Tuesday was ladies' night. I laughed, teared-up a time or two, and definitely did a little dancin'. The women of America have collectively internalized the old adage, “if you’re not at the table, you’re surely on the menu,” and claimed more chairs at the dinner table than ever before. A historic number of women ran for office — 181 ran for Congress — and in many cases triumphed, resulting in the highest rate of female congressional control ever.
We are no longer content being confined to binders or support roles.
After the polls closed Tuesday and the dust settled, Democrat Elizabeth Warren emerged as the first woman ever to hold a Senate seat in Massachusetts. Tammy Baldwin, also a Democrat, now serves as the first female — and openly lesbian — senator of Wisconsin. Women now comprise a record 20 percent of the U.S. Senate, up from about 17 percent.
Although results for female candidates in North Carolina were less encouraging (we lost 50 percent of the Democratic women who served), several were elected and reelected to statewide executive positions. Elaine Marshall was reelected as secretary of state, Beth Wood as state auditor, Janet Cowell as treasurer, June Atkinson as superintendent of public instruction, and Cherie Berry as commissioner of labor. (You’ll have the opportunity to see the latter’s signature in elevators for years to come.) Strategic redistricting after the 2010 elections and money helped to preordain some races in North Carolina made the GOP sweep no huge surprise.
Nationally, women showed they are finished with abdication and antiquation and voted for equal pay, comprehensive healthcare, economic security and reproductive rights. One notable win was Democrat Claire McCaskill’s defeat of Republican Todd Akin for the Senate seat in Missouri after he made his now infamous and stupid remark about “legitimate rape.” The Democrats received 55 percent of the female vote, proving that ladies are paying close attention to the issues central to their lives, and voting accordingly.
Women constitute 56 percent of voters and can no longer be ignored as a driving force in how we determine the future of our nation. We are no longer a minority vote. Women represent not only the majority of the population but the majority of the workforce. More women have higher-education degrees than men, and one-third earn more than their husbands. Women shouldn’t hold such a puny percentage of legislative power, and with Tuesday’s election results, I sense a paradigm shift. Women are taking their rightful place at the forefront of the democratic process and in government more than ever, and because of that, we will all benefit.
In the words of newly elected New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, “when women are a part of the negotiation and decision making, the outcomes are simply better.”
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