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.