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A revolutionary election for women in Congress? Sort of

– Kelly Dittmar, Research Director at the Center for American Women and Politics


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Women across the United States made several gains in this week’s election, producing a string of ballot firsts and pushing representation in both the House and Senate.

A total of 131 women will sit in the next Congress, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. Although the ballots are still counted in some races, that number is already up from the record of 127 set in 2019.

For the first time, Missouri voters elected a black woman to the House, Washington State elected a Korean American woman to the House, the three-member New Mexico delegation to the House will be made up entirely of women of color and one woman will represent Wyoming in the Senate.

These gains, although significant, are small.

“What do we count as success?” said Kelly Dittmar, director of research at CAWP. “If you measure success by overall representation, we’re a long way off.”

Women still represent just under a quarter of the 535 seats in the House and Senate. Thirty-one Republican women were voted in – which is more than in any other electoral cycle – representing about 13% of their party in both the House and Senate, to date. On the Democratic side, 100 women have been voted in this cycle, which is below the party’s record of 106 women in the House and Senate set in 2019.

The numbers are even slimmer for women of color: there are 47 women of color in Congress, all but one representing the Democratic Party (Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida is, according to CAWP, the only Republican MP of color). Of these 47 women, only four are senators.

In the 2018 midterm elections, a historic number of women led the Democratic takeover in the House, overthrowing 21 seats. Only one Republican woman was elected to the House that year. The striking results have set off alarm bells within the Republican Party, prompting a concerted effort to recruit a more diverse slate of candidates this year. As a result, the party had more female candidates at the start of the cycle than ever before – 227 candidates ran for House seats and 23 in the Senate.

In the end, 23 Republican women were elected to the House this year, including 13 non-incumbents. In addition, Republican women have overturned six of the eight seats the party has won in this cycle, Dittmar added.

“The largest number of non-titular Republican women to ever win in a single House electoral cycle is no reason to sneeze,” Dittmar noted. “But they more than make up for the losses they had suffered, especially during the 2018 cycle. We need at least that level of earnings for them in every election cycle, if we are really going to see them move closer to parity. within their party.

Many in the new class of Republican women elected to the House – which includes QAnon supporters Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, who overthrew another Republican by portraying him as insufficient support for President Trump – are not moderate, which adds to a long-standing trend of the two parties moving further and further apart from each other and from common ground.