We’re living in fast-moving times, with rapid advances in technology and exploding social media, and mind-dazzling changes are happening every day in our lives. While there are many women advancing in the corporate world, however, the political world lags far behind when it comes to women advancing into high office.
I have mixed feelings about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s political style, but of the six women who ran in the Democratic presidential primary, she had the most program proposals, and some of the freshest ideas for change at a time when some change is needed. I don’t support her plan for “Medicare for all,” but she had many approaches to government that were new and interesting.
If you take a snapshot of the American political landscape, you’ll see that women are beginning to make their mark at many levels, but are still dramatically outnumbered by male politicians. There are 20 states that have never had a woman governor. There are currently nine states run by women, six of whom are Democrats.
The current House of Representatives has 102 women. There are 89 Democratic members and 13 Republicans. The Democratic Party has aggressively encouraged women to run for office, and has provided substantial funds from various sources for emerging candidates. The Republican Party is far behind in recruiting women, and provides no direct or indirect funding in primaries. U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican in New York’s 21st District upstate, has tried to get her male colleagues to support more women for office, but the party has ignored her.
California is the national leader when it comes to electing women to federal office. Besides House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, there are 17 women Democratic members of Congress from that state. The next-best numbers are in New York, which has nine women in Congress. The 2018 election produced 35 new Democratic members, but only one Republican.
Women are making great advances in the State Legislature. Seventy of the 213 members of the Senate and the Assembly are women, which is a double-digit increase over the previous term. If you visit the chambers in both houses, as I frequently do, you can’t help but be impressed by the large number of women who lead key committees.
The 2016 election was supposed to be the groundbreaking year for women. Many people assumed that Hillary Clinton had the best chance to become president, and early on it looked that way. But sexism didn’t stop Clinton’s effort. Key parts of her campaign were poorly run, and there were many Democrats who refused to support her. It wasn’t about sex. It was about politics and personality.
Warren may have a gripe about the failure of the major women candidates to remain in the hunt for the Democratic presidential nomination, but that gripe should be with Sen. Bernie Sanders. Warren thought there would be a “third lane” for her in the contest, where she could squeeze in between the male moderates and the male progressive. But there turned out to be only two lanes, and Sanders, with many ideas like her own, dominates the left wing of the party. In addition, he went out of his way to undermine her efforts by knocking her Medicare for all plan.
Despite being forced out of the race due to lack of support, Warren will no doubt play a major role at the Democratic Convention in July. Assuming she doesn’t endorse either Sanders or former Vice President Joe Biden, she will have the chance to advance some of her ideas and will be able to get them into the party platform. That may not be what she originally had in mind, but she will still be relevant, and a factor.
There’s no doubt that women will continue to play a major role in state and national politics, but the big prize may be elusive for many years to come.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.