Women in Politics

As we have discussed in class, interest in political involvement can start early for some people with encouragement from family and peers, but often dies down over time; however, with all the things that lead people to decide to or to not to run for office, we consistently see a field dominated by men (Crowder-Meyer, September 7, 2016). Why do so few women pursue office in America and how can we inspire more women to fill political leadership positions?

Studies show that college is the time when young men and women begin to think differently about future political careers, which may be attributed to more time considering the future and less family influence, and although women are more likely to complete lawyers and work in that field, men are still the ones to fill offices later in life. This issue has been solidified by the idea that politicians tend to recruit other people like them for office, but because there are so many men in office, more and more men will be recruited (Crowder-Meyer, September 7, 2016). Women have the opportunity to indirectly recruit others in office by “[inspiring] other women to run for office”. A video attached to a Vox article by Zach Beauchamp claims that electing Hilary Clinton in our political system would lead to more women in office, who are proven to be more productive than men. Not to mention that when a woman runs for office, a few more are to follow until the playing field evens out, and although Hilary is only one person, she plans to increase the number of women in her cabinet to more accurately represent the population, which might inspire even more women.


A Woman to look up to

Following the Democratic Convention in July, Zach Beauchamp wrote an article for Vox outlining the impact a female president can have on the descriptive representation of women around the world. While I’m not questioning the historical significance of having the first female nominee for president from a major party, Beauchamp’s analysis of the global significance of a Hillary Clinton presidency (assuming she wins the general election in November) seems to overstate the role of US leadership when it comes to the representation of women. Why assume that young girls growing up around the world are looking up to Hillary Clinton, and not one of the over 50 women that have preceded her as heads of state?

When it comes to gender equality, the US can hardly claim leadership on any measure. 17 countries, most of them European, allowed women to serve in combat roles in the military before the Pentagon lifted its ban in 2013. And don’t even get me started on paid maternity leave, or representation in national legislatures.

While the glass ceiling is certainly still an obstacle to women seeking high political offices, and even more so in states with nuclear capabilities, I find it extremely US-centric to Suppose young girls “around the world” will look to Hillary Clinton as an example of female leadership. Many of these girls already have female role models. They’re called Sirivamo Bandaranaike, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, and Angela Merkel.

The world has a shortage of female leaders, but let’s not pretend the US is really filling that void.

Party Elites and Divisive Politics

Party elites, contrary to popular belief, greatly manipulate the presidential nomination process and streamline who Americans can vote for, yet this unwanted influence should be disconcerting for everyday Americans. Although legislation passed in the 1970s sought to curb these individuals’ power, “party elites have regained a large measure of control in presidential nominations.” (Cohen et. al, 36) Few notice the invisible primary where elites influence the nomination process and are able to push voters towards a particular candidate through endorsements .

Given that we know about this furtive process, we need to understand how this influence shapes the candidates who Americans vote for in November. Party elites, many of whom have held office at some federal level, are ideologically more extreme than voters who tend to be moderate, and these individuals select nominees who hold similar views (Polsby et. al, 122). The government serves to represent the people, not a few elite individuals, but Americans are not offered the chance to nominate a moderate candidate because of this system. Politics have become more polarizing as both the Democratic and Republican parties further separate from the ideological center, and perhaps party elites’ ability to choose the candidates before actual primaries have even started has led to this widening political divide (Crowder-Meyer, September 15, 2016).

Arizona Senate Biography

In the 2016 Arizona race for Senate, longtime incumbent, republican Sen. John McCain is being challenged by democratic representative Ann Kirkpatrick. McCain was born in Coco Solo Naval Station in Panama. His tenure in government however, was preceded by an extensive and honorable career in the Naval Services. McCain attended the U.S. Naval Academy from 1954 to 1958. He retired in April 1981 with the rank of captain. In that time he received 17 awards and decorations.. McCain’s path led directly to government, representing the republican party. Sen. McCain is an American hero to most, and his military feats only strengthened his bid for candidacy. John was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the First District of Arizona on an agenda of limited government and strong foreign policy. After two terms in the House, John was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986. He has held the senate seat since his election in 1986. He currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and serves on the Senate’s committees on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Indian Affairs.

