Tag Archives: United States Congress

The Partisan Gap Amongst Female Politicians is Likely to Get Worse

If I’m being honest, when I first read the title of this journal article “A partisan gap in the supply of female potential candidates in the United States,” I didn’t think twice. Pew often publishes surveys/research that seemed to indicate that the gap between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, with regard to women candidates, was very unequal. As a result, I didn’t expect to be surprised when reading the journal article. However, there was one section that I think is especially important [Emphasis Added]:

Previous studies demonstrating single digit gender gaps in US party identification have not been able to explain the much larger gap when it comes to US elected officials. But representatives do not emerge from the public at large: they are disproportionately individuals with high education, high occupational prestige, and clear partisan preferences.

The researchers are implying that the people who run for office aren’t usually representative of the population at large (something we already knew). The important part here, though, is that they used this assumption to extrapolate to future Congress’s [Emphasis Added]:

By estimating the gender composition of this select group by partisanship, we find that the partisan gender gap is much larger among the kinds of citizens who tend to become representatives and that the emergence of this gap was contemporaneous with the historical emergence of a partisan gender gap in the US House.

Meaning, amongst those people who are more likely to seek political office, there is a larger gender gap than there is amongst the general population. Taking this one step further [Emphasis Added]:

Given the current associations between gender, partisanship, and other attributes among the public, the data suggest that future generational replacement may exacerbate the already significant gap in women’s descriptive representation between the parties, potentially reshaping the behavior of each party’s elected officials, the quality of representation available to diverse members of the public, and opinions of the public toward the Republican and Democratic parties.

Translation: if things continue as they are, the gender gap between Democrats and Republicans is likely to get worse — much worse — and it’s already pretty bad.

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Given how things can shift from year-to-year (or session-to-session), it’s hard to too confident in categorically saying that the Democrats will continue to have more women in their ranks than the Republicans. However, the data certainly seem to point to things not getting better.

While my views tend to lean to the liberal side of the spectrum, I’d still like to see more women represented in the Republican party. They are one of the two dominant (only? viable?) parties in the US and if there’s only one party that’s represented by women, that won’t necessarily lead to the best decisions for women or for Americans (and by extension, citizens of the world in general).

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Assuming that Hillary Clinton is able to become the first woman POTUS, I’d be really curious to see the result of a longitudinal study on women in politics. Theoretically, by having a Madam President, there’d be a role model for young women to aspire to. So, I’d want to test the attitudes of young women (pre-teens and teens) every year for the next 20+ years to see if there is an increase in the number of young women who aspire to be Congresswomen, Senators, and maybe even President of the United States! My hypothesis is that there’d be an increase in the desire amongst the people tested, but as the research earlier in this post alluded to, in order for there to be an increase in the number of women in politics, there needs to be an increase in the number of women who are more likely to run for President from that group of people.

ResearchBlogging.orgCrowder-Meyer, M., & Lauderdale, B. (2014). A partisan gap in the supply of female potential candidates in the United States Research & Politics, 1 (1) DOI: 10.1177/2053168014537230

Cutting Salary to Show Solidarity: This Isn’t Empathy

A couple of days ago, there was news indicating that President Obama was going to return 5% of his salary, which amounts to about $17,000, as a sign of solidarity with those federal workers who’ve been furloughed. In case you’re not familiar with this situation, I’ll explain a little first.

In 2011, there was the debt-ceiling debacle. One of the things that came of that was the sequester. The sequester was supposed to be such drastic cuts to the federal budget meant as an incentive to make some sort of deal before the deadline. It wasn’t ever meant to happen, (at least that’s what politicians said publicly), and the date set for the deadline to make a deal (and begin the implementation of the sequester if there weren’t a deal) was January 2, 2013. As part of the New Year’s Eve tax deal, Congress pushed the start of the sequester to March 1, 2013, which is when it began.

As the sequester has a great deal of spending cuts, this has greatly affected some of the workers in the federal government. For instance, some workers have had to take furloughs — temporary unpaid leave. Companies (or the government) don’t usually use this unless there’s a need because of the budget situation. As an aside: on Chris Hayes’ new show (All In with Chris Hayes), he went into detail with one particular worker who has had to take furloughs and had a brief panel discussion about it. That brings us back to President Obama.

A couple of days ago, President Obama stated that he was going to return a portion of his salary to show solidarity with those workers who are having to take these temporary unpaid leaves. The President may have started it, but he’s certainly not finishing it. Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano are all showing similar signs of solidarity. So is freshman Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth. But this is not limited to Democrats. Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Mike Lee have both indicated that they will return some of their salary. I think all of this is well and good, but the one thing that irked me was how Lindsey Graham wrote about his decision on Twitter. (I should note, I don’t know if any of the other politicians have said made similar claims, as I just saw someone retweet Lindsey Graham’s commentary.)

After I saw this tweet, I went on a bit of a rant on Twitter that I’ll include below:

 

Let’s first start with the issue of empathy. People often confuse empathy and sympathy. I’ve written about empathy before:

Empathy is at the heart of the beginning of the solution to many of the world’s problems. When we empathize, we are able to recognize the emotions that another is feeling. At the root of compassion is empathy. [Note: sympathy is quite different from empathy. Sympathy is simply a concern for another’s well-being, where empathy usually refers to one sharing the same emotional state.]

I should note that the “note” in that quote actually comes from the post. So, now that we know what empathy means, let’s return to Senator Graham’s comment. He said he was cutting 20% of his pay to empathize with those furloughed. In order for Senator Graham’s actions to demonstrate empathy, it’d actually have to affect his life in the way that those furloughed are affected. For an example of this, scroll up in this post and watch the video I linked to with Chris Hayes talking to someone who is being furloughed. Senator Graham’s current salary for FY2013 is $174,000. If we take 20% away, that leaves him with about $140,000. Something else that’s important to this conversation is Graham’s net worth, which is now pegged at $1.5 million. I understand that politicians have to keep up two offices (one in DC and one in their district/state), but does anyone think that Senator Graham’s going to have as hard a go as thing with a $140K salary as the military serviceman who had to get a second job delivering pizzas?

