Thursday, November 20, 2014

Looking to the Future: Political Parity in Florida

By: Rijaab Mansoor, NWPC Communications Intern
November 4th was a sad day for women in Florida. With the reelection of anti-choice incumbent Governor Rick Scott, as well as the victories of several other anti-women candidates, significant ground has been lost in the fight for equal rights and access to reproductive health services. It was no surprise to see the overwhelming swing towards the right this election cycle. However, post-election day, it is clear that there needs to be progress made in the role of women in politics in Florida.

Florida doesn’t have the best reputation of being friendly to women voters (remember the Say Yes to the Dress ad debacle?), but that hasn’t deterred some from running for office. In this election cycle, there were many races that represented women’s issues, as well as several districts where both candidates were women! For the Florida State Senate, there were a total of 5 women running between 10 contested districts. There were also 9 women running in 8 districts for a seat in the US House of Representatives. Although these numbers show an uptick in female participation in politics, the results of these elections were not as hopeful. 5 of the 9 women running for a seat in the US House of Representatives were victorious. In the Florida State Senate race, only two of the five were able to secure a seat.

Fast-forward to today, and the picture of political parity in Florida is as grim as ever. Of our Congressional delegation, only 6 of the 29 Representatives are women, which is just 20%. There are only 12 female Senators in our State Senate of 40, or about 30%. The Florida House of Representatives has 21 female Representatives in the total House of 120, which is again just 20%. With numbers this bleak, it is hard to imagine a future where women will have equal power in government in Florida. And yet, we will not lose hope! Women in Florida must continue to fight for equality on all fronts, including equal pay and reproductive rights. The best way to ensure this is through continued participation in the political process. We cannot stop trying to break through the glass ceiling which continues to hold us down. With the support of groups such as the National Women’s PoliticalCaucus and its state branch, the National Women’s Political Caucus of Florida, women in Florida will surely reach the goal of political parity and equal rights for all!

All data taken from Florida Election Watch:

Friday, November 14, 2014

An Inspiring Afternoon with an Inspiring Woman

By: Alexis McCruter, NWPC Political Planning and Action Intern

Through my internship at the National Women’s Political Caucus, I was given the opportunity to go to a Leadership Seminar  at Georgetown Law that ended up serving as both an awakening and pivotal experience.  The Leadership Seminar was hosted by Liberty and Access for All, in conjunction with the Black Law Student Association of Georgetown Law School. Liberty and Access for All is a new nonprofit organization committed to raising bipartisan leadership amongst minorities and underrepresented groups in America. When I got there, I immediately started to shake hands and introduce myself to people.  I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that I was in for a treat when the invited speaker walked into the room.

The invited speaker was former Federal Prosecutor Sharon Eubanks. Scurrying to a front row seat, I took out pencil and paper so that I was ready to soak in all the wisdom she was going to give to us. She spoke so transparently about her climb to the top. It’s always refreshing to listen to a professional speaker who has not forgotten the exact place where her audience comes from. She came down to a level at which we all could closely identify with. Her story was not only interesting, but it reignited a flame inside me which had been burning out. Even though the room was full of people, it felt as if she was directly speaking to me.
Ms. Eubanks has led and continues to lead a very successful career. She has proven that as both a woman and a minority, she is a force to be reckoned with. She spoke very openly about the prejudice she faced being a woman of color in her field. There was one point in her presentation where she said something that I, as an African American woman, could closely relate to. She said, “As a black woman, I couldn’t skip any of the ladder steps. My white male counterparts were constantly getting promoted over me and they weren’t half as qualified as I was…. I had to work twice as hard to be just as good.”  I knew all too well the struggle of walking into a room and having to prove and help others see that I actually was qualified to do what I’d come to do.
The second talking point she made that resonated with me was about career moves. Her career in Law was so extensive. She said, “I took what I could get until I could get what I wanted. Most times that will actually lead you to exactly where you need to be.” The idea was so simple but so profound. That was the story of my life seemingly for the last 8 months or so. It was so funny, because even though in some instances I was taking what I could get, it always landed me where I needed to be and even further than my original plan would have gotten me.
I stuck around and waited patiently for her to speak with all those who’d lined up to shake her hand. When the room was near empty I walked up to her and said, “Can I speak with you?” She said, “Sure!” I took a deep breath and asked for her contact information and without hesitation she jotted it all down for me. I was amazed by her willingness to help me. This was by far one of the best experiences my internship has given me. Ms. Eubanks helped me in a multitude of ways.

