Category Archives: Elections

We Need to Change our Voting Systems to Elect More Women to Political Office

For many people interested in gender equality, the election of Hillary Clinton to the U.S. presidency would have been a significant achievement in the movement to secure more power for women. A female president would have represented a historic signal of equality, and the U.S. would no longer hold the ignominious reputation of never having elected a female head of state, a marker of progress 63 out of 142 nations in the world have already surpassed.

But as we all know, Clinton lost the presidency and the chances of the U.S. electing a woman president in the near future remain uncertain. However, it’s critical to realize that even if Clinton had won, the U.S. would still be extraordinarily behind other countries when it comes to gender parity in politics. In the U.S. House of Representatives, women hold only 19% of seats, and in the Senate, only 20 out of 100 Senators are women. In fact, the Inter-Parliamentary Union ranks the U.S. as 104th in the world when it comes to the proportion of women serving in government, ranking right behind Bulgaria and Madagascar.

The dearth of women in politics is a problem for a plethora of reasons, not the least of which is what it says about how well our country actually reflects core American values of equality, fairness, and opportunity for all. But the low number of women in politics also has practical ramifications in policy outcomes. A whole literature of research indicates that women officeholders behave differently from their male colleagues: they are more likely to introduce and advocate for legislation that advances the interests of women and families, and they are also more likely to work collaboratively and build consensus, making them more effective as legislators. Electing more women to office will produce better outcomes for American families, outcomes that will be accomplished with dignity to boot.

Although a lot of people agree that we need more women in politics, there are far fewer people doing the kind of work that is essential to getting them there. Some organizations hold trainings for potential women candidates and work to encourage more women to run for office. These organizations are guided by the belief that women need more encouragement and support than men to take the initial step to run for office, and research backs this assumption up—several studies find that women are less politically ambitious than men and are less likely to believe they are qualified to run for office. Therefore, it is not voter sexism or discrimination that keeps women out of politics, it is women’s own reluctance to run in the first place, these organizations say (and research confirms).

But while working to close the political ambition gap between men and women is critically important work, on its own it is insufficient to achieve gender parity in politics. The reasons for this lie in the fabrics that make up American political institutions. Simply put, women do not have enough real opportunities to run for office and win. In elections for the House of Representatives, over 95% of incumbents get re-elected, limiting the opportunity for anyone who is not a white man to gain power.

Because of extraordinarily high incumbent re-election rates, women and other non-traditional candidates have the best chance of picking up seats in open contests, when there is no incumbent competing. But in 2016, out of 435 elections in the House, only 45 were for open seats. This is the primary reason why the percentage of women officeholders has stagnated–there are too few chances for women to run and win. In fact, without changing the voting institutions that guarantee the incumbency advantage, gender parity will remain an elusive dream.

Women in other industrialized nations are not inherently more ambitious or confident than American women; they live in countries with political institutions that open up more opportunities for nontraditional candidates to emerge and hold power. Studies of women’s representation in other countries have shown that different electoral systems—like proportional representation—are much more favorable to the election of women. That is why of the top 20 countries for women’s representation, 19 of them have election systems based on proportional representation. 

In the U.S., candidates in congressional elections run in single-member, winner-take-all districts, meaning only the winner—the candidate who gets the most votes—gets elected. But some state legislatures use multi-member districts, which means more than one candidate can win a seat. In many districts, one party dominates elections again and again, leaving voters who support the opposing party completely unrepresented. In multi-member districts, members get elected according to their party’s vote share—for example, if one district has four seats, and 50% of the vote is for the Democrats and 50% for Republicans, two Democrats get elected and two Republicans get seats too. This scenario also allows for the emergence of third-party candidates, who actually have a shot at picking up seats as well.

Multi-member districts create more opportunities for non-incumbents and non-traditional candidates to run for office and win election. Ten states in America currently use multi-member districts in at least one legislative chamber, and these states rank among the highest for women’s representation among state legislatures. Multi-member districts help to reduce the advantages incumbents enjoy, thereby creating more opportunities not only for women, but for people of color and third-party candidates.

So if we want to get serious about addressing the embarrassingly low number of women in politics, as well as the low number of other non-traditional candidates (people of color, third-party candidates), we to change the institutions we use to elect our leaders. We may also find that doing so not only opens more opportunities for new candidates to emerge, but that voters themselves benefit from increased choice and new ideas. Many voters complained that the 2016 presidential contest presented them with two inadequate choices for candidates: 63%–nearly two-thirds of American voters–said they were dissatisfied with their choices. Oftentimes, this feeling of having no real choice produces voter apathy and disengagement, threatening the health of American democracy. Using voting reforms to open the door for different types of candidates might also help engage voters by giving them more and better choices.

Generation Protest: In the Wake of Trump’s Election, a New Wave of Political Activists Rises Across the State

This article was originally published in Connecticut Magazine’s March issue. It is available online here.

Donald Trump’s election and his subsequent actions as president have spawned a wave of political dissent across the U.S. and abroad. The day after Trump’s inauguration, millions of women and male allies marched in cities all over the country and the world, protesting Trump’s treatment of women and sending the message that women’s rights are human rights. After Trump issued an executive order banning refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, groups of citizens denounced the move in demonstrations outside capitol buildings and at airports across the nation.

Acts of political dissent are happening in Connecticut, too, where the Hartford Women’s March drew 10,000 participants and hundreds rallied at Bradley International Airport to protest Trump’s travel ban. And while the participants of these protests and marches have included people of all ages, many of them are youthful citizens — millennials and members of the younger Generation Z. In fact, some media outlets are already giving a new name to these political activists: Generation Protest.

