Final Federal Election Of 2011 A Big One For Women (TPM)

T.A. Barnhart

Talking Points Memo, after noting the the 2010 election led to the first decrease of women in Congress in years (by one, down to 72, reduced further after the resignation of Jane Harman), points out an "under-reported" turnaround. First Kathy Hochul won in New York and then Janice Hahn in California, restoring the pre-2010 level of women in Congress. And now, of course, a chance to move even further ahead:

On November 8, state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici will face two candidates in the Democratic primary in OR-01.... EMILY’s list is backing Bonamici, and a pair of recent polls — one put out by the Democratic women’s group — show her with a huge lead over her two primary opponents. If Bonamici wins the nomination and goes on to win in January, the number of women in the House in the 112th [Congress] will stand at 74, a gain of one since the 111th.

Why do I bring this up?

“We know the best defense against the GOP anti-woman agenda is more Democratic women in Congress, and that’s what we’re delivering,” [Jess McIntosh, spokesperson for EMILY’s List] said. “The Democratic Party has real momentum going into 2012, and it’s because of the women running - and winning - in special elections this year.”

The two Brads would represent women well in the House, as they would represent all constituents (save, perhaps, the One-percenters). But as no one would argue a rich, white lawyer could represent poor persons of color as well as someone from their community, no man can bring to Congress what a woman can. Arguing for the "best qualified candidate, period" is naive. Congress needs to represent the American people far, far better than it does. Bonamici is, of course, a one-percenter, but she's proven to be a traitor to that group by working hard to protect Oregonians not as economically fortunate as she. She more than meets the standard of "qualified for Congress". And she can do what neither of the two Brads can do: Be a woman in Congress.

If we want to make America a more just, equitable nation, we need more of the unrepresented in elected office. Suzanne Bonamici can do that and, at the same time, bring a ton of brains, compassion and integrity with her.

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    Why would you support a one-percenter who is likely to become a compromising conservadem when you could support a true progressive like Brad Avakian? I am all for more women in congress, but I would rather have a progressive than a female conservadem.

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        She is a one-percenter. She is not very committed to ending the wars. She has indicated her willingness to compromise with republiCONs. We have seen how compromise with republiCONs works in congress; it means the one-percenters win and the rest of us lose. She has indicated her willingness to accept trade deals. Again this is a situation where the one-percenters win and the rest of us lose. The rest of us have been losing too much for too long. I am not will to take the risk on her. A safer vote is to support Brad Avakian, who is very clear on these issues.

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          Any of the candidates elected to Congress becomes a top-five-percenter in income just through their Congressional salary ($174,000).

          Only Nixon could go to China. One of the reasons Warren Buffett and Bill Gates Sr. have so much credibility in talking about increasing taxes on the rich is that they are the rich. Sen. Bonamici has been the same, supporting Measure 66 (a tax on those who could afford it).

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    Can we get some sort of citation for the one-percenter claim? Or at least an explanation?

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      Link below for citation.

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        Does anyone know what the wealth threshold is to put someone in the top 1%? I've only found a source for income (in 2010, $380,354).

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          The threshold for income is around 500,000 (per the WSJ income/wealth generator, no linky, sorry, didn't bookmark it). For wealth, it's something around 5 million.

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      Carla, we're friends, so i can say this to you: bullsh*t.

      Saba is not qualified for Congress. she lacks the depth of legislative & other leadership & professional work that Suzanne & the 2 Brads have. i have never said being a woman is enough. but given the SB is fully qualified to serve in Congress, the fact that she's a woman makes her candidacy even more exciting.

      one of the great things about Lew Frederick serving in the House is that he is African-American; that actually matters. a lot. your arguments against gender-based voting make it sound as if being a woman is incidental, an accident of nature & history. which is pure bullsh*t. it does matter that in Bonamici, CD 1 voters can send a woman to Congress. a qualified, experienced, intelligent, hard-working woman who will represent the district as well as her two main competitors.

      you can keep accusing me of "boiling down" but i have consistently begun with basic competencies, and i have consistently said the 3 top Dems all clear that hurdle. and i have consistently said that i believe it's a toss-up between SB & BA (for me), so i go for the next factor that matters. but i begin with the most important factor: is she qualified to serve in Congress? and is she as qualified as her opponents.

      both of those get a resounding Yes.

