Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tweet of the Day

Claire McCaskill:
Too funny. First power meeting with E Warren and D Fischer? In the Senators Only Women's bathroom. Gonna need a bigger bathroom.
McCaskill, who was first elected in 2006, may or may not realize it but the women's bathroom near the Senate floor goes back only to 1993; before that female Senators had to walk down a floor.

Twenty women still isn't anywhere near parity, but it's getting a lot closer. It's still amazing how long it took for women to start winning seats in the Senate at all; as recently as the first Senate serving with George H.W. Bush, there were only two women in the Senate, which was as many as there had ever been. Two. In 1990.

My brother has been all over the story of how the Republicans have fallen far, far behind on nominating women for office; the Senate breakdown, McCaskill's bipartisan tweet aside, now has a 16D/4R breakdown -- yes, Republicans have the same number of women in the Senate that they had in 1995. And it looks as if they'll drop four in the House, meaning they've gained a total of three women in the House from their 1995 total of 17.

But as David points out, Democrats have nothing to be overly proud of on this score; "not totally embarrassing" isn't something to brag about. Still, at least they've decisively moved away from how they were in the 1980s. Perhaps the Republicans will do the same at some point.

23 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Ironically, Warren is where she is today because the Democratic party purged another woman, a Boston Immigration Attorney named Marisa DeFranco. Massachusetts has a unique provision which allows the party's state convention to remove a candidate from the primary ballot, even though that candidate has met all the legal requirements for inclusion. So the Democratic Party removed the more progressive woman candidate -- because official Washington wanted the other woman.

    If none of this surprises us, then neither should the lack of woman legislators. Our political system is designed to suit the needs of power hungry individuals, a group in which men are clearly overrepresented.

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    1. I'm not particularly fond of the Massachusetts primary system, but that's a misleading way of describing it. How it works is that in order to get on the ballot, a candidate needs to get the vote of 15% of the delegates at the state convention. Yes, mathematically this is equivalent to a supermajority voting to remove the candidate, but 85% is a very big supermajority.

      Warren was able to "purge" Marisa DeFranco because she had the overwhelming majority of support prior to the primaries proper. I don't really like that system because the caucuses which appoint delegates are kind of an obscure system, but if you fail to meet that goal you have serious deficiencies as a candidate.

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    2. User, have you ever been to a Massachusetts convention? Delegates who don’t support the party-anointed candidate are pressured and made to feel very uncomfortable in various ways. It’s not unheard of for delegates to be threatened with political exile or have their credentials “lost.” Warren had all the heavy hitters (mostly men) going all the way back to DC working for her. If you ask DeFranco, she will tell you that the Massachusetts Democratic party is not exactly encouraging the participation of women, so much as the participation of a woman. Everyone else was seen as an obstacle to be removed from her path. The other Democratic candidates got the memo and decided they “weren’t going to die on that hill.” DeFranco was brazen enough to soldier on.

      I don't really blame Warren for simply playing the system as it's been designed. But if our minimum standard for democracy is allowing THE VOTERS to choose who will be elected to higher office, then the Massachusetts system clearly failed to meet that standard.

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    3. Couves, voters did choose, in November. Complaining about the process that created the Primary ballot with one name on it? Reasonable. But it is far from undemocratic - there's many ways to do this. And if a party wants to decide internally before the Primary who is on the ballot, then so be it.

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    4. So the Massachusetts Democratic Party coalesced quickly around the candidate they believed - correctly, as it turns out - to have the best shot at winning the election? The nerve of some people.

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    5. Crissa, To say people had their say "in November" is absurd -- DeFranco was never on the ballot. Is this process broadly within the norms of a republican form of government? Yes. Is it the most democratic way to select a party nominee? Hardly.

      TN, how do you know DeFranco wouldn't have done better? This is why we have elections -- to let the voters decide.

      Massachusetts is almost a single-party state as it is (with this Senate race being a rare competitive race). So the primary is usually where we select our candidates. Taking the decision out of the hands of the people, through what User admits is an "obscure" system, is how party power-brokers get to decide instead of the people.

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    6. I see no reason that it's not democratic as long as it's an honest process. If the convention is rigged, then there's a problem. If e.g. a party boss selects the delegates with no chance for outsiders to be involved, or if the delegates are chosen by "elections" which are themselves rigged somehow, then you have a problem. If it's just horse-trading and politicking that leads to a candidate winning...that's not undemocratic at all.

      Open primaries in which all may enter are also generally democratic in my view, but things can go wrong there, too.

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    7. Jonathan -- Delegates are chosen in small local caucuses. The problem is that you must be a party member to serve as a delegate or vote for one -- which means that the more than 50% of MA voters who are independent have no role in the process. These same voters get to vote in the party primary of their choice -- the question is, do we want state conventions to make the choice for them?

      How easy it is for Democrats to make their voice heard at a caucus really varies a lot. Inevitably, many are controlled by a small group of insiders who just vote for each other. It's not a place where an outsider like DeFranco is going to have much of a chance.