Connecticut members of Generation Protest have a reason to be disaffected — 63 percent of them voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in November’s election, compared to only 30 percent of voters under age 35 who voted for Republican Trump. Many of them say Trump’s shocking victory was a “wake-up call” to be more politically active than they might have been previously.

Brenna Doyle, 31, operations coordinator for NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, says the fear she felt after Trump’s election is what motivated her to get more involved with politics. “After the election, I feared for those who would be immediately affected and whose lives would be put in danger by this new regime,” the Vernon resident says. “That’s what drives me to keep showing up, to stay involved, and to not back down.”

Alicia Hernandez Strong, who identifies as black, Latina and Muslim and is a Muslim community organizer, says the people she works with are “scared, very scared.” The 20-year-old activist from New Britain works to educate the Muslim community about political issues. She says that while many Muslims opposed Trump, they were shocked by his travel ban. “I think Trump was very underestimated and people didn’t expect him to keep his campaign promises,” Strong says. “So it’s waking more people up. I have people emailing and messaging me asking how they can support Muslims and resist Trump’s policies.”

Others say they are resisting Trump’s policies because they are antithetical to their core values and what young people today care about. Dorian Lockett, 32, a black man and president of Connecticut Young Democrats, says Trump’s refugee ban and his call to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico demonstrate that the president does not reflect Lockett’s values. Lockett calls Trump’s policies “attacks” on what makes America great. “Trump’s attacks on what makes this country great is what has re-energized me; his lack of understanding that our diversity is our strength and by knowing and understanding our neighbors is how we make our country safer,” the East Hartford resident says.

Thirty-two-year-old State Rep. James Albis, D-East Haven, says he has been struck by the number of young people who have come to him since the election asking how they can get involved in politics. Albis, who is the deputy majority leader of the Connecticut General Assembly, believes much of this inspiration is coming from young people’s sharp disagreement with Trump’s policies and what he stands for: “I think young people want to engage politically right now because they see proposed policies and recent executive orders that are the opposite of what they want — an increasingly connected global society that works together to solve major problems affecting us all, like climate change. The drum of progress is now muted.”

While protests may get the lion’s share of media attention, young people in Connecticut aren’t just holding up signs in the streets. They’re also engaging in what might be thought of as old-fashioned activism, like calling their representatives. Indeed, Christina Cerillo, 27, of Branford, says that since the election, she’s “never called my representatives more in my life!” Cerillo also started a social media-based group called Feminist Connecticut, which aims to be a central location for local news that is specific to women and women’s issues. The group also publicizes feminist events across the state. For Cerillo, part of her activism is rooted in a desire to bring people together. “My main focus with Feminist Connecticut post-election is to make sure that Connecticut’s women and their allies know that they are not alone, and that there are many ways to get involved and stand up and be counted in a political climate that really just wants all dissenters to sit down and shut up,” she says.

Cerillo draws her strength and energy from her connections with other activists fighting for the same causes. “Personally, I find it very comforting to see folks out and protesting, calling, gathering and fighting for our country.”

For some young activists, Trump’s policies have had a very personal effect. Eric Cruz Lopez, 21, of Bridgeport, is an undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. with his family at age 7 from Oaxaca, Mexico. Lopez is a student at the University of Connecticut, where he studies secondary math education, and hopes to one day teach algebra and geometry at the high school level. Lopez is an organizer for CT Students for a Dream, a group that advocates for the rights and interests of undocumented students in Connecticut. Lopez says Trump’s election has made people like himself realize that his rights are not guaranteed. “This election has activated people who wouldn’t otherwise get involved,” he says. “People who have thought that things were OK are now beginning to realize that our communities are under attack. The blatant attacks on our community have awakened people’s political consciousness.”

While Lopez says he is encouraged so many young people have mobilized against Trump’s policies, he hopes this wave of activism continues long term so that “solid, concrete and sustainable wins” on immigration issues are possible.

Rep. Josh Elliott, 32, D-Hamden, also hopes the wave of activism is here to stay. “I am hopeful that a new generation of people will become aware that being engaged is not like a week-long diet fad,” he says.

He speculates that Trump’s administration will roll back civil liberties “just enough to get a wave of active participants who will take these next four years as a lesson.”

But not all younger Connecticut residents have been swept up in the anti-Trump wave of resistance. As of this writing, the Connecticut Young Republicans Facebook page had 649 “likes,” which is half the number of the Connecticut Young Democrats, but still shows sizeable support. And Connecticut Right to Life, an anti-abortion advocacy group, reportedly sent five buses to the March for Life event in Washington in late January.

John Waite, president of Connecticut Right to Life, says many of the participants were young. Waite told the Hartford Courant that seeing the passion of young people is what inspires him. “Seeing all those kids down there so on fire for this issue, it energizes you for the whole year,” he says.

Other younger Trump supporters don’t feel it’s necessary to attend counter protests and believe Trump won’t be swayed by the demands of the left. For this Trump faithful, the strategy is “wait and see” and hope that Americans will give Trump an opportunity to prove himself before they write him off. A Trump supporter in his early 30s who declined to be named in this article said, “I think that everyone deserves a chance. Trump might be the one thing this country needs to pull itself out of the hole that past presidents have put us in.”

