The issue of redistricting got me thinking about the people who represent us. The elected officials who represent me, you, our kids, our neighborhoods, our schools … and so on. Are your elected officials — who are supposed to be representing your interests — anything like you? Do they match your values? And would it help them to understand the values you hold dear if those representatives looked more like you?
That’s a lot of questions, I admit. But those are questions worth considering.
For instance, out of the five state and federal folks who represent me: four are men; all of them are white; four are Republican; and I am not certain about a couple of them, but I think all of them are anti-choice and anti-LGBT rights (in the sense that civil rights should be the birthright of all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression and those rights should be afforded without exceptions or catches). I can tell you that in most of the ways that I evaluate who I want to vote for — who I want to represent me — all of these elected officials fail, in part or in full.
So, who would I want to represent me? Well, any regular reader of SCS knows the answer to that! I would be over-joyed to elect into office a prochoice, pro-equality, environmentalist who values education, forward-thinking job-creation (not just patch-work jobs that burn out because they are not sustainable), sustainable communities and the protection of civil rights for all. And I know it’s not asking too much, because those folks do exist. Not necessarily within Nevada’s borders in great numbers, but they are around. And they get elected.
So that’s the values part. But let’s look at one of those other questions: Do you want your elected officials to look like you? This can go in some bad directions. (See: White Supremacy; Racism, et al.) And I definitely do NOT mean it like that. And I balk at the idea that I should vote for a woman based ONLY on the fact that she is a woman. There is more to it than that. (Not to mention that by that logic, I should support Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman. Not. In. This. Lifetime.) However, we cannot deny that race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation play a role in who we are as people. And representative government is built on the idea that the government is, in fact, representative of the people it is working for. So, by that very definition, we do need to see more diversity in who gets elected into office. We DO need greater racial diversity! We DO need openly LGBT elected officials! And we DO need more women!
Let’s look at the federal level for a second (all of these figures come from ThisNation.com):
- In the House, there are 360 men and only 75 women!
- In the Senate, there are 83 men and only 17 women!
- There is only 1 black person serving in the Senate!
- There is only 1 Native American serving in the ENTIRE Congress!
- There are only 2 Hispanics in the Senate!
- There are only 2 Asians in the Senate!
- AND, there are only 7 Asians in the ENTIRE Congress!
This is a prime example of what it means when people say that power stays in the hands of old, rich, white guys! I find these numbers appalling!
But let’s take this closer to home and look at Nevada Legislature numbers (I crunched these numbers using info on the Nevada Legislature website):
- There are only 6 women in the State Senate (out of 21 total members)!
- Of those 6 female State Senators, 4 are Democrats and 2 are Republicans.
- There are 12 women in the Assembly (out of 42 total members)!
- Of those 12 Assemblywomen, only 1 is a Republican.
With the Nevada Legislature, I did not feel comfortable trying to discern race or ethnicity from just the small amount of information available on the Legislature’s website. (If anyone has that information from a reliable source, please pass it on and I will update this post.) But just in eye-balling the photos on the contact pages, there sure are a lot of old, white dudes.
On the big stage or smaller ones — with the historic exception of our current president — it sure seems like it’s still a rich, white guys world when it comes to politics! (And, to be fair, Obama is rich and a guy.) And this is not just my imagination. This is a topic of conversation all across the nation. Where are the women?
Maybe the problem starts before the ballot box. Maybe the problem starts with the fact that, at least in the case of women, 50% fewer women than men ever consider running for office at all. Luckily, there are programs and initiatives out there to help with this problem. She Should Run, offers campaign tips and even a link to ask a woman to run for office. EMILY’s List seeks to help get progressive, prochoice women elected into office.
So, what I’m really getting at is: Women: Run for office!
I’ll leave this quote from an interview with First Lady Michelle Obama, as inspiration:
“[T]he challenge is our preparation as women and our desire and willingness to step up and grab that ring, because we’re at a time when so many people just want good leadership….
“So it’s completely there. The question is, are we ready? Are we, as young women, are we ready to take that responsibility on and go after it and take the risk that go with stepping out there and being judged? And I think sometimes as women we can step back, but we can start pushing ourselves now.”