In a political culture where being serious and being macho are construed as one and the same thing, is it any wonder that Democratic women struggled so greatly on November 7th? In both the top tier and lower tier of House races, Democratic women (the most feminine and unserious sort of person of all) suffered narrow setbacks.
Hmmm. It may be true that several Democratic women lost close races in November, but as Clara Bingham points out in “Queens of the Hill” in the current issue of the Monthly, it’s also true that nearly a dozen Democratic women won new seats this November. In fact, women now account for nearly a quarter of the Democratic caucus in both the House and the Senate. And there’s this:
What truly marks the 2006 midterms as a watershed for women in politics is the astounding degree to which women in both the House and Senate are now moving up into positions of power, in the leadership and at the head of key committees and subcommittees. Democratic women appear finally to have broken through what Pelosi calls the “marble ceiling.” Women will not just be represented in the new Congress — to a remarkable extent, they will be running the place.
….The 2006 election inspired 244 women to run for Congress, the second largest number of women to do so since the 1992 election. But for those who won their races, the environment they’re entering is very different from that encountered by the class of ’93. Women are no longer novelty acts, but, in the Democratic caucus at least, have acquired real political clout. In the House, of course, Pelosi is the first woman Speaker.
Slaughter leads the Rules committee, arguably the most powerful in the chamber: No bill will reach the floor for a vote without her approval. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) co-chairs the Democratic Steering Committee, which formulates policy for the caucus, and Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-Calif.) serves as her vice chair. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) have joined the nine-member team of chief deputy whips.
As Bingham points out, this makes a real difference: “Many so-called ‘women’s issues’ of the 1990s — health care, child care, education, and the minimum wage — have become mainstream Democratic concerns in the intervening years. Causes that protect women’s economic and social equality — championed by old-timer feminists like Schroeder since the 1970s — will no longer be pigeonholed as special interests.”
Read the whole thing.