Some could argue that it is not so much Trump’s election, but the characteristics of millennials and Generation Z themselves that have sparked this surge of political activism. In this sense, Trump’s election provided the context for generations already known for their brazen confidence and belief they can solve the world’s problems by figuring out innovative and new solutions. And the ubiquitous use of technology among these generations has also made it easier to connect with each other, communicate and organize.

But perhaps more than anything, it is the unabashed trust in themselves that drives Generation Protest. For Lopez, it is the confidence that he is doing the right thing that makes him fearless. “I want to do this and I will fight for this because I am undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic about my status, my class, my race and my vision,” he says.

Why Connecticut Should Consider Ranked Choice Voting

This post was originally published in The CT Mirror on 12/22/16.

While voters and political pundits alike are still hashing out what exactly happened on November 8th, there is one conclusion about the election that most cannot deny: many voters felt they didn’t have adequate choices.

In fact, this conclusion could have been drawn early on, in the months leading up to the election—in July, before the major parties even declared their nominees, a solid majority (58%) of Americans said they were dissatisfied with the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, according to a Washington Post/ABC News Poll.

Dissatisfaction with the names on the ballot persisted up until Election Day, when even among those who voted, only 41% strongly favored the candidate they voted for—32% had reservations about their candidate, and 25% said they voted that way because they disliked their chosen candidate’s opponents (CNN exit polls).

Connecticut voters were not immune to the national wave of ennui about their choices—a Quinnipiac poll conducted in June showed that 55% and 61% of voters felt unfavorable toward Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively, mirroring national distaste toward both candidates.

As someone who collects public opinion from voters for a living, I have sat in countless focus groups over the years listening to voters lament their lack of good choices in elections. The resounding wish I’ve heard from voters around the country is to walk into the voting booth excited to cast a ballot for a candidate they believe in and that they feel confident will represent them in government—a wish that increasingly seems like a distant dream for many.

But rather than wait for “good choices” to pop out of the nether regions, there is something we can do now to make sure elections like 2016 do not happen again. A potential cure to the ailment of bad choices is in reforming the way in which we elect our leaders, through a system called Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).

The system works like this: instead of voting for a single candidate, the voter ranks the candidates by their preference—their first choice, second choice, third choice, etc., for a given office. If no candidate wins a majority after the first round of voting, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated from the contest. If that candidate was your first choice, then your second choice will be applied to the second round of counting and so on until a candidate wins a majority of votes.

The system offers many advantages: first, it ensures that only a candidate with majority support can win the election. This also changes how candidates campaign, since they must reach out beyond their core base in order to win. Secondly, RCV allows more candidates to compete, thus giving voters more choice. Voters also don’t have to worry about casting a “spoiler” vote for a third party candidate, and thus are free to express their support for the candidate they truly think is the best. This allows more diverse candidates with new, fresh viewpoints to emerge in addition to more traditional candidates.

The electorate in Maine just voted to approve a measure that would institute RCV into all elections across the state except for presidential contents. RCV is already used in 11 cities across America, and many other cities and states are considering this change.

Data on the effect of RCV is limited, but some research (Rutgers Eagleton Poll) conducted among voters in cities that have used the system in local elections found that voters were more satisfied with the conduct of candidate campaigns and perceived less campaign negativity (a natural consequence of candidates having to reach out to a broad swath of voters rather than rely on riling up their base).

Connecticut could be a pioneer state to adopt this type of reform to give voters more choice and make sure that the people who get elected to office truly represent the will of the voters. While not a panacea to the disease of apathy toward politics that our current system produces, it’s a move that may help assuage voters’ desire for more, and better, choice. As we move forward from November 8th with a list of priorities and to-do’s, I hope that structural reforms like RCV near the top.

**For more information on Ranked Choice Voting and other reforms, check out Fair Vote and Representation 2020**

I Was Viciously Harassed by Misogynist Internet Trolls for Defending an Anti-Republican Ad

I wrote an article for Xojane about my experience being harassed by hateful online trolls, just for expressing my opinion. I connect my experience to the problem of sexism and misogyny writ large in America, and encourage women to keep talking, shouting, and having their voice.

Here’s an excerpt:
“This election has unearthed some of the most painful diseases of American society, including misogyny and sexism. The reaction among women has been one of empowerment, of motivation to speak out and up, without fear. I am hopeful that, despite the outcome — and perhaps because of it — we will continue to amplify the voices, interests, and concerns of women everywhere.”

Read the full article here.

Hillary Clinton’s Survival of Sexism

This blog was originally published in The Huffington Post. The full article with citations can be found here.

At the end of the last presidential debate, Donald Trump was asked to name something about his opponent that he respects. He answered that Hillary “doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up…She’s a fighter.” This was a rare moment of truth coming from a candidate who literally lies a majority of the time. To me, Hillary is a hero for the valiant fight she’s shown in this race, but for withstanding nearly 40 years of the sexism, misogyny, and discrimination that befall women who seek power and challenge traditional notions of gender. Our country may finally see a woman president not because we as a people have evolved in our thinking about gender roles or because of progressive policy measures that allow women to combine work with caregiving, but rather because of the sheer tenacity of Hillary Clinton herself.

Hillary’s ability and willingness to remain in spaces that are uncomfortable, even hostile toward women, is admirable, though rare to witness (and I mean this both literally—like when Trump loomed over her at the most recent debate—and symbolically, when talking about the space of politics in general). No women has made it to the space Hillary Clinton occupies today, and there are various reasons for women’s lack of ascendancy to the top—in both politics and in the workplace generally. The effects of child-rearing responsibilities have been well-documented as serious barriers to female advancement to the top ranks in companies and in politics. But there may also be more subtle, yet more insidious reasons for women’s under-representation in top positions that have to do with the everyday sexism we experience in the workplace.

