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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Will the Lioness Roar in the Midterms?

Despite evidence that the Dobbs decision of the Supreme Court has awakened women voters, fewer women are running for major political office this year than in recent midterm elections.

Meredith Conroy and Nathaniel Rakich report at FiveThirtEight that:

In the last midterm elections, Democratic women won a historic number of congressional races. Two years later, the GOP had its own “Year of the Woman.” But now that the 2022 primaries are long over, we can say that any signs that Republican women would continue to gain on their Democratic counterparts were likely a flash in the pan, not a watershed.

FiveThirtyEight, with an assist from political scientists Bernard Fraga and Hunter Rendleman, collected a trove of demographic and political information (such as endorsements, race and ethnicity and gender) for every major-party candidate running in a Senate, House and governor’s race this cycle. Based on our analysis of this data, the share of women running for office this November is lower than it was in 2020 (with one type of office serving as a notable exception). Both parties have passed on opportunities to add more women to their ranks. But Democrats have provided more opportunities for female politicians than Republicans — thanks in part to divisions in the GOP’s infrastructure for electing women.

Conroy and Rakich notę further, “This cycle, among candidates who advanced to the general election,2 women made up 43 percent of Democratic nominees and 20 percent of Republican nominees. This was a slight decline compared to 2020,3 when women were 47 percent of Democratic nominees and 22 percent of Republican nominees. The exception they refer to is Governor’s races, in which “women from both parties broke records in gubernatorial races.”

In terms of racial diversity, the authors note further that 84 percent of Republican candidates in this year’s Senate, House and Governorship primaries were white males, compared to 37 percent for Democrats. Conroy and Rakich don’t get  into the reasons for the overall decline in women candidates, but Covid may have a little something to do with it, since women are still the “primary caregivers.”

Contrary to the title of their article, “2022 is Not Another ‘Year of the Woman,'” this midterm election may yet prove to be the most important election year ever for women – in a good way. If, for example, the Democrats hold their House majority and add to their Senate majority, it will almost certainly happen because women voters rose up in unprecedented percentages in protest against the Dobbs decision and cast their ballots to elect pro-choice candidates, who are  overwhelmingly Democrats. If that lovely scenario unfolds, which is asking a lot, 2022 will be a watershed year for women in politics. The lioness will have roared and democracies all over the world will take notice. It would also go a long way to help persuade the G.O.P. that bully-boy politics is now a yuge loser for them, and maybe they ought to embrace a more rational conservatism.

On the other hand, if women don’t rise up in historic protest, the Supreme Court will likely turn a hard right on all issues of concern to women and Trumpismo will gain power in the G.O.P. and national politics. It could mean decades of stagnation, deepening polarization and erosion of human rights in the U.S.

Of course it’s extremely unfair to hold women voters to a higher standard than their male counterparts. Women are already voting more often for Democrats and progressive reforms than are men. For swing voters of any gender, the question they should be considering is “which candidates will help end political gridlock and get America moving forward again?” Nevertheless, an historic opportunity for women voters is fast approaching. Much depends on whether or not they seize it.

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