Call me crazy, but…
If what politicians fear is not being reelected, then shouldn’t they pay attention to the people that VOTE for them?
My mother ran the Dayton office for Congressman Charles W. Whalen, Jr. from 1967–1979. Chuck was a liberal Republican. I was 18 when he retired from office, because it was becoming too partisan then, so sadly I was too young to recognize how significant it was to be so close to a US Congressman. I just remember him as the man with hair growing out of his ears that drove like a nut and kept dropping the transmissions on our cars.
So most of what I love most about Chuck is gleaned from stories told at his funeral, and a year later when a memorial tree was planted and L Street on the University of Dayton campus was renamed in his honor. His staffers, my mother included, still get together all of these years later and their stories are endless.
The one that sticks with me, is that he was once told while still in the Ohio statehouse ‘you only owe your party ONE vote and that is for the Speaker of the House. Otherwise, it is Country and Constituents first.’ Today’s politicians seem to have that entirely backward. For most, it’s Donors & Party first…and who cares about the country or constituents.
Chuck thought nothing of voting against the party and following his conscience. In fact, he only followed his conscience. Someone told the story about him sitting in the office one day, watching C-Span and the vote count was showing that Republicans were circling wagons and holding true to the party lines, there was no dissent. He told the staff ‘well, you’ll know when I’ve voted because that goose egg will change to one.”
So as I read my newsfeed on Facebook and Twitter and see the steady flow of Republican officials avoiding town hall meetings because they are too confrontational, I have to wonder…if their goal is to be reelected, shouldn’t they be listening to the people who voted for them? Don’t they want to show their loyalty by listening to those people in the hopes of gaining their vote the next time around?
I know, I know, that’s the common sense approach to things and we know that’s in short abundance these days. Or maybe it’s just a feminine perspective, women tend to be better listeners and consensus builders. These politicians are less terrified of their base than they are of their corporate sugar daddies knowing if they don’t tow the donor’s line, they will be outspent in the next election.
We all know the game is rigged. We need to get money out of politics. It’s not happening because those that can change the rules of the game are the ones who benefit the most from it being rigged. So what can we do?
This is what gives me hope…nearly 13,000 women so far have expressed interest in learning what it takes to run for office. At the Sister Giant Summit in DC in early February, we heard time & again that women need to be asked on average seven times before they will run for office. Men will typically just wake up one day and decide to run. Overall, in order for a woman to feel confident enough on any subject or in any arena, she feels that she must have at least 80% mastery of that topic. For men, it’s 20%.
If 2016 election has shown us anything, it’s that the barriers to entering politics (lack of experience, a tainted past, saying stupid, racist or sexist things, etc) no longer matter. The walls have come down and women are storming the gates. In my heart of hearts, I truly believe if we can get a critical mass of women in DC, the conversation will change and so will the outcomes. We will be able to change the system from the inside. Why? Because women don’t run for office for the power, they do it to get things done — and we know nothing will get accomplished unless and until we get the money out of politics.
In Broad Influence: How Women are Changing the Way America Works by Jay Newton-Small, she outlines that the critical number appears to be about 30% or higher. Obviously, in the case of the Supreme Court, three just isn’t enough to really change things, but from state house floors to corporate board rooms, that appears to be the magic number. According to this Fortune article:
In the wake of the election, the number of women in both chambers will remain unchanged, at 104, and the number of female governors will fall to five from six, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. In the 115th Congress, which will convene January 3, there will be 21 women in the Senate and 83 women in the House. In the previous congressional session, there were 20 women in the Senate and 84 in the House.
So we’re falling short, but aren’t that far away from the target. And our targets are now a minimum of:
- 15 women in Governor’s mansions (+10 over current numbers)
- 30 women in the US Senate (+9)
- 131 women in the US House of Representatives (+48)
We’ve got our work cut out for us, but if just a small percentage of those 13,000 women run and win in 2018 and 2020 — we’ve got a game changer on our hands. If you don’t want to run for office, that’s fine — but get out there and support women who are willing to take the risk. Have their backs. Call out obvious sexism — and don’t engage in it yourself by focusing on her appearance, clothing, or tone of voice.
Remember, for it is in comparison or competition of others that we remain the Patriarchy’s puppets.