Thursday, March 29, 2018

Why Aren't There More Women Of Color In Congress?

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This is not-- nor will it ever be-- Joe Crowley

If you follow this blog at all, you probably know, this is a place where identity group politics gets short shrift. We believe, strongly, that the best candidate should be supported, regardless of race, religion, gender, etc. That said, there are 435 members of the House and my guess is that if the best candidate was elected, at least 217 would be women, but probably more than that. Instead, there are just 83 women in the House (19.1%)-- 61 Democrats and 22 Republicans. Of them 31 are women of color. Why so few?

[Of the 22 congressional candidates on the Blue America page, 9 are women (although we just removed one after she joined the New Dems. Around half--although our criteria is not gender, just quality.]

Mary Matiella was Assistant Secretary of the Army until 2014 when she returned home to Tucson. She's currently running for the AZ-02 open House seat and you can contribute to her campaign here. She told us this morning that "women of color, like myself, are making history by stepping up to run in non-majority-minority districts. Many of these districts, like Arizona’s second, have never seen a person of color represent them in congress. Which means they have never been fully represented. Candidates of color, like myself, must show up with a resume twice as long, work twice as hard, and will face twice as many barriers. This is why it is so important for organizations to make policy and potential -based endorsement decisions, rather than over-prioritizing the size of a candidate’s war chest during the infancy stage of a campaign. Giving candidates a level playing field to compete for organizational support will ensure that more voices are heard, more first-time candidates will succeed, and we will have more diversity of representation. I am incredibly grateful for the support of organizations like Democracy for America, Justice Democrats, and Project 100 who saw that I had the experience, vision, grassroots support, and passion to win this race, even if my pockets were not as deep as my opposition."

Earlier this month, Arena urged that political groups invest in women of color this year. Of the 9 women we've endorsed on that page, 3 are women of color. They wrote that "while all first-time candidates face an uphill battle to win elections, it is hardest for women of color. And our recent data analysis confirms the deep asymmetry in financial support for women of color candidates."



The problem starts when women decide-- to run or not to run-- for office. In 2016, just 4% of all candidates who ran for the US House were women of color. Why? On top of the already daunting barriers that any candidate faces (like public scrutiny and no guarantee that you’ll “land the job”), women of color face additional obstacles like securing institutional support and the funding needed to build winning campaigns.

Women of color also get fewer endorsements by the major players. Our analysis indicates that even many well-respected political organizations who endorse early are under-supporting minority women (although EMILY’s List and Latino Victory Fund set great examples). This may have to do with a misguided perception of viability. For example, we’ve had a surprising number of conversations with organizations to garner support for female candidates of color in which they’ve responded, “we’re just not sure that district is winnable.” At the same time, these same groups are supporting White men and women in districts with comparable electorates.



The fundraising gap facing women of color is tremendous, as data compiled by The Arena highlights. Women of color raise less in all types of financial contributions than White candidates.

In 2016, Black and Latinx female incumbents raised only a half as much as White women and roughly two-thirds as much as White men. The data for non-incumbents is incomplete, but we believe similar trends persist. Losing early fundraising traction perpetuates a vicious cycle in which candidates get fewer endorsements, raise less money and reach fewer potential supporters going forward. Of late, it seems that women of color are deemed worthy of establishment endorsements only after they raise large funds on their own or appear on the cover of major publications. That must change now, and quickly.

Why does having more women of color in public leadership matter? When more women with different life experiences and perspectives serve, we get more done. Research on state legislators indicates that the major motivation for women to run for office is to make policy change. Once in office, they take a results-oriented approach that can often overcome partisan gridlock. Women are more likely to focus on solving problems and getting things done, less on the “trappings of power,” like whose name goes on a bill.

Studies on Legislative Effectiveness in Congress shows that women have higher Legislative Effectiveness Scores than men and even higher effectiveness scores when they are a member of a minority party.

And women of color are more likely to champion the interests of everyone in their districts - not just those who look like them, or who voted for them, or who vote at all. They bring a valuable perspective to policy debates that can give voice to the voiceless. As Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) puts it, “Mine was the only voice in [the Judiciary] Committee that spoke for the importance of family unity [in debates over immigration reform]. And so I brought [that voice], …not only as a woman but also as an immigrant. And this is why it is important to have minority representation on all of these committees. Because you have different life experiences, different perspectives.”

America’s inclusion of women of color in public leadership is awful at all levels. Women of color make up 19.7% of our population and growing. But they are just 6% of federal legislators, 2% of statewide elected executives, 8% of sitting state legislators, and 8% of big city mayors. White women fare better, but are still underrepresented-- at 31% of the population and 19% of these same elected officials.

So, what do we do about it?