This is not empathy.

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As an addendum to this conversation, I wanted to include data about the current Congress’s net worth, but there doesn’t seem to be a list out there. However, I was able to find a list for all members of Congress in 2010. Some things of note: of 100 Senators, only 7 had a net worth of less than $100,000 and 24 had a net worth of more than $10,000,000. Of the 435 member of Congress, 81 had a net worth of less than $100,000 and 42 had a net worth of more than $10,000,000.

House Republicans are Trying to Change Their Homework… After It Should Have Already Been Handed In

While not a perfect metaphor, I can’t help but think of due dates and assignments as the fiscal cliff drama continues to unfold today. The latest has it that the House Republicans are not happy with the deal that the Senate passed earlier this morning and that they want to make amendments. Under normal circumstances, this is perfectly normal. The two chambers often make amendments to the bills the other has passed and then approve/disapprove, accordingly.

However, this time, it feels more like House Republicans have waited until the extreme last minute to complete their assignment… but now aren’t happy with the way that it looks. Everyone has known that the sequester has been in place for over a year (!) back when there was an agreement on the debt ceiling fight. There’s been plenty of time to craft a bill that everyone can agree to and avoid this New Year‘s Day farce. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happened.

In the last few days, the Speaker of the House said — essentially — that it was up to the Senate to pass a bill, so that the House could then vote on said bill. So, that’s exactly what the Senate did last night (or earlier this morning, depending on how you refer to the hours after midnight). As an aside, a huge thank you to all the Senate staffers who had to work through New Year’s eve. I can’t imagine that it was what they thought they’d be doing to ring in 2013. The Senate passed the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support — 89 (out of 100) Senators voted for it.

So, now it’s up to the House to bring the bill to the floor and have a majority of it members vote to pass the bill. Unfortunately, the House Republicans want to amend the bill. They don’t like what’s in it. They don’t think it should pass as is. As I said earlier, under normal circumstances, this would be perfectly normal. However, the circumstances aren’t normal. The “due date” for this “assignment” was last night at midnight (and they didn’t hand it in on time). There’s a “hand it in late deadline” of Thursday and it looks like, if things continue the way they are continuing, that they’re going to blow right through that deadline, too. I certainly hope not.

When you’ve waited ’til the last minute to complete an assignment, you only have a certain number of hours to work with to get it done (I’m sure you’ve all had the experience of working on an assignment the night before [or the morning of] it’s due). It might not be your best work, but depending on the policies in the syllabus, you don’t necessarily have the option of delaying and handing it in well after the deadline. This is what’s happening today in Congress. The House needs to bring the bill to the floor  and pass it — posthaste.

The Pitfalls of a Political Duopoly

I follow almost 400 feeds on Twitter. While I usually don’t see every tweet from every feed, there are some that I am sure to look out for. One of those is Big Think, which often tweets links to articles on their site. These articles aren’t usually very long, so you can quickly digest the gist of it. I like it because it’s a great way of keeping abreast of different information and if you find that information intriguing, you can dive further into it.

This afternoon, I saw a this tweet:

I’ve heard Larry Lessig speak — he makes quite a compelling argument. The content of this post wasn’t anything I hadn’t already heard from him, but I scrolled down to the comments to see what people had to say. (That’s another benefit to Big Think: the commenters usually contribute something useful to the discussion.) There was one comment that I thought was particularly interesting. I’m not quite sure of my opinion, but I think it’s worth sharing with all of you. I invite you to leave your thoughts on the comment with a comment of your own below:

Well no wonder we keep failing to attain real change.  Lets ignore statistically verified and observable reality and hope and love our way to a solution?  Contrary to what telenovellas like to tell us, when doctors say there is nothing that can be done for a patient, they are usually right, not always I admit but almost always.

So what equivalent of spontaneous recovery are we going to hope for with our crooked political and economic system?  Are captains of industry going to suddenly develop social consciousness?  Perhaps the rich and powerful will all suddenly get plagues and die?  Mr. Lessig isn’t really offering us a realistic solution, in fact he is only offering us yet another of the many accurate analyses of what is wrong with our system in the hope that we hope our way to a better one.

What Mr. Lessig isn’t acknowledging is that the Supreme Court was right, we do have the ultimate say, still, as the people, in who gets elected.  There were nineteen candidates for President on my ballot this year an admitted decrease from the twenty-seven I had in 2008, but still a lot of possibilities and I know for a fact that at least fifteen of them and as many as seventeen of those nineteen candidates weren’t in the corrupt hands of the monied interests.  Some of my other choices were more limited only three to five candidates for Congress, and the State Legislature (both houses), again with a few candidates I knew to be free of the monied corruption of the major parties.  And you know what!?  When I voted for those candidates, there were no earthquakes, or tornadoes or locusts or men in black at my house punishing me for making those choices.  Duvurgers law isn’t a natural law like gravity or evolution, we need not confine ourselves to political duopoly and coercion by monied interests through strategic voting.  We do have the ultimate say, and if you confine yourself to not voting, or to only voting strategically, than you are demonstrating that perhaps you aren’t ready for real democracy.  The “aristocracy” only has power because we collectively let them have it, if the best answer you can come up with for overthrowing that power is to hope it away…. well then I would just as soon let them continue to be in charge, because your input is certainly not going to lead to a prosperous beneficial society.