Reading the New York Times yesterday, I sadly accepted that, as a self-declared expert on Republican woman officeholders, I would have to write a blog post about this op-ed about how progressives somehow need to get themselves a Sarah Palin, rather than, oh, I don't know, the many many serious Democratic women who are major political players having a real impact on politics and policy in this country.
Fortunately my poliscientifically educated brother took care of pointing out the fallacy of this argument. I'll merely add that Salon contributor Rebecca Traister, who co-authored the op-ed, has been talking this kind of nonsense for some time, and so have some others, and I just don't understand it.
I will quickly address a separate argument, which I've been getting a fair amount of, which is that the GOP is obviously moving in the right direction because a record number of Republican women ran for Congress this year.
Yes, a record number of Republican women ran this year. But way more total Republicans ran this year than usual.
I don't have the data, but it's pretty clear that we've had a huge surge in GOP candidates for Congress this year. We've got 24 on the ballot in the 10 Massachusetts districts, compared with 3 in 2006, the last mid-term elections. Michigan has 38 in 15 districts this year; it had 16 in 2006.
That's not a huge surprise. You tend to get more candidates in seats considered winnable by challengers -- open seats in your own party, and vulnerable seats held by the opposing party. There are maybe 75-100 of those for the GOP this cycle, at least, which is many times more than normal.
In addition, there has clearly been a conservative populist energy driving a lot of Republicans to run in relatively unlikely districts.
That huge flow of Republicans eager to run has indeed included a number of women -- but, as I've been documenting all along, very few serious ones in winnable races.
Michigan, with two open Republican seats and at least two winnable Democratic-held seats, is a grand example. As I mentioned above, the opportunities resulted in 38 GOP House candidates this year. Of those 38, 5 were women -- incumbent Candice Miller, and four challengers.
Three of those four challengers were in winnable districts, but were fringe candidates; none raised any money, none finished higher than 4th in the primary, and none got above 10% of the primary vote. The fourth was running in John Conyer's obviously unwinnable district. (And she lost in the primary.)
That's all I have time for at the moment; I'm hoping soon to write a little about the serious questions -- eg, why Republican elected women are going extinct, and whether it matters to the party.