended Reading

For this week’s recommended reading, we wanted to spotlight Women In Politics’ brand-new children’s book Little Lawmakers: How To Turn A Bill Into A Law, an inspirational story to fuel the next generation of female leaders. Also be sure to check out RepresentWomen’s full Gender Parity Index Report, along with our piece in Ms., Gender Parity Index 2022: Women Continue to Break Records—But We Must Break Down Barriers, a great read on the current state of women’s representation across the United States.



 
And that's a wrap on this week's Weekend Reading on Women's Representation! Thank you for ongoing interest and support for building women's political power.
 
Sincerely,
The RepresentWomen Team
 

P.S. Please vote for RepresentWomen’s two panel proposals with Cynthia Richie Terrell and other amazing women leaders in the democracy reform movement for the SXSW Conference in 2023! Our first panel is 3 Reforms to Build Women's Political Power Now which will feature Cynthia Richie Terrell, RepresentWomen Board member and Governor on the United States Postal Service Board Amber McReynolds, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, and Harvard Professor Danielle Allen. Our second panel is Solutions to Increasing Women's Representation which will feature RepresentWomen Board member and Geopolitical & Strategic Advisor Rina Shah along with Pivotal Ventures’ Women in Public Office Strategy Lead Emily Lockwod. Vote for FairVote’s proposal, The Future of American Democracy: What’s At Stake, as well which will feature FairVote CEO and President Rob Richie, Congressman Jamie Raskin, and also Danielle Allen


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