Why Can’t Republicans Elect Women?

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tags: Congress, Republican Party, womens history

In the long and mostly disappointing history of women in American politics, 1992 is widely considered a pivotal year. Fueled in part by outrage over Anita Hill’s treatment by an all-male Senate Judiciary Committee during Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court nomination hearings the previous fall, voters elected a record number of women to the House and Senate.

Headline writers would soon dub 1992 “The Year of the Woman.” In the popular imagination, that phrase has come to evoke the beginning of a decisive upward trajectory for women in elective office. But it was always a bit of a misnomer. Of the 24 women elected to the House in 1992, 20 were Democrats—as were all four of the newly elected senators. A more accurate description would have been “The Year of the Democratic Woman.”

That label would also have foreshadowed the path of progress for women in the years since.

The next 30 years of data tell a consistent story of two lines diverging. In 2004, 52 Democratic women were elected to Congress, compared to 30 on the Republican side. But by 2008, the Republican women’s caucus was reduced to 21, while Democrats had climbed up to 69. Today, partly on the strength of another “year of the woman” in 2018, Democrats are up to 105 women. And Republicans? Twenty-two. In fact, while there are currently more Democratic women serving in the House than at any point in history, the number of Republican women in the House is the lowest it’s been since 1992. 

In light of the attrition, some Republicans are making a push to get more women elected in 2020. As of this writing, a record 220 (and counting) Republican women have filed to run in congressional primaries. Susan Brooks, a Republican congresswoman who has been vocal about getting more women to run, was put in charge of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s (NRCC) candidate recruitment efforts. Elise Stefanik, another House Republican, launched E-PAC, a political action committee, to support and raise money for GOP women candidates, with a focus on supporting their primary bids. (The “E” stands for “Engage, Empower, Elevate, and Elect.”) And more than half of the NRCC’s 22 “young guns”—House candidates that the party identifies as especially promising—are women. 

Read entire article at Washington Monthly

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