Few of us have endured the level of misogyny Hillary Clinton has, but many of us have experienced the micro-aggressions, the small instances of bias, the tiny pinches, scratches, and sometimes cuts that can eventually lead to the deaths of so many promising careers.

This happens everyday at work—when you get cut off or interrupted in a meeting. When your junior male colleague takes credit for your idea. When you look in the conference room and realize every participant sitting at the table is a white man. When your boss expects you to get cupcakes for your co-worker’s birthday. When you find out the man who held the exact position before you made a higher salary. When a client, colleague, or co-worker makes lewd comments that make your skin crawl but you can’t do a damn thing about it—not because laws don’t exist on the books but because sometimes that’s all they are—words on paper that fail to take into account the enormous, oftentimes impossible risks women take in speaking up about sexual harassment.

When women (who are privileged enough to have the choice) leave their jobs—either to opt out of the workforce altogether or to take another position elsewhere—sexism is rarely cited as the reason for the switch. More commonly, women will leave a job to find a company that’s a “better fit,” and some will start their own businesses so they “don’t have to work for anyone.” Some will attempt to find a job that can better accommodate their lives and responsibilities of caregiving. Oftentimes, these career switches are out of male-dominated fields. And then there are some women who leave the workforce altogether to work full-time inside the home. When these career changes are made, the reasons publicly stated may vary, but I would bet a lot that privately, many women are simply exhausted from enduring those little pricks of sexism and misogyny on a daily basis. It may not be a primary reason for leaving (or even a conscious one), but it may certainly contribute to driving women out of certain fields and careers.

And so, the status quo remains: the glass ceiling remains in tact, and patriarchy stays alive and well (though maybe it has the sniffles as of late). And our country and our economy suffer as well, as companies, industries, and fields lose a huge pool of talent.

I have been heartened to see so many men challenge Donald Trump’s sexism in this campaign, especially his blatant defense of rape culture. But this challenging needs to happen more widely—in every office, laboratory, Assembly floor, and school. Trump’s repeated attempt to excuse his support of sexual assault as “locker room talk” speaks volumes about his—and many men’s—absolute refusal to admit their own sexism. To be clear—he is not an aberration but rather a manifestation of the white male privilege that infects our society and drives women away and out of male-dominated spaces.

One way to really make some men angry is to call out their sexism. I have seen many men go to great lengths to justify their actions, defend each other, and deny responsibility. Just a small example—I recently sat next to a man on a plane who “man-spreaded” his legs right into my seat, essentially taking over half my space. I discreetly captured a picture of the man-spreading which I posted on social media with the hashtag #everydaysexism. I couldn’t believe the vitriol I got in response—men I hadn’t spoken to or even thought about in years came out of the woodwork to tell me (or more accurately, mansplain to me) that the man sitting next to me simply had long legs (actually, he was pretty short) and that what he was doing was not sexism. Others questioned why I didn’t just ask him to move, an ask which is symbolic of a broader problem of placing the burden of stopping sexism on women rather than the people who perpetrate it.

There’s nothing ostensibly damaging inherent to the practice of man-spreading, but it is an example of one of those tiny pricks that have devastating cumulative effects on women. Calling out these instances of sexist behavior is exhausting, because the response is often one of defensive, even hostile posturing. Yet staying silent feels pretty bad too. And often times, when you do speak up, you’re the only one doing so, and that can get lonely.

I can only imagine just how lonely and exhausting being Hillary Clinton is. When she accepted the Democratic nomination back in July, I balled my eyes out when she took the stage. My husband asked me if my tears were tears of joy for the first woman presidential nominee. I told him no, that my tears were for Hillary Clinton herself, tears of solidarity, of relief that she was able to survive the years of tiny and not so tiny cuts to get to where she is today. She truly is extraordinary in her ability to persevere.

This campaign has exposed some of the worst social diseases that linger in our country. Sexism is one of those diseases, and while women have always known it’s existed because we live it everyday, seeing Hillary endure it is like pulling off a bandaid and being forced to actually look at the injury. To me, it feels like a very old wound that women have collectively borne is wide open and exposed, but the question is how we do we heal it properly? Hillary Clinton is our hero of survival, but we cannot rely on lone women to single-handedly dismantle the patriarchy. Healing this wound involves a collective effort from all Americans, as well as progressive policy measures that value women, their work, and the realities of their lives.

4 Ways Hillary Clinton Will Make Life Better For Moms

According to a recent survey of registered voters conducted by ABC News/Washington Post, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump among women by 23 points—58% of women voters say they support Hillary, 35% say they would vote for Trump. While gender gaps in elections are nothing new, the Clinton/Trump contest represents a much wider margin than usual. Some would say these polling numbers are no surprise—after months of insulting, deriding, and offending women all over America, it makes sense that American women would punish Trump harshly at the ballot box.

But what also may be contributing to the gender gap is not only women’s distaste for Trump, but their affinity for Hillary. Hillary has talked a lot about women in this election, as well as issues that affect moms, like paid family leave. Rather than focus on why women should hate Trump, let’s talk about the ways Hillary will help women, and specifically, moms. After all, it feels much better to vote for a candidate than against one.
My book, 52 Reasons To Vote For Hillary, is full of plenty of positive reasons to support Hillary (and many of them I didn’t even know until I started the research for the book!). Some of my favorite reasons are the plans Hillary has to help make life better for moms in America—so here are four of them:

1. She Gets Work/Life Balance (Chapter 6)

According to the Make It Work campaign, nearly 90% of American workers do not have any paid family leave, and more than 43 million Americans don’t have a single paid sick day — over half of whom are working mothers.

