Women in the Running: Making This Midterm the Opportunity of the Century

By: Haley Kaul

The wave of women is rising. The midterm elections are coming up on November 6th, and it is important to look at those on the ballots. This midterm, there is an influx of women running for political offices. One of the biggest factors of this increase is probably the multitude of male politicians that don’t have women in mind. In fact, many of them often disregard another perspective. This leaves women wanting to fight for the positions that have let the female narrative fall through the cracks. Women want to make life better for other women.

If you look at the 2012 midterm election, thirty-six women ran for a spot on the Senate and two hundred and ninety-eight women ran for a position in the House. Here is how that compares to this year: fifty-seven women are running for the Senate and Four hundred and seventy-two are running for the House (Talbot 2018). In addition to all of this, this year there is a record-breaking number of women running for governor. In early April, there were forty women that had filed to run. Now, there are closer to seventy-five women on the ballot for governor. That has doubled the previous record of thirty-four in 1994.

In the year 1994, many men abandoned the democratic party to join the republican party. The reasoning has been speculated to be because of former President Clinton’s political actions during 1993. That made 1994 the year of “the Angry White Male,” because though thirty-four women ran for governor, none were elected.

This prompted political analyst David Wasserman to say, “If House Democrats are ultimately successful in November, 2018 might be remembered as the ‘Year of the Angry College-Educated Female.’”

So many voices, big and small, have told you how important it is to vote. Celebrities use their power to highlight voting. Your parents ask you if you did your civil duty. But, despite all of that, no one can force you to go to your local district and put your ballot in the box, but a higher voter percentage creates a better representation of what the people want in office. This is a huge year for state, House, and Senate elections. There are thirty-six states that have a governor up for election and a whole eighteen of them don’t have an incumbent running, Minnesota included.

We at Find Your Power know that higher diversity in representation creates a better self-image of those that they are representing. As young girls and young women grow up in a male-centric society, especially politically, it is important for girls to see women in positions of power.

We are in a movement. People of color, queer individuals, and other oppressed groups want to see themselves in the media. Usually this relates to representation on TV and in movies, but it is even more important in reality. There are, and there always have been, a large amount of people that want to see women of color and queer women in positions of power. Girls and women feel the confidence to be their authentic self if they see women like them succeeding.

Women of color face a huge amount of discrimination due to their gender and racial identities, two parts of their lives that they simply cannot control. In the House and the Senate, only one hundred and seven (20%) of the members are women and of those one hundred and seven women, only thirty eight are women of color. Since the first United States Congress in 1789, under Senate President John Adams and House Speaker Frederick Muhlenberg, there has been a total of sixty-one women of color that have held positions in congress.

There are many women right now challenging this statistic—women like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Lauren Underwood. Ocasio-Cortez had the one of biggest upsets of this midterm season. Ocasio-Cortez took the democratic primary vote for New York’s 14th Congressional District from a white man that has been in the seat since 1999, Joe Crowley. After the results of the race came out, he sent a tweet saying, “I want to congratulate @Ocasio2018. I look forward to supporting her and all Democrats this November.” This man is stepping back; he didn’t start tweeting derogatory terms at his opponent. He didn’t try to discredit her victory. He simply congratulated her. This kind of graceful defeat is critical to drive the US forward.

The day after 63% of white women in Alabama voted for Roy Moore, a man who has been accused by six women of sexual harassment and by three women of sexual assault while two of them were minors, the New York Times bestselling author Luvvie Ajayi started a project. She began creating a list of the black women that were in politics. She teamed up with Sili Recio, Lucrecer Braxton, and Candace Jones to create Black Women in Politics (http://database.blackwomeninpolitics.com). Currently, there are 603 women that are running for a political office on the site. The team has done the work of compiling all of the candidates and linking Black Women in Politics to websites, social media accounts, and donation websites of each of the candidates. The website even has a convenient link to register to vote and is organized by state. This isn’t just the women running for congressional positions; this is black women running for board of education in specific states; this is black women running for state assembly; this is women running for county court clerk. Black Women in Politics has created an important and usable database for voters.

Cynthia Nixon is a well-known actress and she is also currently joining the wave of women running for office: she is up for New York governor. Though her qualifications have been the center of media discussion, so has her sexuality. She was labeled an “unqualified lesbian” by Christine Quinn, a former Speaker of the New York Council who ran for mayor of NYC. The part of this story that is often overlooked is that Christine Quinn, in the same interview, refers to herself as a “qualified lesbian.” Sexuality aside, Nixon used the remark from Quinn to boost her career. Much like Hillary Clinton did with the phrase Nasty Woman, Nixon created a campaign around something that was supposed to be an insult. The irony of a queer women calling Cynthia Nixon an unqualified lesbian is that Nixon is not actually a lesbian at all, but is very outspoken about how she is bisexual, a sexuality that is often erased from the queer narrative.

There isn’t much queer representation in Congress, but something that has always been a point of hesitation is acknowledging how much representation there is for queer men versus how much there is for queer women. In the whole history of the United States Congress, only nineteen people have been known to be queer: two in the Senate and eighteen in the House (Tammy Baldwin served in both parts of congress). Of those nineteen people, three are women: Barbara Jordan, Tammy Baldwin, and Kyrsten Sinema. Baldwin and Sinema are still serving in the Senate and the House, respectively. Jordan wasn’t out in her lifetime, but her almost four-decade-long relationship with a woman named Nancy Early was announced in her obituary.

During the primary presidential campaigns, Madeline Albright said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” in reference to all the younger women that were voting for Bernie Sanders in the democratic primary. This brings up a huge question for most women: Is it our responsibility to make sure we see women in positions of power, even if our values don’t align with theirs? Is this going to be the year of the Angry College-Educated Female? Looking at the women that are running for office, it is amazing to imagine what impact they may make on our country. But the women in the race aren’t the only ones who can make a difference; every U.S. woman from across the country can make their voices heard by casting their vote during the midterm election on November 6th, 2018.

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