By Cynthia Richie Terrell on November 16, 2018
It is the year of the woman, all right. But only for Democrats.
The number of Republican women in Congress next year will actually drop, even as the ranks of Democratic women swell to record heights. With a few races still undecided, the new Congress will have at least 105 Democratic women and 19 Republican women.
But that is not all: From Congress to governor to state legislatures, many more Democratic women ran in this cycle than Republican women. And that means fewer Republican women on the bench, gathering experience and credentials to move up to the next level.
As the incoming freshman class of the 116th Congress gathers in Washington this week for orientation, the only Republican woman attending was Carol Miller of West Virginia (she could be joined by a few others whose races are still too close to call).
Meredith Conroy writes on 538 about the partisan breakdown of the women elected to Congress - of the 123 women elected so far - with a few races still being counted - there will be just 19 republicans. I believe that true gender parity requires that all women are represented fairly in government:
According to ABC News projections and FiveThirtyEight analysis, 113 women U.S. House and Senate candidates — from both parties — are expected to be winners.1 And there are eight unresolved races with at least one woman candidate.2 The number of women winners is certain to grow to 115, because both of the major-party candidates in two of the unresolved races are women. In the other six races, two of the women candidates are favored to win — Republicans Cindy Hyde-Smith in Mississippi’s Senate runoff and Mia Love in Utah’s 4th District — according to FiveThirtyEight’s analysis.
Regardless, the 116th Congress will feature the largest class of female legislators ever. But there’s a sharp divide across party lines in this historic first. Of the 113 projected women winners, 98 are Democrats, and 15 are Republicans. (They will be joining 10 female senators who weren’t up for election this year: six Democrats and four Republicans.) It’s a sober reminder that this standout year for women is mostly a standout year for Democratic women.
Multimember districts offer other important benefits, too. When three or five members of Congress all represent the same district, it’s much harder for politicians to gerrymander themselves and their party into permanent power. And experience from the states shows that more women and minorities get elected in multimember districts.
How easily could all of this be done? For starters, Congress would have to reverse a 1967 law prohibiting multimember districts. That law was passed at a time when there was concern that southern whites were taking advantage of multimember districts to dilute the electoral power of African-Americans, who had just secured the right to vote. But that problem goes away with the ranked-choice voting system described above. Congress could implement all these reforms, too — as in the Fair Representation Act, which was introduced in the House last year.
The result of all this is that the vast majority of voters, whether they live in cities, in suburbs or in rural areas, would have someone in power who represents them. This could help foster bipartisanship and compromise, as members of different parties would need to work together on behalf of their district’s voters. After all, both Democrats and Republicans need the potholes to be fixed.
Add in a larger House of Representatives, and you increase the opportunities for voters to be represented more in line with their numbers in society.
And that’s the whole point. When citizens feel that their voice is being heard by government, they’ll be more eager to participate, more likely to vote and more politically engaged over all. That’s what a democracy should look like — and in the long run, it’s the only way a democracy can survive.
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s decision to retire due to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease has reminded me of her remarkable career and legacy. Justice O’Connor’s trailblazing life — including the first woman to be majority leader of a state senate and the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court — deserves another first: first American woman to have an airport named in her honor.
When stunned to learn that no American airport is named after a woman, I began calling for Washington Dulles International airport to be renamed for Eleanor Roosevelt. But to me, it is most important to honor women, not score partisan points. Justice O’Connor deserves lasting recognition, both because of her place in history and her efforts to elevate civic learning for all Americans.
Hers is a quintessential American success story. She lived on a rural Arizona ranch as a child, without water or electricity, nine miles from the nearest paved road, yet she earned admission to Stanford and Stanford Law School. Despite being among the law school’s top students, her gender made finding a legal job difficult; she ultimately found a position as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, California, by agreeing to volunteer and share an office with her secretary.Stay tuned next week for a election results from Afghanistan and other news from around this precious globe.