Hillary wants to change that, and has a plan to guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. Her plan would also provide up to 12 weeks of leave for employees to recover from their own medical conditions or serious injuries. Hillary’s plans are important not only for the huge financial benefits that women would accrue, but because they send the message that as Americans, we value parenthood, caregiving, and the people who do it.

2. She Will Make Childcare A Priority (Chapter 8)

The cost of childcare in America is outrageous. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average cost of care for one child exceeds the cost of university in-state tuition in half of U.S. states. In some states where the cost of living is high, families are spending more than $15,000 a year on childcare for just one child. These are financial hardships that many American families simply cannot afford, and as a result, moms drop out of the labor force or scale back more often than dads, leading to a losses in earnings that affects the entire family unit.

Hillary has a bold and ambitious plan to make childcare more affordable for American families. She would cap what families pay for childcare at 10% of their paycheck, a big deal considering half of all American families spend more than that currently. Hillary will also increase access to on-campus childcare for parent students, so that they can further their education while also meeting their parental responsibilities. Hillary’s childcare agenda will go a long way in easing the financial burden on American families and ensuring women can live up to their full economic potential.

3. She Will Fight For Equal Pay (Chapter 17)

On average, women in America get paid 79 cents to a man’s dollar. But the burden is even heavier for moms, who make 73 cents for every man’s dollar, costing women around half a million dollars in earnings over their lifetimes.

Hillary believes that equal pay is not only a woman’s issue, but a family issue and an American issue. She has outlined a plan that would give women the tools they need to fight workplace discrimination and promote pay transparency across our economy so that women have the information they need to negotiate fairly. The cornerstone of her plan, the Paycheck Fairness Act, holds employers accountable by requiring them to prove that wage discrepancies are tied to legitimate business qualifications and not gender, and by prohibiting companies from taking retaliatory action against employees who raise concerns about gender-based wage discrimination.

When Donald Trump and other Republicans accused Hillary of playing the “gender card” because of her focus on equal pay, Hillary had this to say to her detractors:

“If talking about equal pay and paid leave and more opportunities for women and girls is playing the gender card, then deal me in!”


4. She Will Protect Women’s Reproductive Health (Chapter 39)

As all moms know, giving life is among the greatest of life’s joys, but becoming a mother is also a major, life-changing responsibility. Families do better when they have the resources to plan and make their own decisions with the counsel of their doctors. That’s why Hillary has always been an ardent supporter of women’s reproductive rights, including access to contraceptives and safe abortions.

As President, Hillary will defend the Affordable Care Act’s provision that prevents insurance companies from discriminating against covering women because of their reproductive health care needs. She has also promised to nominate Supreme Court justices who will uphold Roe v. Wade and protect women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

To Hillary, when women are healthy, America will be healthy, and it is critical to ensure women have the opportunities and access they need to build healthy and productive futures for themselves and their families. As with other issues that affect women, Hillary has argued that reproductive rights are not only women’s issues, but affect the entire country in important ways:

For too long, issues like these have been dismissed by many as ‘women’s issues’ – as though that somehow makes them less worthy, secondary. Well, yes, these are women’s issues. They’re also family issues. They’re economic issues. They’re justice issues. They’re fundamental to our country and our future.

While Donald Trump and other Republicans continue to subscribe to dated notions of family structures and gender roles, Hillary understands that changing times call for updated policies that move our country forward. Gone are the days of dads bringing home the bacon while moms fry it up in the pan — the world has changed, and our rules need to sprint to catch up. Hillary’s plans will make life better for moms, and in turn, for American families.

Read more about Hillary’s plans to help American families get ahead in 52 Reasons To Vote For Hillary, on sale now.

5 Facts About Mother Candidates, After Hillary Clinton’s Historic Nomination

This article was originally published in Romper, July 2016. See original article for links to sources.

Hillary Clinton’s candidacy so far has been historic. Clinton has spent her life knocking down barriers to get to where she is today, and people of all political persuasions can agree that her trailblazing is an inspiration to women and girls the world over. Not only is Hillary Clinton the first woman candidate to top a major-party ticket, she’s also the first mother (and grandmother!) to get this close to becoming the leader of the free world.

Being a woman, mother, and grandmother matter because these identities (and the experiences and knowledge that comes with them) set Clinton apart, particularly from her opponent, Donald Trump. For one, Clinton’s visibility may have an important role model effect on other women and young girls: seeing a woman, mother, and grandmother occupy the highest position of power in the United States can encourage more women to seek office themselves, according to Political Research Quarterly. Secondly, mothers may have a unique viewpoint that they’ve developed through living the trials and tribulations associated with raising children. Electing mothers who get and understand what American families need to thrive may have profound, positive public policy effects — in fact, research conducted by Dr. Michele Swers in the book The Difference Women Make finds evidence that women policymakers are more likely than men to introduce, sponsor, and advocate for issues that disproportionately affect women, like paid family leave and childcare subsidies.

But while our country might be better off with more women and mothers in office, there are several barriers to electing more of them. I have a PhD in political science and work in the public opinion industry where I’ve been studying mothers in politics for nearly a decade. I can say with certainty that Clinton’s success is, unfortunately, very much the exception rather than the rule. Women face a host of obstacles in the climb to the top — both in business and in politics — but throwing children into the mix dramatically heighten barriers to women’s advancement, according to a 2012 report by Jennifer L. Lawless on The Continued Under-Representation of Women in U.S. Politics.