Sen. McCain’s challenger is a congress-woman for Arizona, and her name is Ann Kirkpatrick. She hails from the democratic party but, Ann grew up in a bipartisan household. Representative Kirkpatrick’s dad was a democrat, and her mother was a republican. Nevertheless, Her parents taught her that no one party has a monopoly on good ideas, and the best solutions are the often the ones where everyone gives a little and finds common ground. Rep. Kirkpatrick’s moderate views should most likely help her, considering a republican has held the seat in challenge since 1986. In November 2004, Ann was elected to the state House of Representatives to represent Legislative District 2, and in 2008, the voters of Congressional District One chose Ann to represent them in Congress.

Rep. Kirkpatrick did not face a primary challenger for the 2016 race most likely because she is already favored by many voters in Arizona. This could have helped Rep. Kirkpatrick in a few ways such as being to put extra efforts in strategy against Sen. McCain or voters perceiving the democratic party to be unified. The republican party produced two opponents for Sen. McCain in the primaries. In the primary election on August 30, 2016, McCain defeated former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward, and  McCain also defeated retired political talk radio show host and perennial candidate Clair Van Steenwyk in the Republican primary. These two did not provide much competition for Sen. McCain seeing as there was nothing, such as a scandal, to affect his position. (Hernson, Contested primaries with an Incumbent, pg. 53).

Normally, this general election would not be a close race, but the current presidential election is affecting elections across the nation. Sen. McCain will have to walk to win re-election with Donald Trump at the top of the ballot. This will obviously have an effect on the general election considering the Hispanic population of Arizona. Rep. Kirkpatrick is benefitted by this particular situation however.  She is likely to tie McCain to Trump in an effort to earn votes from Hispanics in the state. She is also likely to continue criticizing McCain’s failure to oppose Trump’s controversial statements and policies in order to win the votes of Trump’s supporters, which she said demonstrates “that he’s not the principled leader he used to be. While it may be early to see a definitive affect, this race may turn out to be interesting due to external situations. It will become a very interesting race if Rep. Kirkpatrick can gain enough ground to force incumbent Sen. McCain to campaign in earnest again.

California Senate Race

This year’s senate race in California is particularly interesting because we’re going to see two Democrats running against each other. This is happening because California has what is called a “top-two primary” system. This means that, rather than being sorted by party, all primary candidates appear on the same ballot. The two candidates that receive the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, then move on to the general election. While the primary wasn’t competitive per se (Kamala Harris got more votes than the next five candidates put together), there were 34 candidates vying for a spot on the ballot in November. This influx of candidates follows Herrnson’s (2016) findings that more candidates run when a seat opens up. However, most of them received less than 1% of the vote. The tendency for especially minor party and independent candidates to struggle to be competitive highlights a pattern where the top-two primary system is arguably making it harder for these candidates to have an impact on the political discourse.

Looking ahead to the general election, it is going to be interesting to see how the campaigns play out, as two candidates from the same party will be competing for votes.

Kamala Harris (D) decisively won the California primary with 40.2% of the vote, more than twice that of Loretta Sanchez (D), who came in second. Prior to running for office, Harris worked as an attorney for more than 20 years and served on several boards related to criminal justice. Harris has served as Attorney General of California since 2011, where she has been fighting for civil rights and criminal justice reform. These issues are also featured prominently on her campaign’s website. Harris has received support from a wide range of public officials, including President Obama and Elizabeth Warren, as well as the California Democratic Party. These endorsements have placed her as the pick of the party establishment, which is bound to give her an advantage as we head in to the general election.

