Does the gender of lawmakers matter to YOU?

Just got a post-election e-mail from the Southeastern Institute for Women in Politics, which had also hit me with releases a number of times before Tuesday. Here’s the gist:

Congratulations to all of the brave female candidates running in South
Carolina and their support teams. Women made progress in the South Carolina
House of Representatives, increasing their numbers from 13 to 17, though still
down from a peak of 20 in 1992. Women were elected across South Carolina to
local offices including solicitor and the first female mayor for Cayce, Elise

While South Carolina women offered for federal, state and local
offices in record numbers during the 2008 election cycle, fewer than hoped
succeeded at the polls in November.

The list of winners includes 10
incumbent representatives and 6 newcomers:

Candidate Seat Party
Anne Peterson-Hutto
Chandra Dillard
Cathy Harvin*
Gilda Cobb-Hunter*
Jenny Horne
Nikki Haley*
Rita Allison
Shannon Erickson*
Wendy Nanney
J. Anne Parks*
Laurie Slade Funderburk*
G. Knight*
Annette D. Young*
Denny Neilson*
House District 115
House District 23
District 45
House District 64
House District 66
House District
House District 78
House District 87
House District 36
District 124
House District 108
House District 22
House District
House District 52
House District 97
House District 98
District 56

The Challenges Ahead

No women were elected to the South Carolina Senate, returning that chamber to
an all-male bastion not seen in more than 30 years. South Carolina is also the
only state in the nation lacking women in its senate.

The Southeastern
Institute for Women in Politics, a non-profit organized to attract, encourage
and train women to run and win, delivered hundreds of thousands of email
messages about available candidates in an effort to create visibility for female
candidates. Biographies
and responses to specific questions
were posted on the Institute’s website
to help educate South Carolina voters regarding choices.

Members of the
board of directors
vowed to move into the 2010 and 2012 election cycles
aggressively, beginning with recruitment and training as early as February,

Support the Institute. Become
a member today
Interested in future training events? Tell
us about it

And I find myself wondering. Does it make a difference to YOU that there are no women in the Senate, or that there are four more in the House? If so, why? If not, why not?

I ask because I just don’t generally think in these terms. If the best candidate is a woman that’s who we endorse. If not, we don’t. We certainly wouldn’t choose a candidate BECAUSE she’s a woman, any more than we’d reject her on that basis. Nikki Haley was a stronger candidate that Ed Gomez. Margaret Gamble was strong, but not as strong as Nikki Setzler. Based on the evidence, I guess you’d say we’re more likely to endorse a candidate on the basis of whether his/her name is "Nikki," rather than gender.

Gender doesn’t matter any more than party, in terms of determining which is the better candidate.

Not that I don’t believe men and women are different. I noticed a while back that they are. In fact, when folks try to equate gender issues to race issues, I tend to object by saying, "Boys and girls are different; black people and white people are not." I’m not arguing necessarily for doing like Will Stockdale in "No Time for Sergeants" and saying I don’t notice whether it’s a man or a wawmun; I just see a lieutenant.

But I’m not recalling offhand when gender ever caused me to pick one candidate over another.

11 thoughts on “Does the gender of lawmakers matter to YOU?

  1. Doug Ross

    If lovin’ Nancy Pelosi is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. Actually, flip that.
    Pelosi, Palin, Liddy Dole, Condi Rice… you can have ’em all.
    Where’s a Ronette Paul when you need one?

  2. Ozzie

    You always need at least a few women in the team, otherwise the “good ol’ boys” misbehave and don’t get anything constructive done. They shape up when both genders are involved.

  3. p.m.