Because mother politicians are still so rare in America, there is very little knowledge about them and what — if anything — makes them different. I’ve culled together the little research available (and much of it is research I have personally conducted) to present to five things to know about mother candidates:

When Moms Run, They Campaign Differently Than Dads

When women with young children break through the initial barriers and run for office, they tend to campaign differently than their male counterparts. While fathers showcase their children on the campaign trail, women tend to minimize their role as mothers. With my colleague Dr. Mona Kleinberg, I conducted a study of candidates in competitive congressional races — “A Mom First and a Candidate Second: Gender Differences in Candidates’ Self-Presentation of Family” — and found that men were more likely than women candidates to feature pictures of their children on their campaign websites. Despite high-profile mother candidates like Sarah Palin, who attempted to use her parental status as a credential, women are still more likely to campaign by themselves rather than with their families.

For higher levels of office, including executive roles, women may minimize their roles as mothers to assuage voter fears that young children would be a distraction or take the politician away from her duties as a representative. This is a stereotype men rarely — if ever — have to confront.

Overall, Mothers Are Less Politically Ambitious

According to the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics, a total of 46 women serve the 114 U.S. Senate. In a 2015 report also completed by Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics, 84 of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives were women, and they represented 31 states. And research about mother candidates — particularly those with young children — is scant because so few mothers actually run for office. Women tend to enter politics when they’re older, after their children are grown, when childcare responsibilities lessen, according to research by Susan J. Carroll and Kira Sanbonmatsu titled “Gender and the Decision to Run for the State Legislature.” In an examination of the freshmen members of the 113 Congress, the Center for American Women and Politics found that while half of the male freshmen in Congress had young children at home, only one woman did.

The Center for American Women and Politics also conducted a national survey of state legislators — a position that’s often a stepping stone for Congress — and found that 23 percent of male legislators had children under 18 compared to just 14 percent of women, a statistically significant difference. In the same survey, a 57 percent of women state legislators said the age of their children was a very important consideration in their decision to run for office — only about two in five men said the same.

Mothers, then, tend to weigh family considerations more heavily than fathers (likely because they shoulder more responsibility for childcare).

Voters May Penalize Moms Of Young Children…

voters. A study I conducted in 2010 titled “Voting For Mom: The Political Consequences of Being A Parent for Male and Female Candidates” published in Politics & Gender found that voters believe men with young children will have more time to serve in office compared to women with young children — an assumption that hinges on the reality that despite women’s advances in the workplace, they are still doing just as much, if not more, work at home. In fact, a recent national survey I conducted with my colleagues at Whitman Insight Strategies found that 55 percent of partnered women say they are responsible for caring for loved ones, including children and elderly relatives, while only 39 percent of partnered men say the same.

Especially striking is the finding that this pattern holds across generations — millennial women are just as likely as women from the Greatest Generation to perform these levels of work inside the home, an indication of the durability of gender roles.

The study I conducted in 2010 for Politics & Gender also found that mother candidates are perceived as less viable than father candidates, which may point to an unconscious bias voters bring to their evaluations of mother candidates. Indeed, a survey conducted by Pew Research found that nearly two in five Americans believe the trend of more mothers of young children working outside the home had been bad for society.

But Childless Women Receive The Harshest Penalty

As many barriers as there are for moms in politics, childless women are viewed even more negatively. The study I conducted for Politics & Gender also found that voters are significantly less likely to express support for a childless woman candidate and prefer her to have children who are grown. For men, parental status was far less relevant in voters’ evaluations. Being childless may be considered “deviant” and perpetuate stereotypes of “career women” (read: any woman who seeks power in her own right) as selfish, cold, and out-of-touch.

Having children may make candidates of both genders more relatable to voters who are looking for candidates who “understand” them. However, this puts women candidates in a double bind: having young children can be a liability if voters question her ability to juggle both the demands of child-rearing and the responsibilities of public office, but having no children puts women in the position of having to confront stereotypes related to being childless. Having adult children may be the “ideal” parental status for women, but running for office later in life limits opportunities to gain the necessary experience to run for higher levels of office.

When Moms Win, They’re More Likely To Push Policies That Help Families

Numerous studies have shown that women tend to have different policy priorities than men and are more likely to advocate for policies that help working families, like paid family leave and child care, according to PoliticalParity.org’s research on “Why Women? The Impact of Women in Elected Office.” When Clinton was pregnant with Chelsea, the law firm she worked at didn’t offer a maternity policy, and the partners would barely acknowledge she was even pregnant. In a 2012 interview with CNSNews.com, Hillary Clinton spoke candidly about her pregnancy:

“I was the only female partner, and they’d never had a female partner and certainly not a pregnant female partner. And they literally just were not sure what to do with me. I would walk down the corridor getting more and more pregnant, and the men in the firm would like look away, never say a word.”

And when a partner called Clinton after she gave birth and asked when she was coming back to work, she responded that she needed four months off, creating the first family-leave policy ever at her law firm. In a speech given at the State Department’s 2012 National Work-Life and Family Month, Clinton said,

“And I was in the hospital when one of my partners called to say congratulations, and then in the course of asked, ‘Well, when are you coming back to work?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I don’t know. Maybe in four months.’ And that’s how I created the firm’s first-ever maternity leave policy.”