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      gender, race, religion do matter. they may seem like qualifications to you, but they matter. being a woman means you live & experience life differently than a man does. i got to video an interview with Norma Paulus recently; the fact that she was female shaped everything about her life. she had to be OVER-qualified to even move forward in life.

      or ask Lew Frederick & Chip Shields: which of them has been stopped while driving because of their skin color?

      Keith Ellison's religion may seem incidental to you (and may not matter to many of his constituents, not in a way to not vote for him), but it damn sure matters that there is 1 Muslim in Congress. pretending that there are some kind of value-free qualifications that are all that matters is naive at best and dishonest at worst.

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    I hope the folks arguing against gender favoritism in choosing candidates will stay true to that position.

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      What's your own position on choosing candidates based on gender favoritism, Alex?

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      I'm sure white racists hoped that those against racial "favoritism" stayed true to their positions, too, as did those pushing to keep DADT. Not calling you a racist, Alex, just to be clear, nor am I calling you anti-woman. Just making a point, that the arguments made about affirmative action of all kinds are not dissimilar. I get those arguments, and see sense in some, but back to the old joke, electing our representatives as if we are blind to gender is not moving us forward.

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      I'm sure white racists hoped that those against racial "favoritism" stayed true to their positions, too, as did those pushing to keep DADT. Not calling you a racist, Alex, just to be clear, nor am I calling you anti-woman. Just making a point, that the arguments made about "affirmative action" of all kinds are not dissimilar. I get those arguments, and see sense in some, but going back to the old joke, electing our representatives as if we are blind to gender is not moving us forward.

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      don't be absurd, Alex. no one is arguing that one bit.

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      There has been no benefit, because they are not progressive. I have not and never would advocate voting for a women whose policy positions I do not support. Thought that was clear, sorry if it was not.

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      Suzanne was also there. Didn't see Witt.

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      Mark, it would be insulting if i had said "Vote Bonamici JUST because she's a woman". i did not. she's qualified to be in Congress, regardless. she's proven that repeatedly by her work in the Leg. what's insulting is that Carla & you (and others) refuse to respond to what i write & instead twist my words & omit key points.

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    I completely understand and agree with the desire to see more representative numbers of women in office. That said, I think the argument that voters should choose Bonamici specifically and solely because she is a woman is not constructive or helpful to that cause. If anything, it's harmful. I understand that it's predicated upon your belief that the candidates are otherwise the same. However, that's hardly a unique statement in politics (I recall a lot of people saying it about Bush and Gore in 2000...) and I think the proper response is to do a little more homework instead of encouraging people to lazily decide that one candidate is better than another based on a chromosome.

    The issue today is not that female candidates are less likely to win than male candidates. If that were the case and voters seemed to have a general bias (conscious or otherwise) against female candidates then perhaps there would be a legitimate argument for assigning female candidates extra weight based on their gender to specifically attempt to counter that bias. However, that's not the problem. There have been a number of academic studies over the years that have found women running for Congress are just as likely to win as men. Not to toot my own horn, but I wrote my thesis on female candidates running for state legislature and sampled every state legislative race in Oregon between 1998-2008, and again female candidates were as likely to succeed as men. Women who run aren't having any increased difficulty winning elections in Oregon or for Congress in general.

    The issue today is that there are simply far fewer women running for office than men. If there were equal numbers of candidates from both genders, then there would be an even split amongst officeholders. Thus, the productive way to address the disparity between women and men in Congress or elsewhere is simply to increase the numbers of female candidates. Organizations like Emerge Oregon that focus on providing potential female candidates with the encouragement and resources to run for office do great work in this regard.

    When the numbers of women running for office increase, then it'll become more likely that voters will determine a female candidate is the best candidate irrespective of her gender. That's the ideal situation: when people naturally decide that a woman is the best candidate, and not that a candidate is the best because she is a woman.