As individuals, we can prioritize the candidates that we donate to, volunteer for and highlight to our social networks and make sure they include many women of color. Higher Heights, Latino Victory Fund, AAPI Victory Fund, and Project 100 are just a few great resources for learning about some fantastic women of color who are running for office around the country. Your dollars can also fuel organizations working hard to find, recruit and train these women for successful races. Groups like the Collective PAC, Run for Something, Emerge America, Civic Engagement Fund, New American Leaders, Rosa PAC, and others could use your support.

We’d like to see every major committee and PAC commit to endorse at least 25% women of color for the 2018 elections. Institutional support from groups like EMILY’s List and the DCCC goes a long way in credentialing candidates in the eyes of donors. Donors who commit to fund pre-primary can have big impact in tipping victory towards a woman of color candidate. Early endorsements and funding especially matter. And for women of color, they can provide the momentum many need to build broader support networks and win elections.

For our part, The Arena is committing that at least 50% of our 2018 candidates will be women, and at least 50% of the women we support will be women of color.

Of course, all of us play a part in dispelling the false narratives that suggest women of color aren’t qualified, are only viable in majority minority districts, or that they can’t win elections. None of that is true. Just ask the elected officials who are actively proving otherwise with their leadership-- like Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Delegate Hala Ayala, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and many others.
Here's where we run into problems. Stephanie Murphy, an Orlando Blue Dog is a garbage member of Congress, who no one should support... regardless of gender. She has a dreadful anti-working family voting record and, while she's better than a Republican, she's sitting in a seat that could be occupied by a much better member, whether a man or a woman-- Black, white, Latino or Asian. Catherine Cortez Masto isn't as bad but she's, at best, mediocre and not what you could seriously call a good senator. This last week, for example, she helped the Republicans to tank an amendment by Bernie Sanders to end the war in Yemen, one of just a tiny handful of Democrats to cross the aisle on that... and one of only 2 Democratic women to do so, the other being Heidi Heitkamp, the Democrat with the worst voting record in the Senate.

Goal ThermometerBut let's look at a very typical real life 2018 example where a woman of color, Alexandria Ocasio, is running against a white male in a district where 70% of the voters are also non-white and in a case where it would be hard not to notice that she's a far better candidate than he (Joe Crowley) is. As of the December 31 FEC reporting deadline, Ocasio had raised $59,767 and had $18,842 in her campaign account, compared to Crowley, one of Congress' most overtly corrupt members, who had raised $2,137,582 and had $1,380,724 in his campaign war chest. How is she going to beat him, regardless of the fact that she's an incredible candidate and he's a piece of shit? If you'd like to help, please consider chipping in whatever you can afford to her campaign, by clocking on the Act Blue thermometer on the right. And while you're at it, please consider other candidates of color on that list Lillian Salerno (TX), Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (NM), Kaniela Ing (HI) and DuWayne Gregory (NY).

Alexandria Ocasio said no one should be surprised "that women of color, who have historically been blocked from access to wealth and power in the US, are underrepresented in Congress. Yet from Fannie Lou Hamer to Dolores Huerta, women of color have a rich history of activism and played critical roles as some of the most prolific organizers in U.S. history. Women of color vote at higher rates, tightly organize their communities, and respond to local needs quickly. Progressive women of color should hold office at higher rates-- not simply by virtue of representation for representation's sake, but because, as in the case of Doug Jones' electoral win in Alabama, they are often the ones doing the work."

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez is running in the Albuquerque congressional district. Her eloquence speaks for itself: "As a woman of color, a Latina, a survivor, and an anti-domestic violence advocate, I believe that women of color offer a unique perspective to our political discourse that is not only necessary, but if left out, results in inadequate public policy making. There is an intersectionality that exists within the chronic problems that we, as progressives, hope to address. Issues of poverty, income disparities, housing and access to healthcare, are all most acutely felt in communities of color and ever prominently among women of color. In order to confront these challenges, inclusion and representation matter a great deal to good policy-making, and so empowering women of color and other diverse voices then becomes imperative. It's our responsibility to then breakdown the barriers to entry for women of color, mainly financial and political support often denied to them in the nascent stages of a campaign. I'm proud to say that, as a law professor, I used my role as an educator and Associate Dean of the law school to promote these principles of empowering under-represented communities. I devoted my career to empowering others and to opening doors of opportunity."

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2 Comments:

At 6:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I refuse to vote for a Republican of either party. Few real Democrats tend to run, but I will vote for them when I can. I have regularly voted for women and POC candidates, so I have no issues with those categories. Show me you care about people who have it worse in life than I do, and you are likely to win my support. Corporatists can go to hell and wait.

 
At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To answer the simple question: Cuz they are of color... and they are women.

Men still don't like women much, except in the bedroom or bordello. As evidenced by the '16 election, there are an awful lot of women who also don't like women much.

And white men HATE people of color.

This shithole would have been an awful lot better off if we elected ONLY Latinas since 1980.

 

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