Even though Clinton was fortunate enough to get the time off she needed to be with Chelsea, many women get much less time off, if at all — today, a quarter of all women in America have to leave their newborn and return to work within 10 days of giving birth because they have no paid leave. On her website, Clinton credited her experience in shaping her strong support for policies like guaranteeing paid family leave, making childcare more affordable, and raising the minimum wage — all of which are critical policy changes that will strengthen American families and create more opportunities for women to get ahead. As Clinton said:

I think that this is an issue that is not a woman’s issue. It is a human issue and a family issue. After all, there is little doubt that balancing work and family responsibilities is done in one way or another by people everywhere, every day.
This is not to say men or childless women can’t strongly advocate for policies that help American families — they are certainly can and have throughout history. But women who have the lived experience of being a mother and all that it entails may have a better sense of what the government needs to do to help make life easier for working families. Electing more of these women will go a long way toward passing more family-friendly policies that will strengthen the whole country.

Ironically, the policy changes that make it easier for women to combine motherhood and a career is ultimately what will help encourage more mother candidates to run for office. Hillary Clinton’s visibility — as a woman, as a mom, and as a grandmother — may help propel this forward. You can’t be what you can’t see, and seeing a mother occupy the highest political office in the land may do much to break down barriers for women candidates in general.

hillaryandchel

The #1 Reason To Vote For Hillary? The Supreme Court

By Dave Rubino

If you are a Trump supporter, I’ll save you some time. This post is not for you. I’m thoroughly convinced that there is no common ground between Trump voters and Hillary supporters, so there’s no need to start an unnecessary flame war. You go your way, I’ll go mine. Who this post is REALLY for is the “Disillusioned Democrats” among us: the scorned Bernie supporters, the Jill-Stein-because-I’m-sick-of-the-two-party-system advocates, the progressives who think Hillary is too moderate, too “Wall Street,” or too untrustworthy to waste a vote on. Most of all, this post is for those of you who are so fed up that you are deciding to just sit this one out.

I’ll give it to you straight: your country needs you. We need you to bite the bullet. We need you to suck it up. We need you to vote. And we need you to vote for Hillary.

Here’s the naked truth: there is only one issue that matters in this election. Only one. The Supreme Court.

No matter what you think of Hillary – whether you think she stole the primary from Bernie, whether you think she’s a moderate in liberal’s clothing, whether you think she is completely untrustworthy and dishonest… none of it matters. You’re not voting for her. You’re voting for her appointees.

Even if you don’t trust her, do you really think that she is running on a Democratic ticket but would abandon her party completely and appoint right wing judges? Is your theory really that she’s in cahoots with the Republicans? If you don’t trust her, don’t rely on her to feed your goldfish. Don’t lend her your favorite sweater. Don’t tell her a lifelong secret dream. But appoint a Supreme Court justice? Yeah, let her do that. You’re not at risk.

To the Bernie lovers and the third party candidate advocates, I get you. I respect you. I know how hard it is. Your voice did not just go unheard – it must feel more and more like it was was actively silenced. That’s discouraging. It’s infuriating. It’s hard to forgive. And if you think it is hard for you, imagine how hard it is for Bernie. Yet he stood up and endorsed Hillary. He implored you to stand with her too. Because there is too much at stake.

Know this and make no mistake about it: a vote for Trump is a vote for regression. A vote for a third party is a vote for regression. A vote for nobody… is a vote for regression. Here’s the thing, so much of what we progressives love in this world was given to us by the Supreme Court. And the things we hate? Taken from us by the Supreme Court. Some of this you know: Brown v. Board of Education told us racial segregation is not okay. Roe v. Wade gave women the right to choose. Obergefell v. Hodges gave us gay marriage. NIFIB v. Sebelius upheld Obamacare.

But let’s not forget how dangerous a Supreme Court with the the wrong kind of justices can be. The Dred Scott decision said even a freed slave in a free state had no rights as a citizen. The Korematsu case said Japanese internment camps were a-okay. Citizens United (and Buckley v. Valeo before it) brought money into politics at unprecedented levels – holding that political expenditures by corporations were protected by Free Speech. The Voting Rights Act, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting, was decimated by the Supreme Court in 2013. And of course the Bush v. Gore case gave us a President who lost the popular vote to his rival by half a million votes.

And those are just the ones you know. What about granting women the right to vote? Sure, that was done by Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, but did you know that the Supreme Court had the opportunity to review the issue in the 1875 Minor v. Happersett case? The conservative Court concluded that the Constitution did not grant women the right to vote. Forty-five years could have been saved with the right judges on the bench. How about gun control? Our rivals on the right are always so vocal about their inalienable right to bear arms but did you know that until 2008 no such right existed at the Federal level? That’s when the conservative majority of the Supreme Court extended its interpretation of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller to include an individual right to bear arms. Before that, the states got to decide what was appropriate and reasonable. Not anymore.

I could go on. But my point is simple. The Supreme Court matters. It matters a lot. It matters for decades. When you vote in this election, you are NOT simply voting for a President who may be in office for four to eight years. You are voting for something much more powerful. You are voting for the institution that has been the catalyst for social change – or social regression – for most of our country’s history. Justice Scalia is dead and his seat is vacant. Justice Ginsberg is 83 and will undoubtedly retire. Justice Kennedy is 80 and may or may not last another four years as a Supreme Court justice. Breyer is 78. This is a unique election. Whoever takes the Presidency will have as many as four Supreme Court appointments in a single term. This will, without a doubt, govern the trajectory of our nation for the next twenty to thirty years. Know this Bernie supporters: if you don’t vote, Trump wins. And even if Bernie ran again in four years and beat the pants off of Trump, it would be too late. The Supreme Court vacancies will be filled and you will not stand a chance of seeing Bernie’s vision manifest until a bunch of fairly young Trump-appointed judges retire or die. The best you can hope for is 2040 or 2050 – if you’re around that long. Stein supporters? A vote for Stein is, without question, a vote against renewable energy and for fracking for the next thirty years. Because a vote for Stein is a vote that puts Trump in the White House; and that means conservative Supreme Court justices who will systematically declaw environmental legislation. Bye, bye functioning EPA.

