Perhaps there is no more a significant sign of the “Year of Women” than women’s success in Congress. Obviously, we still have a long way to go, but the 2018 midterms made one thing especially clear: Women in politics are here to stay and they are not messing around.
In November 2018, The College’s Political Science Department hosted a panel discussion breaking down the election which occurred the previous day. The department agreed the country elected women in record numbers across the United States. Dr. Claire Wofford concurred, “This year, women said ‘I’m running.’” And they did. Women posted in 476 Congressional contests, an increase of 78 from the 2012 general election. Thirteen more women ran for the Senate than in 2016 and nearly double the amount of women posted in gubernatorial elections than in 2004. A record number of those women cleared their party nominations as well. Dr. Wofford thinks the number of women may have future political implications; she said, “I firmly believe if anyone is going to blur red and blue together to make purple, it is going to be females — both candidates and voters.”
Women did not just run for Congress, Governorships and local positions — they won too. There are 102 congresswomen in the House of Representatives. The body is the most gender diverse since its creation with 23.4 percent women.
In addition to running in and winning elections, female politicians are offering a decisive voice to Americans. At only 29 years old, Freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has already become a phenomenon among young Americans. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez routinely harangues House Republicans and takes to social media to campaign on some of the most pressing issues facing our generation including sustainability issues, education and the wage gap. Insults and threats are often hurled at the Congresswoman (a claim is circulating that she is communist) but the youngest women ever elected to Congress shows no sign of slowing down.
The first female speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi was elected to another term as speaker in November. As with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Speaker Pelosi is a force to be reckoned with. Shortly following her victory, the Speaker tactfully forced President Donald Trump to admit responsibility for the government shutdown in December 2018. In late January, Speaker Pelosi declined an invitation to the President to give the State of the Union address at the House until the shutdown resolved. The Speaker won a major battle against the President on Jan. 24 as he signaled that he would not give the address before a joint session of Congress until the shutdown was resolved.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has championed women’s rights for nearly her entire career. As a young lawyer, Justice Ginsburg worked diligently to close legal loopholes allowing gender discrimination and crimes against women. Justice Ginsburg is a powerful figure in Washington. As such, she has been the focus of several documentaries in the past few years and has gained a cult following far beyond the nation’s capital.
The 2018 midterm elections are only the beginning of a much larger phenomenon across the political spectrum. Four out of nine declared Democratic Presidential candidates are women. Senate Colleagues Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep.Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii have announced their candidacy for President of the United States demonstrating that women are here to stay and they mean business. After all, it is women who will help turn this blue and red nation purple.