A New "Year of the Woman"? The Rise of Female Democrats and the Struggle for Female Republican Candidates in the Midterm Elections
Hausarbeit 2018 25 Seiten
Table of Contents
2. Initial Situation After Donald Trump’s Election
3. The Rise of Female Democratic Party Candidates
3.1. Kyrsten Sinema
3.2. Chrissy Houlahan
4. The Struggle for Female Republican Candidates
4.1. Diane Harkey
4.2. Martha McSally
6. Works Cited
The year of 1992 was considered the ‘Year of the Woman’ in politics, because many women ran for public office in record numbers (“The Year of the Woman, 1992”). Up until 1992, women comprised just over 6% of the U.S. Congress and less than 20% of the state legislatures (“The Year of the Woman, 1992”). Only two women held a seat in the U.S. Senate, namely Nancy Kassenbaum as Senator of Kansas and Barbara Mikulski, Senator of Maryland (“The Year of the Woman, 1992”). According to a study by the Congressional Research Service prior to the 1992 election, the study pointed out that at the current rate of growth it would have taken 432 years before women would have a majority in the House (qtd. in Scull). The election in 1992 had brought 24 first-term women to the House of Representatives and it “comprised the largest number elected to the House in any single election” (“The Year of the Woman, 1992”). Four women also won seats in the Senate, including Patty Murray, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Carol Moseley Braun (“The Year of the Woman, 1992”). Never before had four women been elected to the Senate in a single election year, as well (“The Year of the Woman, 1992”).
This study is concerned with the question in how far the presidency of Donald Trump creates advantages or disadvantages for female candidates for the U.S. midterm elections. In doing so, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House and Jennifer Sclafani’s Talking Donald Trump: A Sociolinguistic Study of Style, Metadiscourse, and Political Identity have been consulted to provide background information on Donald Trump. Due to the fact that this is a rather recent study that deals with the upcoming midterm elections in November 2018, this paper also relied on online research and online publications.
Firstly, there will be a chapter that deals with the initial situation which was created when Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. It will give some background information about the lewd history and indecent behavior of Trump towards women, which leaked to the media during his presidential campaign. Chapter three will provide an analysis of two female Democratic Party candidates and their advantages for the midterm elections in November 2018. The chapter will present Kyrsten Sinema who is running for the U.S. Senate to represent the State of Arizona and Chrissy Houlahan, who is running for the House seat of the 6th Congressional District of Pennsylvania. Another chapter will focus on difficulties that Republican female candidates have to face and present Diane Harkey who is running for a House seat in California’s 49th Congressional District and Martha McSally, also running for the Senate seat to represent the state of Arizona. Within these subchapters, the strength and weaknesses of each candidate will be pointed out and how each of them make use of the presidency of Donald Trump. Finally, the last paragraph of this term paper will be a conclusion, which sums up the results achieved and gives an outlook for future research on women in Congress.
2. Initial Situation After Donald Trump’s Election
Before Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States, several information about his lewd behavior leaked to the media. During the presidential campaign, many accusations of sexual assault and offensive comments became known to the public (Kellner 17). For example, the infamous video recording of Donald Trump and Billy Bush on Access Hollywood exposed their heavily offensive and sexist conversation about women (Sclafani 79). The part of the tape that stirred up most people was when “Mr. Trump referred to kissing women and grabbing them by their genitals without their consent” (Victor). Although in a public statement he apologized for his vulgar comments that were recorded on tape, the incident was belittled and referred to as “locker room talk” (Sclafani 12). Unlike Donald Trump who proceeded with his presidential campaign, Billy Bush, the former host of Access Hollywood, was fired from his job (Sclafani 79). Nevertheless, the scandal was followed by many women who came forward and accused Donald Trump of sexual assault, “spanning from groping on planes to unwanted advances in the Trump Tower” (Blau). At least 19 women have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct since the 1980s, including his first wife Ivana Trump (Wolff 39). All of these allegations were denied by Donald Trump and he clearly stated his position that all of these women were liars and were being sued after the election of 2016 (Merica). However, up until now he has not filed a lawsuit against any of these women (Merica).
Attorney and feminist author Jill Filipovic even states that she believes Donald Trump must be a misogynist (Filipovic). In her opinion, Trump has shown a degrading and dehumanizing behavior towards women (Filipovic). In an article she wrote for Time Magazine she denounces his sexist double standard. One the one hand Donald Trump sees white women, who are slim and attractive as “sex objects, while women who don’t fit his narrow ideal of femininity are dismissed as pigs and dogs” (Filipovic). Furthermore, we know that Donald Trump has stated that he would not call himself a feminist (Kenny). His argument for that statement was, that he not only wants to support women, but rather all people (Kenny).
