The U.S. Midterms: Year of the Woman

The Victoria Standard - - Commentary - HE­LEN DELFELD

There’s a joke go­ing around right now. You know how you tell a woman is an­gry? She’s not talk­ing to you. You know how to tell she’s re­ally an­gry? She’s run­ning for of­fice.

Wiser heads pre­dict a Democratic Party tsunami in Novem­ber, when we have our mid­dle-of-the-pres­i­den­tial term elec­tion. We’ll be vot­ing for all 435 mem­bers of Congress and a third of the se­na­tors. Right now, the Repub­li­cans have an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity in Congress, with 44 more seats than Democrats. Midterm elec­tions typ­i­cally give a slight ad­van­tage for the non-pres­i­den­tial party, so we would nor­mally see Repub­li­cans lose some of that size­able ma­jor­ity, but still re­tain lead­er­ship.

Th­ese days, largely be­cause of Trump’s phe­nom­e­nal un­pop­u­lar­ity, the smart money ex­pects the Democrats to wipe out the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity al­to­gether, and take over con­trol of Congress. Democrats have a gi­ant en­thu­si­asm ad­van­tage – they re­ally want to win. Repub­li­cans want to win, sure, but their en­thu­si­asm has been sapped by the fool­ish­ness flow­ing on a daily ba­sis out of the White House.

Weirdly, that might not be the most im­por­tant thing about the up­com­ing elec­tion.

Women are run­ning, and women are win­ning, like we’ve never seen be­fore.

Cur­rently, 81% of con­gressper­sons are male, while the US pop­u­la­tion is 49% men. That there is a slight mis­match be­tween those num­bers has not es­caped at­ten­tion.

In fact, many women have con­nected the dots be­tween not hav­ing a lot of women in elected of­fice and open­ing the door to a pres­i­dent who has an ab­so­lutely hor­rid record about women. He has in­sulted them in­di­vid­u­ally, for ex­am­ple, say­ing of Carly Fio­r­ina, one of his op­po­nents in the Repub­li­can pri­mary, “Look at that face! Would any­one vote for that?” Or, calling a beauty con­test win­ner “Miss Piggy” to hu­mil­i­ate her for gain­ing a few pounds. And he’s in­sulted us col­lec­tively, talk­ing about how will­ing we are to put up with sex­ual as­sault be­cause he is fa­mous, or talk­ing about women al­most ex­clu­sively in terms of our ap­pear­ance, no mat­ter our other ac­com­plish­ments. No fewer than 20 women have cred­i­bly ac­cused him of sex­ual as­sault. Pol­icy-wise, he’s been just as aw­ful, at­tempt­ing to slash pro­grams es­pe­cially im­por­tant to sin­gle par­ents (who are mostly women), re­duce women’s ac­cess to abor­tion, and re­duce work­place pro­tec­tion against dis­crim­i­na­tion.

So in­stead of just getting mad, women are getting even. More than 40% of the Democratic can­di­dates step­ping for­ward are women, in­creas­ing by half the num­ber of can­di­dates in the best year so far. Bet­ter yet, they’re win­ning. Fe­male can­di­dates are over­per­form­ing male can­di­dates in Democratic pri­maries by about 15%, mean­ing women can­di­dates are far like­lier to de­feat male com­peti­tors than the other way around.

That, my friends, is hap­pen­ing for the first time in history.

Repub­li­can women are step­ping for­ward in much smaller num­bers. For ev­ery Repub­li­can woman stand­ing up as a can­di­date, there are three Democratic women. They’re in a pickle, be­cause they can’t con­demn the leader of their party, but nor can they sup­port what he says about women. Sev­eral promis­ing can­di­dates have said they are in­ter­ested in run­ning, but just not this year.

How­ever, it’s about more than just Trump. We know that be­cause Democratic women sit­ting in Congress out­num­ber Repub­li­can women three to one – the same as the ra­tio in new can­di­dates. That means the Repub­li­can gen­der gap (al­ready more se­vere than the Democratic gen­der gap) is long­stand­ing.

Repub­li­can women have good cause to be less con­fi­dent than Democrats when run­ning.

While Democratic women are over­per­form­ing against male can­di­dates they face in pri­maries, Repub­li­can women do not see the same sup­port from the vot­ing public. Democrats ac­tively want to elect women this year. It’s not that Repub­li­cans are vot­ing against women specif­i­cally; when Repub­li­can women run, they win about half the time. The prob­lem is that far fewer Repub­li­can women choose to run in the first place.

Democrats will al­most cer­tainly change the face of Congress all by them­selves, how­ever, re­gard­less of how women suc­ceed in the Repub­li­can con­tests. If we have a Year of the Woman, it will be one of the great ironies of this era to cor­rectly give some credit to Trump. More than one fe­male can­di­date I’ve talked to has said some ver­sion of, “Well, if that fool can do it…”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.