Although the 2018 midterm elections have not yet been held, it is already clear that one of the biggest stories that will be in the headlines on November 7th will have to do with women’s engagement with the political process. Voter turnout is expected to be unusually high among women, and the “gender gap” in party preferences—with women being much more likely than men to favor Democratic candidates—seems to be wider than it has ever been. What’s more, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of women running for office. In fact, more than 40 percent of Democratic nominees for seats in the House of Representatives are women (compared to about 10 percent of Republican nominees). The essays in this dialogue offer insight into some aspects of women’s increasing involvement in the political process. What factors led so many women into politics (drawing them to the voting booth as well as leading them to run for office)? How may women’s increasing representation in political office reshape relationships between social movements and institutionalized politics in the years to come?
Thanks to our wonderful group of contributors on this topic:
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo
By Catherine Bolzendahl
The U.S. is poised to witness unprecedented numbers of women engaging in electoral politics in general, and running for political office in particular. By the April 6, 2018 filing deadline, 309 women filed to run for the U.S. House, at a 90% increase since 2016, and a notable uptick in minority women candidates. Although the actual numbers elected are likely to be much lower, these figures are nevertheless remarkable and suggest the potential of one of the wealthiest capitalist democracies in the world to finally join counterparts with 40% or more women in legislature, such as France (39.6%) and Norway (41.4%) or at least to match the European average at 27.7%. The historical reality of American women’s political office holding is, however, quite bleak. Of all the countries in the world, the U.S. is 103rd in women’s legislative presence with 19.6% women, behind Indonesia, Uruguay, and Pakistan. Furthermore, it is particularly important to disaggregate among women elected or running for office, given that reasons for involvement and the possible influence on policy may be highly dependent on how gender intersects with other minority statuses. As a leading advocate for equity, human rights, and democracy, political outcomes in the U.S. elections rarely reflect the diversity of our citizenry. Thus, the recent news is exciting for scholars like myself, who study and support gender diversity in electoral politics, but a lot of work remains.
At the Democratic National Convention, disability activist Anastasia Somoza told enthusiastic audience members that “in a country where 56 million people so often feel invisible, Hillary Clinton sees me. She sees me as a strong woman, a young professional, a hard worker, and the proud daughter of immigrants.”
Media personalities, political insiders, and the candidates themselves have talked about the 2016 presidential primaries as a departure from what we normally expect from presidential primaries. The difference is often attributed to how Donald Trump “doesn’t play by the rules” – something we are frequently reminded of by pundits on both the left and right. Continue reading
On July 1, the 17th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, more than 500,000 people held large-scale pro-democracy demonstration in support of universal suffrage and political development in the city. This was the biggest street demonstration in Hong Kong’s history.
The scale of the protests reflects local residents’ anger and frustration at Beijing’s intervention in Hong Kong’s democratic development. As a Special Administrative Region of China, Hong Kong retains “a high degree of autonomy” with its own executive, legislature, and judiciary system under a “one country, two systems” framework. However, in early June, the Chinese government issued a strongly-worded “white paper,” asserting that Hong Kong does not have “full autonomy” and the ultimate power over the city lay with the Beijing authority. A few months earlier, the central government also stressed that the election of the next chief executive in 2017 only allows candidates who “love China,” although it promised Hong Kong could vote for their own leader by universal suffrage in 2017. Continue reading
Over the course of the last two years, two pipeline projects – Northern Gateway and Keystone – have generated opposition from environmental groups in both the U.S. and Canada. As Rennie of the Canadian Press (June 17) notes, the pipelines have become highly political in both countries. In an article I wrote for Critical Mass, I mentioned that in the U.S., the Keystone pipeline project has posed a problem for President Obama and the Democrats given that environmentalists are against its construction while many others see it as creating jobs. There has been a tremendous push in Congress to get Obama to sign legislation that would allow for Keystone’s construction on the one hand, and Democrats hoping that Obama would veto such a bill on the other. Nonetheless, policy experts seem to believe that the Keystone project would inevitably move forward – if Canada is building a pipeline anyway, why shouldn’t Americans benefit from it? In fact, earlier polls did show that the American public thought energy security was a more important issue than greenhouse gases and a majority favored the pipeline’s construction (although the saliency of the issue among the public has likely varied greatly over the last year). Continue reading
Today was the third day of Egypt’s second presidential elections in the past three years. Elections were extended for a third day, and an impromptu last-minute national holiday were announced, due to low voter turnout. This is not surprising given the tense, repressive, current political climate in Egypt.
Votes are currently being counted, and pro-Sisi celebratory elections have already begun in Egypt.
General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who removed Egypt’s democratically elected president ten months ago, is not surprisingly the only serious contender in the election. If/when Sisi wins, he will hold a tremendous amount of political power. The parliament is currently disbanded, which allows Sisi to issue laws by presidential degree. Sisi also has support of the military, and a considerable degree of public support.
If Sisi gets elected, there is little hope for democracy in Egypt in the near future. As military chief, his crackdown on dissent far exceeded that of Mubarak. Sisi has indicated in television interviews he has no tolerance for the labor strikes and other street demonstrations against the military. He is also sure to send the Muslim Brotherhood underground. He ousted former President Muhammed Morsi in July and has pledged to end the Brotherhood’s existence in Egypt. Yet the Brotherhood has survived many cycles of repression before (see Davis and Robinson’s (2012) book). They are sure to do so again given their massive network of civic organizations which permeate Egyptian society. Repression of the Brotherhood not only excludes them from the conversation and makes democracy in Egypt impossible, but it also creates the conditions for future violence and unrest.
Deputy Research Director of the newly formed Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Allison McManus, is tracking the elections on the Institute’s webpage at: http://timep.org/presidential-elections-monitoring. The website compiles media coverage, voter experiences, and gives overviews of the election and its candidates.
As a teaser for our March essay dialogue (launching on March 4) on the legacy of Roe v. Wade and the long-term trajectories of reproductive movements, we’ve asked Christina Wolbrecht, Associate Professor of Political Science at Notre Dame, to comment on abortion and the partisan gender gap. Her full essay on this topic was published at Mischiefs of Faction.
The Roe decision, forty years ago this year, sparked a heated political battle over reproductive rights that continues to this day. Among the consequences, many believe, was the emergence of the partisan gender gap, the tendency of women to identify with the Democratic party and to support Democratic candidates to a greater extent than do men. This belief is not an accident: The women’s movement (specifically NOW), fearing a loss of political influence following the failure to achieve ERA ratification, first drew attention to the gender gap in presidential elections and sought to link it to the parties’ positions on women’s issues, such as abortion and the ERA, in the early 1980s. The expectation that abortion drives the gender gap remains popular; this past Fall, well-known FiveThirtyEight polling analyst Nate Silver attributed the on-going gender gap in presidential elections to Roe and abortion specifically.
As intuitively appealing as such claims may be, the association between abortion and the gender gap has been directly contradicted by three decades of social science research. I take a closer look at the partisan gender gap and the question of whether abortion is the culprit in a blog post on the political science blog, Mischiefs of Faction.