Moulitsas: The year of the woman

Moulitsas: The year of the woman
© Greg Nash

No honest reading of congressional gender balance would conclude women are properly represented. Only 20 out of 100 senators are women, as are only 84 of the House’s 435 representatives. And as bad as those numbers are, it’s even worse when you look at the Republican caucus, which accounts for just six of those 20 senators and 22 of those congresswomen.

But in a year when we’re poised to elect our first female president, Democrats promise to significantly bolster the ranks of women in Congress. 


In the Senate, Democratic women are currently competitive in five states and are threatening to make two more interesting. We can start with Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, who is as sure to win as any Democratic challenger this cycle. In Nevada, former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is running even with her Republican opponent in the race to succeed retiring Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBiden fails to break GOP 'fever' Nevada governor signs law making state first presidential primary Infighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms MORE (D); Nevada is the GOP’s only real Senate pickup opportunity this cycle. Another three Democratic women are locked in toss-up races: New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, North Carolina’s Deborah Ross and Pennsylvania’s Katie McGinty. 

Democratic women are threatening in two other states, though currently lagging in the polls: Iowa’s Patty Judge and Arizona’s Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickDemocrats confront difficult prospects for midterms Surgeon who treated Gabby Giffords after shooting launches House bid in Arizona These House lawmakers aren't seeking reelection in 2022 MORE. All told, Democrats are poised to exceed their record of 16 female senators after the 2012 elections. Even the best Democratic scenario would fall far from the goal of equal representation, but it would be an improvement nevertheless.

It’s significant that in the 11 Republican-held seats Democrats are seriously contesting — the states above, plus Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin, where only men are competing this year — more than half the party’s nominees are women. Only two of the GOP’s 10 challengers are women, neither running in a competitive race. 

In the House, the Democrats’ 62 women are already a record, standing in stark contrast to the GOP’s 22, despite their party having 60 more members. But even there, Democrats look poised to elect three more women. And if Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report MORE ends up costing the GOP among suburban white women — which certainly seems likely — or if Trump more broadly depresses Republican turnout, up to 12 more Democratic women could be swept into office in districts currently rated as lean-Republican. 

But even those best-case scenarios pale in comparison to other developed nations. Currently, just 20 percent of Congress is female. Compare that to our peers in the developed world, such as the Nordic countries at 41.1 percent, Germany at 36.5 percent, Australia at 28.7 percent, the United Kingdom at 29.6 percent and Canada at 26 percent, and it’s clear that while everyone has a ways to go, the U.S. has an even bigger task than most. 

But this is an important goal. As Sarah Kliff wrote in Vox: “Women legislators are more likely to introduce legislation that specifically benefits women. They’re better at bringing funding back to their home districts. And, to put it bluntly, they just get more shit done: A woman legislator, on average, passed twice as many bills as a male legislator in one recent session of Congress.”

Getting stuff done? Helping people back home? Helping women? For those reasons alone, the GOP will always remain the biggest obstacle to a more equitable Congress.

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.