    Sure, Brad, Ron Paul’s last name starts with the same four letters as Pat Paulsen. They have to look alike. It’s genetics.
    They’re ripping us up for being Baby Boomers here, and you’re watching the Smothers Brothers.
    You’ve got me so depressed I’m going to have to listen to some Tennessee Ernie Ford before I can go to sleep:
    You load sixteen tons, and what do you get?
    Another day older and deeper in debt.
    St. Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go;
    I owe my soul to the company store.
    Cheerful stuff, huh?
    In 1954, Ford’s version of the song written by Merle Travis in 1946 sold a million copies in 21 days.
    You can download excerpts from the Travis and Ford versions here, as well as read all the lyrics and more about the song:

  4. Dino

    Does the gender of lawmakers matter to YOU?
    That is an interesting question, Brad. It was difficult, though not impossible, to even conceive of a circumstance in which gender might be relevant.
    What should not be very difficult to see, since voters are to blame, are conflicts of interests and concentrations of government authority in a single profession. Yes, it is our fault as voters.
    HINT: What happened nationally in the last election?
    – Lawyers retained their total control of the federal judiciary.
    – Lawyers took over control of the executive branch, which nominates and appoints judges and justices, and breaks Senate ties.
    – Lawyers again increased their number in Congress, which creates huge Environmental Superfunds, Bailout Funds, etc. feeding members of their profession. Trial attorneys are among the largest Democrat campaign contributors.
    How long can the press remain silent as voters ignore such outrageous conflicts of interests?

  5. Lee Muller

    A significant number of major figures in the press are lawyers, or ar married to lawyers who practice in the political arena.

  6. Brad Warthen

    Bless your little pea-picking heart, p.m.
    Dino, there’s something I noticed a long time ago, 30 years ago in fact, when I was covering the local government of several counties in Ernie Ford’s home state: Some county commissioners understood had a sophisticated grasp of the issues they were called upon to deal with, and some did not. The ones who did happened to be lawyers. Sorry, but it’s true.
    Beyond that, I learned something else about lawyers in those days: They really knew what was going on in their communities. I always found it easy to find out anything I needed to know about what was going on in one town on my beat (Huntingdon) because pretty much all of the town’s leading lawyers were very good sources of mine. No matter what the story, one of them would be intimately involved with it, and would give me everything he knew, either on or off the record.
    For instance, one day, on deadline, my editor told me that there was a rumor about that there had been a major embezzlement at a bank in Huntingdon. Normally, I would have despaired at getting anything much on what really happened, because (as I keep telling you guys who think the private sector is so great) the press has very little leverage for finding out what happens in the private sector, which is why we’re always doing exposes on the PUBLIC sector, which has to tell us its business (which is why libertarians form the impression that gummint is so awful). And in those days — before cross-county banking, much less multi-state — banks were VERY local, and info was closely held.
    But since this was Huntingdon, I called one of my lawyer friends. He told me he had been retained by the bank to help it deal with the fallout from the embezzlement, and that he had been trying to figure out what to put in a press release about it, and what to leave out. I said, just tell me everything that happened, and I’ll tell you what to put in the press release (in other words, what he should tell my competition). So he did.
    He was an awesome source.
    Yes, there can be conflicts with being a lawyer, same as with anything else. Having lawyers who make their living representing drunk drivers rewrite DUI laws is a perfect example. But on the whole, lawyers are as good a class of people to make laws as most people, and better at it than most.

  7. Luevonia

    I don’t have any trouble with lawyers writing our laws. I would hope that they would be lawyers, so that they could understand what laws that they were making!
    I know that the ultra-right has a problem with lawyers, and I’m not saying that they all are good people, but I agree with Brad, most of them are good people, and are good at their profession!
    And Dino, I’m glad that we will have Barack Obama in the White House, Joe Biden as our Vice-President, and more Democrats in the U.S. Congress (and possibly on the Supreme Court). I think that is what is needed right now!

  8. Lee Muller

    Lawyers are in a unique position to abuse the political system. Doctors, engineers, and other professionals have very little way to benefit from warping legislation, or peddling influence the way lawyers can.
    The lack of technical education among most lawyers leads to a lot of really bad legislation and bad decisions from the bench. Having some engineers or doctors in the legislature would at least bring some sanity to some of the debates. Most doctors, engineers and scientists chose to be what they are because they cannot stand to be around politicians.
    I did have a few law professors who were engineers, which was very beneficial to their understanding many issues. Many patent attorneys practiced mechanical or chemical engineering for a while before going to law school. They should make much better legislators than the typical small-town hucksters we get in office now.


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