“Equality is not a concept. It's not something we should be striving for. It's a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who's confronted with it. We need equality. Kinda now.”   Joss Whedon

Monday, November 10, 2014

Carol Shea-Porter and the Fall of America's Only All-Female Delegation

By: Shannon MacLeod, NWPC Political Planning Intern 
and former Intern for Rep. Shea-Porter

The people of New Hampshire have a lot to be proud of. They were the first state to declare their independence from Great Britain (#trendsetters), incredibly popular fictional President Josiah Bartlett lived there (so did incredibly unpopular real president Franklin Pierce, but we don’t have to talk about that), and they were the only state to ever have elected an all-female Congressional delegation.

As Democrats everywhere said a somber goodbye to their Senate Majority, they also said goodbye to two-time (yes, that’s time, not term) Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. Shea-Porter lost a heated battle with one-time congressman Frank Guinta. The two have been dueling for the opportunity to represent the 1st district since 2010 when Guinta unseated Shea-Porter in the first Republican Wave. New Hampshire voters then changed their minds when they re-elected Shea-Porter in 2012, but apparently changed their minds yet again in 2014. These fickle New Hampshirans (New Hampshireites?) seem to have found the solution to the problem of congressional races: Taking turns.

I, like 48.2% of voters in the New Hampshire 1st, am sad to see Carol Shea-Porter go. She has been a staunch supporter of women’s issues, co-sponsoring bills like the Supporting Working Moms Act and the Women's Health Protection Act. She has steadfastly voted against anti-choice legislation that would limit access to abortion, such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Frank Guinta’s record is far more troubling, having voted for the No Tax Payer Funding for Abortion Act and stating that he supports Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Thankfully, we have probably not have seen the last of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. She has run in every congressional race since 2006, regardless of incumbency, and her dedication to the citizens of New Hampshire never seems to falter. New Hampshire might not have an all female delegation anymore, but that doesn’t mean they won’t again soon.

So What’s Next? A Liberal Take on the Midterm Elections and the Future of the Democratic Party

By: Alexis McCruter, NWPC Political Planning Intern

In the recent midterm elections, the Democratic Party took a bit of a fall. On November 4th, the Republicans gained control of the Senate in what is now being called a “Republican Wave.” The GOP dominated, now controlling 52 of the 100 senate seats. There has a lot of speculation as to what these numbers mean for Americans and women in particular. Notable Democratic losses include Senate seats in both Iowa and Colorado as well as governor races in Florida and Wisconsin, and the losses don’t stop there! The Democratic Party also lost competitive governor races in Illinois, Maryland, Maine and Massachusetts. Thankfully, the night was not all bad. Marijuana became legal in Washington, D.C. and Oregon, and the minimum wage was raised in Arkansas, Illinois and Nebraska.

The Republican Party is not generally seen as the party of women and minorities, but this election was just as much about women’s rights as it was about the country’s deficit. Both sides of the aisle made a conscious effort to include women’s issues in the conversation in the hopes of garnering support from a group that makes up more than 50% of the electorate.

While many Democrats ran on the platform of continuing to fight for a women’s right to choose, Republicans were busy creating a new meaning to the phrase “War on Women.” That being said, the Republicans still seemed to do a great job of regaining the trust of American women. This couldn’t have been the easiest task considering the recent attacks on women’s reproductive rights, including cuts to funding delegated to Planned Parenthood, ultimately leading to limiting access to abortions in America.

So what does this mean for Hilary in 2016? Assuming that she is running, will she be viewed as a capable heroine, able to stand up against the Republican Party, or will Americans see her as just another candidate trying to defeat Republicans for the sake of it?
This onslaught of Republican representatives might not mean that we can expect a Republican president. Midterm elections hardly ever favor the party of the President, and if the even larger Republican wave of 2010 didn’t predict the winner of the 2012 election, we cannot expect 2014 to do so for 2016. It is far too early to count out either party, and the Presidential elections should be an exciting race to watch.

Now is as good of time as any to come together as women regardless of political party, and set the stage for the battle for the White House in 2016. Let’s make the next election about women’s issues and really force the candidates from both parties to answer to female voters. This could be the fight to maintain your voice and reproductive freedoms.