Why Voting Blue is in a Woman's Best Interest
As more women run for office year after year, we are beginning to see races arise where Democratic women and Republican women are vying for the same seat. Now, you might be thinking, women stand for women’s rights, right? So those elections maybe matter less than where Democratic women are running against a Republican of another gender, right?
Nope. Electing Democratic women, regardless of their opponent, matters. Let me explain:
Representation is inextricably linked to democracy in a representative government. In a democracy, a constituency elects members to serve on their behalf to make decisions about laws or policies by participating in a governing body. Representation then refers to the elected person using their power in the governing body to communicate and advocate for the will of their constituents.
Let’s imagine the scenario we began with, a Democratic woman and a Republican woman running for the same seat. Broadly we understand that representation is a function of those elected by a constituency to a governing body, but representation comes in multiple forms. Two types of representation that are key to consider in this scenario are descriptive representation and substantive representation.
Descriptive representation refers to representatives who share an identity with groups they represent; in our case, this is women elected to represent women. The goals of descriptive representation are largely aesthetic in that it aims to make a governing body ‘look’ like the population. In the United States, women constitute 23.7% of the 116th Congress while they make up 50.8% of the population (CAWP; US Census) in our context, descriptive representation would call for adjusting the proportion of women to men in Congress to match the proportion of the population for which we account. Here’s the trouble: Women do not always fight for the interests of women. We should be careful not to assume that just because women occupy the same identity as us that they will act in our best interest.
Considering this pitfall of descriptive representation, should we just abandon the idea of electing women to represent the interests of women? Not at all. It is argued that substantive representation is best facilitated through descriptive representation. To be substantively represented is to have your interests represented by the substance of your representative. This means diving beneath the surface to critically examine how they're formulating the policies that are in your best interests In our original scenario, this means not just voting for either woman because she is a woman, regardless of party, or discounting the importance of that election. It means looking deeper into what each of the women stands for.
Does she champion a woman’s right to choose? Does she fight for women’s equality in the workplace and equal pay? Does she advocate for survivors of sexual assault and harassment? This is why Women to Win focuses on electing Democratic women. While women run on both tickets, by and large, Democratic women represent the interests of women substantively, and that is why we work to get them elected.
So if you’re looking at a ballot and think to yourself that it doesn’t matter who you vote for as long as it’s a woman, I hope you think of this insight: We must seek to elect more women not only to make governing bodies reflect what our country looks like, but also to ensure that our rights as women are being fought for.
We are grateful to have the input of several Democratic women on this topic. We asked several candidates, who are facing Republican women in the general election, the following question:
It has been 100 years since women achieved the right to vote. The United States has come a long way since then; It is gratifying to see multiple women on the ticket for such an important federal race. However, there is still much to accomplish in terms of equality. How will you champion women’s rights in comparison to your Republican opponent(s)? In other words, why is it in a woman’s best interest to vote Blue?
Running to represent Iowa in the U.S. Senate and unseat Republican Joni Ernst.
“Growing up on my family farm, my parents often told us that there are no “boy jobs” and no “girl jobs,” just jobs that needed to get done. That’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten and the type of work ethic I’m going to bring to Washington. Instead of pointing fingers and playing political games, there is work that needs to get done for Iowa’s working families.
Iowans want a Senator that understands the challenges the working families in our state face. I’ve been there myself. As a young widow and single mom, with the help of friends, family and Social Security, I got back on my feet and rose to run a small business.
Today, Iowans are struggling. They need leaders that understand what hardworking families are going through and put us first. That’s not what Senator Ernst does. She stands with her large corporate PAC donors and leaves Iowans behind. In contrast, I’m not taking a dime of corporate PAC money. I’m focused on improving access to quality, affordable health care, protecting Social Security, and providing good-paying jobs. And to get this done, we need to tackle the political corruption that we have in Washington.
