By Corinna Barnard
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
GOP women are coming out of the woodwork and challenging Democrats' double-X dominance. But the game for political women is still more noise than transformative numbers. Corinna Barnard's editorial kicks off Women's eNews' upcoming campaign coverage.
(WOMENSENEWS)--It could be the way Republican billionaire Meg Whitman is spending record millions of her own money on her gubernatorial campaign in California and attracting attention to her domestic-worker employment practices.
Or maybe it's the upset victory by Christine O'Donnell in the Delaware Republican primary that has everyone--including late-night TV comedians and GOP strategist Karl Rove--going ga-ga.
Or maybe it's the way Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, is seriously worried about Tea Party upstart Sharron Angle.
Everywhere you look, Republican women are popping up this election cycle. Animated by Sarah Palin-brand politics, they are also juxtaposed to two women from Maine--Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins--cast in the role of leading party moderates.
The Center for American Women and Politics, a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University of New Jersey, runs the mother of all Web sites and research operations on the state of the U.S. female franchise.
Two weeks ago the center said yes, it has been a record campaign season for Republican women. But many apparently did not win their primaries, which means that the final number of women in congressional races--Democrat or Republican--is a bit lower than high-water marks reached in 2004. And while Democratic women ran for election at lower levels than in the past, more won, leaving Democrats with the edge on female leadership.
All that means some women are lending higher notes to the current howl of national discontent. But our actual leadership participation is somewhere between unchanged and slightly down from peak levels. More noise than numbers.
The female candidates of either party who are still on the field want to join a U.S. Congress--in both the House and Senate--that is still only about 17 percent female.
That's below the magic tipping-point figure for women's political representation, which the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva sets at about 30 percent.
A select group of 20 or so countries have achieved this level, providing evidence, in the case of Nordic countries in particular, that it promotes economic growth and support for social amenities such as health care, day care and environmental care. Nurturing policies, in other words.
Social architects recommend governments emerging from civil war to draft or redraft their constitutions to include 30 percent of women in their parliaments. It's considered both stabilizing and a step to economic development. Rwanda currently leads the world in female representation, with women now more than 50 percent of its legislators.
The attention-getting Tea Party female candidates seem to defy the social expectations of women-sensitive social planning.
Many are incensed by what they call the federal welfare state. Some want to undo the national health care vote. Palin hunts animals from a helicopter.
Angry at the Wall Street bailouts, some of these women are similarly outraged by government regulation of a financial system that just finished running completely amok.
They oppose one of the mainstays of women's autonomy--full reproductive choice.
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