Where are the Senate’s women? It matters.
The lede for this morning’s feature article in Politico:
Four months after taking an electoral pounding, Republicans can’t agree on what went wrong in 2012 — let alone on a path to recovery.
Each week brings a new diagnosis of the party’s woes. Karl Rove says it’s candidate quality. Mitt Romney chief strategist Stuart Stevens argues Democrats have won over minority voters through government programs like Obamacare. Some Bush White House vets say it’s the GOP’s trouble understanding how to approach a changing electorate. Techy conservatives blame the party’s inferior social media presence and outdated voter targeting and data-mining. [...]
There’s a split between those who believe the party’s problem is cosmetic, those who believe it’s data-based and those who think it’s ideological and policy-based. Within those camps, there’s no common ground on what a better approach would look like.
All these analyses may be right. But I think the photo the editors chose to run with the story signals the simplest aspect of the GOP’s woes. As Gallup demonstrated, the gender gap in the 2012 vote was the largest in the poll’s 60-year history. And though the next national election will choose senators that will usher in the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment (in 2020), there is still one party that is represented in grave disproportion by men.
Consider our most august body of elected officials, the U.S. Senate, which currently has 4 women from the Republican party. One might retort that the Democrats have only 16 women, and indeed both parties have far to go before approaching a more “representative” government. But what appears to be a 4-to-1 difference is actually much more dramatic in terms of representation and voter perception.
Instead of counting Senate seats, let’s consider how many actual people are represented by these senators. Republicans have AK, ME, NE, and NH. Democrats have CA (2), HI, LA, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, NC, ND, NH, NY, WA (2), and WI. The tally is about 5,236,900 people represented by a female Republican senator and about 121,816,900 people represented by a female Democratic senator.
So there is a 4-to-1 difference in seats, but there is a 23-to-1 difference in terms of actual voters. Almost 39% of our population is represented in the Senate by a female Democrat. Only 1.7% of our population is represented in the Senate by a female Republican.
One final number: if we double-count CA and WA for the Democrats, since both members of their delegations are women, the percentage shoots up to 53%. Granted, this is some funny math, since they are representing the same citizens. But it brings the point home that female Democratic senators are representing very populous states, while the Republicans are not.
In a representative democracy, people want to be represented. That’s the GOP’s biggest problem — and it’s not just, as they say, a cosmetic one.