One might think that the video recording and the allegations by the women against Trump should have caused a massive drop of voters in the presidential election of 2016. Indeed, the release of the Access Hollywood tape caused a noticeable decline of voters’ support for Donald Trump (Dann). According to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll of October 2016, the head-to-head matchup between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump showed a clear advantage for Clinton (Dann). The poll was conducted shortly after the release of the tape and before the second presidential debate (Dann). At this point in time, Hilary Clinton’s percentages of likely voters exceeded that of Donald Trump by 14%. Furthermore, after the allegations of sexual misconduct against him, many members of the Republican Party including Senators John McCain, Mike Crapo and Kelly Ayotte withdrew their endorsement for Donald Trump (Rappeport).
Since the past year, many powerful men have faced serious consequences for sexual harassment, including film producer Harvey Weinstein, former Senator from Minnesota Al Franken and John Conyers, former U.S. Representative for Michigan, just to name a few (Weiss). All of the aforementioned men have faced dire consequences and were dismissed of their job or had to resign from office. However, the most powerful man and current president of the United States has faced no consequences at all (Wolff 17). Although there was an immediate decrease of likely voters for Trump, it ultimately did not have much relevance for the presidential election. There are many reasons why Trump was elected anyways, but he sure did have a lot of support from the Republican Party and voters who may have thought that there were much more important issues than dealing with a misogynist (Wolff 17).
When Donald Trump was elected in 2016, there was an immediate uprising of women across the whole nation (Ghitis). Most noticeable the Women’s Marches which took place in several cities within the United States, such as Washington D.C., Los Angeles and New York City (Ghitis). On January 21 in 2017, almost 4.6 million people joined the marches to stand up not only for women’s rights, but also gender equality and LGBT rights (Ghitis). Those people marched to protest against the policies which were promoted by the newly elected president (Filipovic). It became apparent that the election had brought on a new direction for feminism (Ghitis). A generation who may have taken their rights for granted was now igniting the fourth wave of feminism (Ghitis). In a time, in which the president of the United States wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and its privacy rights it seems to be a wakeup call for many women (Filipovic). Donald Trump does not agree with Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization that provides reproductive health services and sexual education, and their stance on abortion (Filipovic). Women should have the control of their bodies and have the opportunity to end an unintended pregnancy. Safe and legal access to abortion services is indisputable for many women and clearly that is at stake under the Trump administration (Filipovic). As a result, the day after Trump’s inauguration the streets of Washington D.C. were flooded with women who marched for their rights (Filipovic).
According to EMILY’s List, a Pro-Choice organization and political action committee, the election of Donald Trump caused many women to get active in politics and join several interest groups (Ghitis). Eventually, many of these women are now running for office in order to set against the newly elected president (Ghitis). EMILY’s List supports Pro-Choice female candidates to run for office and has stated that the number of women seeking their support skyrocketed from 1,000 to 22,000 women in 2017 (Ghitis). One of these women is Chrissy Houlahan who will be introduced in another subchapter. Also Kyrsten Sinema, the current House Representative of Arizona’s 9th Congressional District is endorsed by EMILY’s List.
The next chapters of this term paper will present several female candidates who run for office in the midterm elections of November 2018. It should be pointed out how female Democrats make use of the fourth wave of feminism and what problems Republican women have to face when they run for office during the Trump presidency. Therefore, two female Democrats, namely Kyrsten Sinema and Chrissy Houlahan will be presented and how they take advantage of the current feminist uprising within the United States.
3. The Rise of Female Democratic Party Candidates
As mentioned in the previous chapter, the presidency of Donald Trump has caused many women to take action in politics. From local to state politics, there is a noticeable increase of involvement in politics since the presidential election of 2016 (“Potential Candidate Summary - 2018”). A record number of women have filed to run as candidates for both the Senate and the House of Representatives (“Potential Candidate Summary - 2018”). According to the Center for American Women and Politics, the number of women running for seats in the House increased by 50% in comparison to the election cycle of 2012 (“Potential Candidate Summary - 2018”). Not surprisingly, many of these women are members of the Democratic Party (“Potential Candidate Summary - 2018”). In total, 54 women have filed to run for the U.S. Senate (“Potential Candidate Summary - 2018”). Thereof, 31 women were members of the Democratic Party and 23 were Republicans (“Potential Candidate Summary - 2018”). For the U.S. House, 476 women filed to run, 356 female Democrats and 120 Republicans (“Potential Candidate Summary - 2018”).