      This is real inside baseball stuff -- not many Democrats have any idea that there is some caucus-convention system designed to deprive them of their primary choice. And of course, even fewer independent voters realize that the parties get together to ensure that primaries are meaningless gestures in which you only have one choice. I don't know how anyone can call that democratic.

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    8. The party can decide; if they choose to use a straight caucus/convention to choose their nominees, that's fine with me. As long as being in the party is a choice, I'm not going to worry about people who self-exclude.

      For the rest, it totally depends on how open it is. If "insiders" are controlling things because they're the ones who put in the time and effort, that's generally fine by me; if they control things because they rig the game somehow, it's not.

      At the presidential level, there were lots of complaints in 1968 that for example the location or time listed for open meetings were deliberately false in order to keep people out. Those were real issues, IMO. There were also complaints that the system made it hard for people who got involved at the last minute to have any influence; those complaints in general were, IMO, less viable.

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    9. Regarding people who “self-exclude” -- I don’t think anyone should be forced to join a political organization in order to fully express their democratic rights. The parties are not enshrined in our Constitution and so have no right to usurp the citizens themselves, who are the sole source of state sovereignty.

      In my case, I was already enrolled with the GOP, as required to vote in their Presidential caucus. Since I couldn’t simultaneously be a registered Democrat, the system excluded me from voting for DeFranco delegates, or being one myself. In fact, the system excluded me from voting for any Democrat, since the Democrats I supported all lost in a primary that I was then excluded from voting in. This is the primary reason why MA voters register independent in such high numbers -- to choose the primary they vote in (since elections here are often decided in the primary). Of course the system then excludes these independents from having a role in the party’s veto of candidates who are otherwise qualified for that very same primary. Confused? Good, you're supposed to be.

      And remember, only the political intelligentsia knows about these caucuses anyway (your town clerk will hardly know a thing about them) -- the rest of the population is made to believe they’re actually exercising their democratic rights in the primary when the reality is that an elite of less than 1% of the population has already chosen for them. You’ve often pointed out that plugged-in political activists are far more influential than the average voter. Given the power imbalance that already exists, why diminish the power of the average person’s vote as well?

      Let’s not kid ourselves, this system is exclusive and anti-democratic by design. As far as I know, no other state does this, which is not to say that other state parties don't have their own ways to enforce control independent of the voters.

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    10. Well, we're going back and forth here. The bottom line for me is that there's no large-scale representative democracy without parties, and parties need to control their own nominations.

      Moreover, in this particular case, I think there's no question whatsoever that Warren would have trounced DeFranco in an open primary precisely because Warren had massive party support. And in most cases there's nothing at all at stake wrt democracy as far as whether a primary election which needn't take place for a nomination to be democratic does or does not present the illusion of choice by including on the ballot candidates who have no chance.

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    11. Jonathan, I agree that parties are inevitable in a democracy such as ours. Which is why it's essential that their nomination process be open to all voters and not controlled by a tiny minority of a minority. Our system of government can only be as democratic as our parties are.

      I also agree that a primary isn't necessary, if you have a genuinely representative caucus. That's certainly not the case in Massachusetts, where we have a primary that everyone votes in, controlled by a caucus that no one knows about.

      And if you start excluding candidates based merely on your subjective assessment that they "have no chance"... that's so contrary to the principles of democracy that I find myself in a rare state of speechlessness.

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  3. By counting the incumbents you are measuring the gender norms of the past. If you want to measure gender norms this year look at people elected this year. On the Democratic side that's three men and three women. So parity has already arrived among Democrats. If you count Angus King then it's not balanced, but with 7 that's impossible.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Dems started electing more women than men very soon. Most Democrats are women after all.

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  4. I don't think its as bad for the Dems as it actually looks.

    Absent quotas, or other heavy handed techniques, people at the top are generally going to reflect the norms of a generation ago.

    Democrats have 1 senator from the 60s, 3 from the 70s, 5 from the 80s.

    Once you start reaching the 90s and beyond its getting relatively close to parity, certainly better than 20%

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    1. IIRC, one third of the new Democrats in the House are women. They aren't there yet.

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  5. Since Sens. Feinstein and Boxer started in 1993, who were the two female Senators in 1990?

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    1. Nancy Kassebaum and Barbara Mikulski, if Wikipedia is to be trusted.

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    2. Oh, I remember Sen Mikulski.

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    3. It's worth noting that 1992 was billed as the 'Year of the Woman' because five woman were elected to the Senate. Let's hope that 20 will look just as pathetic in hindsight.

      http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/year_of_the_woman.htm

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  6. Republicans DID decisively move away from how they were in the 1980s... they just did so in the wrong direction.

    http://wh.gov/Xg5R (If you like, sign and spread. Does not contain secession!)

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    1. I don't think that I want to award several extra senators to Texass

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