The GOP is failing to cultivate female candidates — to its detriment

This year, 529 women filed to run in Congressional races, a number that shatters all previous records. To date, 262 women are still in the running for those seats. Three-fourths of these women are Democrats.

There are a host of reasons as to why these numbers are so uneven across party lines, but it mainly comes down to this: The Democratic party has invested tremendous time and resources into cultivating women to run for office in ways that the Republican party has not even considered. Groups like Emily’s List and Emerge have been incredible pipelines for women that have been building a female bench for the Democratic party for decades.

And then there’s this: the blatant paternalism of the GOP. Take a moment to consider the framing of the Republican narrative of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony:

We believe her. We believe that something happened to her. That she is a victim but more importantly that she continues to be victimized and misled by the Liberal Political Machine. We know better. We know better for her, and we must intervene. And although we say we believe something happened, we do not trust her or any woman’s voice or experience enough to believe she knows who attacked her. Despite her assertion of 100 percent accuracy.

It is the same narrative used by the right regarding abortion:

These women, and especially these young women, are victims of the abortionists. They are being misled. The Liberal Political Machine backing the abortionists is misleading these poor women. We know better for them, and we must intervene. But we will not trust these women's voices and experiences as they assert a need for full access to women’s health care services.

It is in the context that Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said recently that there are no Republican women on the Judiciary Committee because "it’s a lot of work [and] maybe they don’t want to do it.”

That could help explain why only six of the 23 women in the Senate right now are Republicans.

Meanwhile, in addition to building its female bench, the Democratic party has continually made efforts to be responsive to errors made in legislating women's issues — to learn more and to be more inclusive. There is a reason that then-Sen. Joe Biden championed the Violence Against Women Act just two years after his role in the Anita Hill debacle and not Sens. Orrin Hatch or Arlen Specter.

Do the Dems always get it right? No. Are they better in this regard than their Republican counterparts? Yes.

The failure to cultivate female candidates is to the Republican party's own detriment, as well as the country’s, because women in the Senate produce more bi-partisan legislation than their male colleagues, and not by an insignificant margin. A 2015 study from Quorum showed that in the seven years preceding the study, the average female senator co-sponsored 171 bills with a member from the opposite party. Meanwhile, the average male senator co-sponsored just 130 such bills.

Studies from Rachel’s Network, a philanthropic association committed to environmental issues, show that, regardless of party, women vote for legislation supporting clean air, clean water, renewable energy, climate action and public health much more often than their male counterparts.

And, according to the National Democratic Institute, when women participate in peace processes, the chances of reaching an agreement at all improve, and that peace is 35 percent more likely to last 15 years or more.

Data like this is clear: When women lead, when they are given seats at the table and an opportunity to make their voices heard, we all win. And if the last several weeks have shown us anything, it is how outmoded the Republican party, and especially its aging leadership, are in recognizing this reality. It needs to change. And it needs to change now. Because Democratic men and women like me are going to need more strong women in the Republican party (and Republican men who understand their value) to work with in the very near future to start building a new way for a new day.

Louise A. Flavahan (lflavah1@jhu.edu) is a senior public policy analyst to former Sen. Barbara Mikulski in her work at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences within Johns Hopkins University.

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