Democrats can take advantage of the conservative policy of the current administration and the misogynistic views of Donald Trump. They benefit from the spirit which was ignited by the Women’s Marches in protest of his policies. As mentioned before, when Trump was elected many women saw it as a threat to their prevailing rights. Today, Democrats are in need of female candidates who will support Roe v. Wade (“Laws & Policy”). Now that Donald Trump got the opportunity to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice, it becomes important to have as many Pro-Choice candidates as possible (Foran). Since this topic is central to women, many female candidates of the Democratic Party list health care as their top priority. Within their campaigns they clearly indicate their Pro-Choice disposition. EMILY’s List, who endorse Kyrsten Sinema and Chrissy Houlahan among others, insist on their support of Pro-Choice Democratic Party women (“Mission&Vision”).
Furthermore, female Democratic Party candidates make use of the #MeToo Movement, a campaign against sexual harassment and assault (Brownstein). The Movement used a hashtag as a way to show the pervasiveness of sexual harassment (Brownstein). The #MeToo went viral on social media and showed the magnitude of this problem that women face every day (Brownstein). Many female candidates of the Democratic Party used this movement and shared their own stories of sexual harassment in their campaign videos, including Mary Barzee Flores, Christina Prejean and Sol Flores (Brownstein). With the help of the movement, the spirit of the Women’s Marches and the current discontent with the presidency, Democrats might be able to retake the House of Representatives this November (Kamarck).
In many ways, Trump somehow is the best thing that could happen to female Democratic Party candidates. According to Ronald Brownstein, “the Democratic tilt toward female candidates is the logical culmination of the political dynamics since Trump’s election” (Brownstein). However, their Republican colleagues have to face additional struggles when it comes to their campaigns (Rachael). In the following chapters, several Democratic Party candidates and Republican candidates will be presented and it will be discussed in how far the Trump presidency influences their campaigns. Firstly, Kyrsten Sinema who is running for the U.S. Senate to represent the State of Arizona will be introduced. Followed by another Democratic Party candidate, Chrissy Houlahan, whose goal will be to take office in the House of Representatives to represent Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District. Later on, another chapter should point out the problems that female Republican candidates have to face. This chapter will present Diane Harkey who is running for the seat in the House for California’s 49th District and Martha McSally who is in direct competition with Kyrsten Sinema in the race for the U.S. Senate seat to represent Arizona.
3.1. Kyrsten Sinema
Kyrsten Sinema is the current House Representative of the 9th Congressional District of Arizona (“Kyrsten Sinema”). She was assigned to the Committee on Financial Services during the 115th Congress (“Kyrsten Sinema”). Sinema holds a master’s degree in social work and also earned a Ph.D. in Justice Studies (“Kyrsten Sinema”). Although she is a member of the Democratic Party, Sinema is considered a very moderate Democrat (“An Independent Voice for Arizona”). It is said that she tries to find compromises and work with colleagues of the Republican Party (Allhands). On the one hand, this has caused some complaints among her own party members, for example when she supported the deportation of “noncitizens who live in gang territory” (Associated Press). On the other hand, people like Kyrsten Sinema who are willing to make a compromise might be what would be best for the current gridlocked Congress (Associated Press).
EMILY’s List, who endorses Kyrsten Sinema, claims that Sinema is “one of the best chances to flip a Senate seat from red to blue” (“Kyrsten Sinema U.S. Senate, Arizona”). The incumbent Republican Senator Jeff Flake is not seeking reelection after he openly criticized Donald Trump (Bradner). He denounced the current administration and even believes that Trump poses a threat to American democracy (Bradner). If Kyrsten Sinema would win the election, it would be a major win for the Democratic Party in taking control of the Senate (“Kyrsten Sinema U.S. Senate, Arizona”). The last time a Democrat won a U.S. Senate Seat in Arizona was in the year of 1976 (Beaumont and Daniels).
As of August 2018 Sinema has raised more than $10.5 million for her campaign (“Arizona Senate 2018 Race”). This does by far exceed the funds that her Republican competitor Martha McSally has raised over the past couple of months (Associated Press). A poll from ABC15 earlier this year, also indicates that Sinema is leading the race against McSally by 6% (Scott).