Listen, I love Bernie. I love Jill. I love the idea of a multi-party political system. I really do. And Hillary IS too moderate for me. But that’s okay. I’m voting for her anyway. Because I’m not just voting for Hillary. I am voting for what Hillary can, must, and will give me from now until I’m at least 75: a Supreme Court that moves our country forward no matter who is steering the ship. If you can’t stomach voting for Hillary, then tell yourself you’re voting for the three or four judges who will be appointed by her. The three or four judges who will protect your right to choose, uphold the legitimacy of your same sex marriage, take money out of politics once and for all, and move our country in the direction we all, as progressives, agree it should be headed.

Thank you, Bernie for your passion. Thank you Jill, for your conviction. But thank you, far more so, to the many Supreme Court justices that have moved our nation forward. Here’s hoping we can add to your ranks. ‪#‎Imwithher‬

SC

The Orlando Massacre & Hate in America

On Saturday night in Orlando, Omar Mateen walked into a nightclub where he gunned down 50 people and wounded another 53. The horror Mateen inflicted on innocent civilians is the deadliest mass shooting our country has ever seen.

The media has reported Mateen called 911 shortly before the attack and pledged allegiance to ISIS. But the attack might have also been a hate crime—Mateen’s father reported to the media that his son became angry recently when he saw two men kissing in public. Given that the attack took place at Pulse, a well-known gay nightclub in Orlando, Mateen’s actions were likely in part motivated by hate.

The shooting is a sobering reminder to all of us how far we really are from making America a place where all people can live, work, pray, and love free from discrimination or the threat of violence. After the Supreme Court declared laws that prohibit gay marriage unconstitutional, many of us rightly rejoiced and celebrated how far we have come as a country in securing rights and liberties for LGBTQ people. But since then, we’ve also seen backlash and a rise of intolerance, in states like Mississippi, where there is a law that allows businesses to deny services to same-sex couples for religious reasons, or more recently in North Carolina, where the Governor signed a bill transgender people from using bathrooms that matched their gender identity.

And while the rate of violence against LGBTQ individuals has fallen overall, the risk of violence for the LGBTQ community is still much higher than for the general population. Simply put, it is much dangerous to live in the United States as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person than it is a heterosexual—the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) reports that in 2014 there were 1,459 documented cases of hate violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected individuals in the United States. And while transgender people have gained more visibility and attention than ever before, violence (including murder) against transgender people has actually increased dramatically. Being LGBTQ and a person of color raises the risk of violence even more—80% of LGBTQ homicide victims in 2014 were people of color.

As Americans, these statistics should shock and alarm us enough to do something about it. We’re talking about the very fundamental right to be able to live in this country without the constant threat of violence because of one’s sexual identity, and as a country we’re simply not there yet. Incendiary politicians like Donald Trump only exacerbate matters by tapping into the worst parts of American psyche, where intolerance and hate breed. Donald Trump’s candidacy has made it clear that homophobia, racism, and sexism are still alive and well in our country. That’s not to say Trump himself has made people sexist, racist, or homophobia—those attitudes have always existed within the American public—but Trump has energized these groups by igniting their hate and making the use of bigoted speech more normalized, if not more acceptable.

People like Omar Mateen, who represent the lowest forms of humanity, will always exist, and unfortunately this most recent shooting will not be the last our country has seen. But our response has to be a lot more than saying prayers for the victims and their families. Yes, the LGBTQ community needs time to heal, and we all should express our deepest sympathies for this tragic loss of life. But after that, we need to fight back. As a country, we need to emphatically reject political leaders like Donald Trump who only ignite and perpetuate the most vile, hateful parts of this country. We need to send a strong message that we’re not going back to the days where hating people who are not like us and using legislation to deny them basic rights and freedoms is in any way acceptable, or tolerable in America. And finally, we need to combat hate with love, and embrace marginalized communities as strong, committed allies who will not only stand by, but stand up for all people in the name of equality, liberty, and justice.

Trump and the Normalization of Hate

I recently published an article in the Huffington Post about the role Donald Trump has played in making hate, bigotry, and discrimination more acceptable in political discourse.

I was inspired to write this post after a couple of events: 1) As I detail in the article, someone I work with and am close to was recently the victim of gay bashing after he went on a popular TV show to talk about his support of Hillary Clinton; 2) I spent a recent weekend with two women who are very good friends of mine and who just got engaged. We celebrated their engagement at Gay Pride in Long Beach, CA (see pic below).

Both events took place in the same period of time- the gay bashing of my co-worker occurred just a day before I flew down to Long Beach to celebrate the engagement and partake in Gay Pride. I was struck by the irony: although we have come so far in some ways toward respect for the human dignity of all people, in other ways we are light years from where we should be. It is so important that we work against candidates and politicians like Trump who feed on anger and frustration and encourage acts of hate and discrimination.

Read the article here.

Me celebrating at Gay Pride Long Beach!
Me celebrating at Gay Pride Long Beach!