Loretta Sanchez (D), who came in second in the primary with 19% of the vote, has been a member of Congress since 1996, where she has represented California’s 46th district. She has not faced a competitive election (general or primary) since she was first elected in 1996. Sanchez’ committee work has been focused on domestic and international security, as she has served on the Armed Services Committee as well as the Homeland Security Committee for several terms. During her time as a congresswoman, Sanchez has been voting with the Democratic party over 90% of the time, and ideologically falls fairly center within the Democratic party. For her current campaign, Sanchez is highlighting her stance as a liberal on education, health care, and women’s rights. Additionally, gun-violence prevention is featured on her campaign’s website as a prominent issue. She has received endorsements from several members of Congress and over a dozen labor organizations.

Considering the large margin with which Kamala Harris won the primary, the general election is not expected to be particularly close. That being said, I’m excited to discover the nuances of race and gender as they play out in this campaign.

Illinois Senate Candidate Biography

In the 2016 Illinois Senate race, incumbent Senator Mark Kirk and Representative Tammy Duckworth are fighting for the seat in the United States Senate. Senator Kirk is a seasoned politician having been a representative of Illinois’ 10th District in the House of Representatives for than ten years before being elected to the US Senate in 2010. Interestingly, he was a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve for 23 years. Kirk’s impressive political and military experiences make him a strong candidate. Nothing, however, could have prepared him for a sudden and debilitating stroke in 2012 that forced him to relearn basic tasks (such as walking), yet he continued to serve as one of Illinois’ senators after the ordeal . As a Republican, Senator Kirk supports a strong Nuclear Deal with Iran that would prevent the country from becoming nuclear, yet he is also committed to projects at home, in Illinois, such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and repealing the death tax in hopes of keeping the state clean for all and affordable for the backbone of Illinois’ economy: farmers.

Although Senator Kirk has an impressive background, he is facing strong competition from Representative Tammy Duckworth. Like Senator Kirk, Representative Duckworth was a member of the military, yet she was sent to Iraq in 2003. Tragically while serving in Iraq, Duckworth “lost both legs and partial use of her right arm in the explosion,” but these injuries have only strengthened her commitment to helping veterans and their families. After the debilitating injuries, Duckworth became the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and Assistant Secretary at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs where she supported projects that fought to “end Veteran homelessness” and “alleviate suffering from Post Traumatic Stress”. Now after serving in the House of Representatives for four years, Duckworth hopes to continue to serve Illinoisans by “advocating for small businesses, investing in infrastructure, improving the lives of [Illinois] veterans and cutting government waste and fraud.”

Although there were primaries held for both the Republican and Democratic nominations, neither Kirk nor Duckworth faced significant opposition. In the March primary, Kirk received 70.6% of the vote while Duckworth still soundly secured the Democratic nomination with 64.4% of the vote. Kirk easily received the nominee as incumbents “almost always win” when challenged in primaries (Herrnson, 53). In addition, Duckworth’s significant political experience perhaps propelled her to solidify the nomination as her closest opponent for the nominee, Andrea Zopp, did not have this political background which is “usually a determining factor” as to who wins primaries (Herrnson, 55). These circumstances probably led the campaign to be shaped the way it is now.

Looking forward at the election in November, the campaign looks to be very competitive. Chicago is a consistently blue state, and many consider Senator Kirk to be “among the nation’s most imperiled Republican incumbents.” Kirk has struggled to maintain his Republican base given his difficulty being connected with a party that is currently led by Donald Trump in the Presidential race, and he faces continued scrutiny by Republicans for his support of a relatively moderate/liberal agenda. This is reflected in both individuals’ campaign financing where Duckworth has raised $2.4 million more than Kirk has as of June 30. Only time will tell if Kirk will be able to fend off Duckworth to be re-elected to the Senate, but it is certain there will still be a long, expensive, and vicious campaign until the election in November.





First Blog Post

Welcome to the first official blog post of one section of the Campaigns and Elections class at Sewanee: The University of the South. We are a group of students who will be following, in particular, certain Senate races in states that have a large Hispanic population. Each week, we will be posting new blogs that connect our chosen race with information from the week’s readings/focus. Feel free to comment or ask questions!



Image courtesy of: http://www.senate.gov