The Island Now

Out of Left Field: Women interrupted, but not for long

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2016 10:14 am | Updated: 10:17 am, Thu Dec 1, 2016.

Members of the Electoral College meet in their respective states on Dec. 19. 

Despite three different approaches to block Donald Trump, it is not likely that Hillary Clinton will take the Presidential Oath on Jan. 20.

Still, her campaign — flawed as it was, and grossly distorted by the rise of “fake news” — represents another step forward in the advancement of female leaders for the United States. 

Clinton received 2 million more popular votes than Trump — the most ever by a “losing” candidate. Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 by more than 600,000. 

Our national citizens have signaled they are now ready for a woman chief executive and commander-in-chief — it would behoove Mr. Trump to keep that in mind.

Do you remember the Virginia Slims ads, ironically introduced in 1968? “You’ve come a long way, baby!” 

What a sexist way to sell cigarettes by trying to dramatize progress women had made to that time.

Protest and reform are at the heart of American democracy, and they have been producing more gender equity and inclusion. 

The progress has been uneven, but Helen Fisher emphasizes that the 21st century will be led by “the first sex” — her response to Simone DeBeauvoir’s 1952 depiction of women as “the second sex”.

Along the way, Pat Schroeder, longest serving female member of Congress, until her record was recently eclipsed by Barbara Mikulski, offered an incisive perspective in her appropriately entitled book of 1998: “Twenty Years of Housework and the Place is Still a Mess.”

Schroeder was the first woman elected to Congress from Colorado in 1972.  At the time only 14 females served in the House of Representatives. 

After the 2016 election there will be a record-tying 104 women in the 115th United States Congress — 83 of them in the House, nearly a 600 percent increase since Schroeder’s election. 

In a year when most pundits and citizens expected a woman to be elected President, feminists might have hoped for even larger gains.

However, an examination of women in the House and Senate illustrates demographic and Democratic trends that will shape future elections.

Just as Republican candidates have lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, too often overlooked for significance, so too, the party differences for women in Congress are another danger sign for Republicans.   

Here are some of the trends worth noting — all of then augur well for Democrats in terms of national demographics. 

Six new women of color have been elected to the House, contributing to a new historic high of 34 — 31 Democrats, three Republicans.

In that record group, African-American women number 17 Democrats, and only one Republican.  

Of the nine Hispanics in 2017, seven are Democrats, and only two Republicans — just imagine what can happen in 2018 elections if Donald Trump holds to his “deportation squads” that will surely disrupt Latino families, friends and communities.

There will be seven Democratic Asian-Pacific-Islander women in the 2017 House — there are zero Republicans from that group. 

In recent elections, “Asian-Americans” have sometimes given even higher support for Democrats than latinos. 

Only two female House incumbents failed in reelection bids — both losers were Republicans.  

In competition for eight open seats, Democrats won six.  

In 2017 the House will have 62 Democratic women, and only 21 Republicans.

When we turn to the Senate, demographic trends even more dramatically bolster Democrats. 

Of 21 Women in the 2017 Senate, 16 will be Democrats.

Especially noteworthy, with three new Democratic senators of color, they will quadruple the number of women of color serving simultaneously.  

Indeed, besides these four in 2017, only one other woman of color has ever been elected to the Senate in all of American history.

Consider two other factors here regarding key roles by women when the new government meets in 2017.  

Joining the GOP House group will be Liz Cheney.  

She replaces the former Wyoming representative — one of only three women who wanted to be addressed as “congressman”.

More important, Cheney is likely to take Cynthia Lummis’ spot on the so-called “house freedom caucus” as the only female among 40 extreme conservatives that Long Island Republican Congressman Peter King has called “the crazies.” 

This is the group that drove John Boehner to resign as GOP Speaker.

Historian Jon Meacham has described the former President George H.W. Bush and others as furious with Liz and her mother Lynn for pushing Dick Cheney to more extreme positions in the Bush 43 presidency. 

Liz and her mom have been described as team “iron ass.”

The Washington Post notes: “The Cheney women adopted the moniker with pride.” 

As an early supporter of Trump and a far-right conservative, Liz is likely to cause huge mischief as a new member of the House — a reason Sen. Rand Paul endorsed her Wyoming GOP opponent.

A second consideration is the fantasy of many Democrats that Michele Obama will seek office.  

If Trump and Cheney “go low,” Ms. Obama, as the person with the highest approval rating in the United States, could be best equipped to channel Eleanor Roosevelt “to go high.”

Welcome to the discussion.