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      The question you've forgotten to ask is WHY fewer women run. Not in any way disagreeing about the important work Emerge is doing, but just how long should women have to wait for equity? I could never have run for anything when my kids were young, because I was the primary caretaker and making less than a man with a comparable level of education. Despite being one of the smart kids I was not encouraged - ever - to go to med school or into any other higher paying field of study. I was even told by a college advisor that "your dedication to your children could be a negative factor in advancing (in my field), despite the fact that you are very bright." And, really, Nick, show me where I encourage people to "lazily decide" on a candidate based on a "chromosome." I've tried very hard to express my support for Suzanne without denigrating the other fine candidates in any way, because we are gifted with more than one great choice. But when given the opportunity to vote for a woman who has been an incredibly effective legislator, is intelligent, progressive, and has a great record to fill a seat in Congress (since, surprise! I did encourage people to look at qualifications and positions), I'm going to do it. In your magical world, all those great women are just apparently going to appear in equal numbers to men, somehow, someday, despite the many barriers we still face in the real world. (And BTW, how you go from what I wrote to positing the - false -statement that people were claiming to say Bush and Gore were the same is and somehow make a connection to what I actually wrote is pretty baffling, at best.)

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        And, really, Nick, show me where I encourage people... go from what I wrote...

        Actually Timi I was responding to TA since he, you know, wrote the post. This is the second time that TA has made the argument that the candidates are identical and thus voters should choose Bonamici because she is a woman. Well I reject the premise that they are otherwise the same as being categorically false, be it when people say it about this race, the 2000 Presidential race, or any other, because I do think it's fundamentally lazy. Furthermore I think there are legitimately dangerous consequences to constantly making that assertion when it's not true. These particular candidates may have similar views on a large number of issues, which isn't exactly news for a primary election, but there are other topics where they have differing opinions, as Mel points out. I think choosing a candidate on those differences is far more constructive than saying Bonamici should win because she's a woman. You can try and say "All else equal..." but the simple fact is that all else is not equal. It should also be noted that nowhere did I say that Bonamici is not a good candidate, would not be a good Congressperson, or that people should not vote for her. Like Carla, I actually think that TA does Bonamici a great disservice with this post. I imagine that she would want people to decide that she is clearly the best candidate in the race based on her record and her vision, instead of saying "they're all the same so I'll just vote for the woman."

        In your magical world, all those great women are just apparently going to appear in equal numbers to men, somehow, someday, despite the many barriers we still face in the real world.

        I don't think they're going to magically appear, I think they already exist, they're just not running for office (or at least in fewer numbers than they should). Also, nowhere did I state that there are no reasons why there are fewer female candidates than men. As you note, there are a variety of factors which lead women who otherwise would be outstanding candidates and officeholders not to run. To me it boils down to a question of do you want to just treat the symptoms, or do you want to actually cure the underlying causes? The bottom line is that when they run women are as equally likely to win as men, there's just fewer running. The solution then is to try to eliminate or at least minimize the barriers and challenges that discourage women from running in the first place. That's why I mention Emerge Oregon as being a great program - because that's what they do. The alternative is to say that voters should start discriminating in favor of women, and maybe that has a more immediate impact, but I don't think it's healthy for our representation in the long term. I don't think either men or women have the right to be categorically more successful than the other simply on account of their gender.

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          Nick and Timi --

          If you're looking for ways to encourage women to run, there is - of course - the approach of finding an excellent woman that you think should run and actually asking her.

          A number of formal and informal studies have shown that women who don't run will often say, when asked, "no one asked me to." So, ask. I, for one, do that all the time. (I am, of course, self-interested - as a political consultant.)

          But if you're looking for other ways to do so on a macro scale, I would recommend and, along with Emerge and Emily's List.

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    Vote Saba Ahmed for Congress!

    As if Electrical Engineering, Juris Doctorate and MBA degrees don't certify my credentials. Muslim Woman's Voice is desperately needed in Congress, White House and the Supreme Courts.

    All of my opponents are well qualified, but they do not have a sustainable competitive advantage to lead Oregon for the next 25+ years in an increasingly Global World. I look forward to helping Oregon get ahead and lead the Economic Upward Spiral. Inshallah (God-willing). Thanks.

    Regards, Saba

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