Year of the woman begins Tuesday

The election is shaping up to be a major victory for Democratics and women candidates in particular.

Abby Bar-Lev

Perhaps not everyone has been counting down the days until Tuesday’s election since day 172 as I have. Regardless, unless you currently reside under a rock, you are most likely aware that we are just five days away from the election.

Elections are always exhilarating. The anticipation, the adrenaline, the bone-tingling optimism one feels around this time on every even numbered year is enough to make anyone emotional. It is understandable and, yes, perhaps expected, to burst into spontaneous fits of “Oh my God, the election is only five days away!” with arms flailing wildly above one’s head.

The energy compacting in this particular election cycle, however, transcends even uncontrollable limb gesticulations.

It is entirely plausible that the Democrats may regain the majority in the House and possibly Senate. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll released Oct. 31 showed that voters want Democrats over Republicans in Congress 52 percent to 37 percent, a 15-point difference. The new Cook Political Report/RT Strategies poll offers corroboration, finding Democrats with a 13-point lead over Republicans on the generic ballot.

Yet it is not that party momentum alone that is unique to this election cycle.

This election cycle promises by all accounts to be another “Year of the Woman.”

The year of 1992 has come to be known as the “Year of the Woman” for the surge in women elected to Congress. Take the word “surge” with a grain of salt, however. The “surge” in women elected to Congress meant three more women were elected to the Senate and 19 more to the House. Today there are 14 women in the Senate, comprised of nine Democrats and five Republicans. There are currently 67 women Representatives in the House, 43 of whom are Democrats and 24 of whom are Republicans.

In the current election cycle, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, there are 134 women candidates running for the House with nearly half of the most competitive 44 races featuring women candidates.

Six Democratic women incumbents in the Senate are up for re-election (four of them Democrats) and are expected to win their seats. Additionally, two Democratic women running for the Senate have widely been noted as potential victors in their states: Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Amy Klobuchar right here in Minnesota. This time around, the “Year of the Woman” may have a whole new connotation, too. If Democrats regain a majority in the House of Representatives, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California would become the speaker of the house – and the first woman speaker at that.

According to Ellen Malcolm, the President of EMILY’s List, which is a political action committee that supports pro-choice Democratic women running for office, “First and foremost, women are seen as the candidates of change. Voters don’t see them as part of the old boys’ network that they’re so angry about.”

And it is indeed time for change.

It is imperative that people in this country begin to see more women as elected officials and holding positions of authority. We need to reach a place where a woman holding elected office is not an anomaly, but the norm. We need to reach a place where a phrase like “Year of the Woman” is so archaic that it is almost offensive. We need to reach a place where women are seen equally as trustworthy on national security issues as they are on domestic issues like childcare and education. We need to reach a place where electing women to positions of authority is commonplace.

Tuesday night, we will be that much closer to actualizing that aspiration. Perhaps not all of us are in the arms-flailing-uncontrollably-with-excitement mode when it comes to elections. But we should all have at least enough energy to get ourselves to the voting booths on Tuesday. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. It’s voting time!

Abby Bar-Lev welcomes comments at [email protected]