As Senator, I’ll fight for women to have equal opportunities and equal pay for equal work. I’ll always work to defend women’s rights and health- by protecting women’s constitutional right to make their own health care decisions and ensuring that all women have access to quality, affordable health care. On the other hand, Senator Ernst bragged about trying to defund Planned Parenthood.
Progress will happen when more women have a seat at the table. We need to elect more women and do more to encourage women to step up and run for office. In 2018, women in Iowa led [sic] the way by flipping two congressional seats from red to blue. In 2020, we’re going to do it again by working hard and competing for every vote in every county and precinct.”
Dr. Merav Ben David
Running to represent Wyoming in the U.S. Senate, and possibly facing Republican women Cynthia Lummis, among other Republican primary candidates, in the general election.
“One hundred years after women achieved the right to vote, the US still ranks 75th in the world in terms of representation of women in government, with only 26 women serving in the US Senate. It is great to see so many women running for office on both sides of the aisle, but let us not be fooled -- Democratic women and Republican women have a very different vision for their constituents and for the country.
When I am Senator, one of my first priorities will be to work towards closing the gender wage gap. Wyoming has one of the biggest wage gaps in the nation, defying our name “the Equality State.” This results not only in misaligned incentives and non-participation in the job market, it can also force women to stay in abusive relationships because they can't afford to leave. I will pursue legislation to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans.
In the same vein, I will also work towards universal health care with a focus on rural healthcare, which is good for everyone, and good for women. Not only will it lead to better health outcomes for all Wyomingites, it will also free people up to change careers or pursue their business ideas in ways that our current system of job-based health insurance does not allow.
Finally, as a Wyomingite, I strongly believe in individual liberty and personal choice. That includes a woman’s right to choose if and when to have children, as well as the right to decide to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. It is never an easy choice, but it is a choice that should belong to a woman and her doctor, and not be dictated by any political party or ideology.
In all, it is in a woman’s best interest to vote blue in the upcoming Senate elections because Democrats like myself will prioritize equal opportunities, access to high quality healthcare, and the freedom of choice.”
Running to represent Massachusetts’ 4th congressional district, and possibly facing Republican Julie Hall, among other Republican primary candidates, in the general election.
“In this moment of crisis for our country – with the economic impacts of COVID-19 disproportionately impacting people who menstruate and people of color, reopenings that largely fail to account for pressing childcare needs (the burdens of which still fall mostly on women) and the next attack on reproductive justice waiting in the wings from Trump and his radical, anti-abortion cronies – we need to elect champions who will center justice and equity in their decision making.
We need champions who will introduce legislation, speak on the floor of Congress and in front of TV cameras, and march on the steps of the Supreme Court demanding justice. We need champions who have fought this fight on the frontlines and know how to win. As a solid blue district, the Massachusetts’ Fourth has a responsibility to lead the way when it comes to fighting for bold, progressive change. And you can’t have bold progressive change without standing up for all women. With so much at stake in this election, we need our next Congresswoman to be someone with a proven track record of fighting for justice and equity – and winning.
I’ve done just that. Fighting for contraceptive coverage to be included as preventive care in the ACA when I worked at Planned Parenthood. Crafting Governor Patrick’s Strong Women Strong Families initiative when I was a member of his senior staff. Serving on the eight-person team that negotiated Massachusetts’ paid family and medical leave law when I was the President of a Boston-based progressive business organization and advocating for equal pay and improvements in early education and care. This has been the fight of my life. Now, when it matters more than ever, I’m ready to bring that fight to Congress.”
Facing Republican challenger Michelle Garcia Holmes in her re-election bid.
"In the last four years, we've seen Republicans fight to strip women of their protections and their right to choose. Over the past hundred years that women have been allowed to vote, this election is the most important one we've participated in. Today women are still getting paid less than their male counterparts, and they still don't have a full seat at the table . . . We have a lot of work in front of us as we fight for equality. Issues like women's healthcare, closing the pay gap, and ending sexual harassment in the workplace are what we as Democrats believe in and fight for. This election, our rights are on the line."