While the 2012 election can be heralded as a success for women in politics, with 20 women elected in the Senate and at least 77 women in the House, the Republican Party faces serious problems in the aftermath of November 6. Republican Mitt Romney trailed President Obama by 12 percentage points in the overall female vote, and factoring in Obama’s deficit in male voters, the gender gap rose to 20 percent. The discrepancy, then, highlights the need for more female GOP leaders to close the gap.
In terms of females in power, however, women made historical strides on account of the so-called “war on women,” which reversely acted to mobilize women voters. The New York Times reports,
Their ascendance can be laid at least in part at the door of right-wing Republicans who mounted what feminists — but not just them — saw as a “war on women,” with their opposition to unfettered abortion rights, required insurance coverage for contraceptives and aid to women’s health organizations like Planned Parenthood.
Female voters fired back in full force, working to elect the most women representatives in US history. Among the women changing the political landscape of the Senate, six Democratic women up for re-election won their races, with five “right-timers” elected to the Senate, four of which were Democrats.
Despite historic gains, the GOP is in dire need of more female leadership. In response to the need for more female GOP leaders, four Congresswomen are vying for House leadership positions. The positions include House GOP Conference chairman, vice chairmans, and secretary.
Currently Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers holds leadership of the House GOP Conference Vice Chair, but will face fierce competition from current GOP Policy Chairman Tom Price in the race for Conference Chairmember. While some GOP insiders argue that gender is not an issue in electing the next leaders of the party, one GOP source believes that gender is at play in this competition. Reported by The Hill, the source reveals:
“Members will likely feel inclined to elect [McMorris Rodgers] not only because she’s good at her job but to show diversity in the leadership ranks, no question about it.”
Two women are running to succeed McMorris Rodgers for the House GOP Conference Vice Chair seat, ensuring that at least one woman will remain in this position of leadership within the 113th Congress.
Last Tuesday’s losses acted as a wake-up call for the Republican Party, reminding party leaders that if they do not broaden their appeal and adapt to the changing political climate, they will not succeed in the future. Part of their success rests in their ability to open up their party platform and invite alternative voices from a diversity of races, genders, and religions to dictate the party platform.