Women are underrepresented in congress. It’s an indisputable fact. Although they make up more than half the population in the United States, women hold just 16.8 percent of congressional seats.
But it’s not because women don’t win elections.
Research shows that women perform just as well as men when they run for office. “In terms of fundraising and vote totals, the consensus among researchers is the complete absence of gender bias.”
So if women do just as well as men in elections, why does Amy Siskind believe gender should be the deciding factor in which candidates the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee supports?
Amy is appalled that the DCCC is assisting Ed Case, a white male, instead of Colleen Hanabusa, a Japanese-American woman. “Anyone still think the Democrats are the party of women?” she asks, citing sexism and racism as the impetus behind the DCCC’s decision.
Racism and sexism play a role in many Democratic policies, including affirmative action and quota systems. But in this situation, it seems that political strategy is driving the DCCC’s support for Ed Case. DCCC operatives fear Case and Hanabusa will split the Democratic vote, handing the election to Republican candidate, Charles Djou. And after a major campaign commercial gaffe, Hanabusa is thought to be the weaker candidate.
Colleen Hanabusa is an accomplished woman who deserves to be evaluated on the merit of her ideas, the strength of her character, and her ability to lead. Prizing her gender over her political record eclipses her accomplishments and ideas. It implies that her internal plumbing matters more than her intellect.
Amy is not wrong to examine the gender representation gap in congress. But the central question should be, if not gender bias, what is it that’s keeping women from public office? The answer is not a performance gap, but an ambition gap. Qualified women run for office far less often than qualified men.
Amy hopes to address this disparity by making sure women win each and every time they’re on the ballot, regardless of party affiliation. She has even suggested fast-tracking congressional gender parity through the use of undemocratic quotas, as has been done in many other countries. I admire her energy and dedication, but I can’t support her approach.
Valuing group identity over individual identity doesn’t empower women, it deprives them of the opportunity to compete as equals. And quotas send the message that despite legal equality, women can’t hack it in the political arena without a boost from Papa Government. Instead, the answer is to encourage qualified women to run, and to treat candidates with equal scrutiny once their names are on the ballot.
Fixation on statistical gender parity places the focus on equality of outcome. But true gender equality can only come from equal opportunity to make the choices that best suit us as individuals.