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Why More Democrat Women Are Winning Primaries

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A record-breaking number of women ran for Congress in 2020, both democrat and republican. Still, more democrat women are running and winning primaries than their republican counterparts. The number of Democratic women who ran in 2020 remained the same as in 2018 (356), but the number of Republican women increased, breaking their 2010 record (from 130 to 227).  

If more women are running in both parties, why do more democrat women win the primaries?

More women leaders are running for office

There is an expectation in our current culture that everyone uses their voice and position when able. Brands are stepping up, diving into complex political issues, and realizing that upsetting some also strengthens the loyalty of others. 

With the lack of leadership from elected officials evident, more and more businessmen and women are stepping up to fill the roles. And more and more of them are women.

In 2018 the Women’s March, the day after Trump’s inauguration, functioned as a call to action for many. 

“I was in the first women’s march and I think that is where a lot of us realized that our voices were being silenced,” said Betsy Rader, who ran for the first time in 2018 and again in 2020, winning the Democratic primary both times.  

If 2018 was a big year for women, 2020 was even bigger. The number of Republican women running for office increased 20%, while the democratic women held steady at 37%. 

Covid-19 was a testing ground for our nation’s leaders, one where powerful women showed up and proved beyond a doubt their immense worth. 

Women leaders made it evident that they are the ones to turn to in a crisis. Harvard Business Review noticed and took an assessment of both male and female leaders during the pandemic. They found women leaders actually rose in popularity due to:

  • Higher competence in leadership 
  • Increased employee engagement and confidence 
  • Powerful communication
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Relationship building
  • Awareness and understanding of employees’ fears, concerns, wellbeing, etc. 

Who is winning the primaries?

But did the uptick in female political opponents or the popularity of women leaders lead to more political wins? 

Women democrats who won their primary and advanced to the general election made up 47% of the party in 2020 (211 out of 445). At the same time, only 22% of republican women moved forward. 

Why is this difference so stark? 

The conservative “traditional” values of the Republican Party do more to discourage women, especially mothers, from joining politics. 

GOP strategist Liz Mair told FiveThirtyEight, “Running for office would take time away from what they honestly feel is the most important job they will ever do and potentially put their kids in the spotlight and the crossfire. And once they’re done rearing the kids, ‘stay-at-home mom’ doesn’t look like the best resume for a potential congresswoman or senator—or at least they think that’s the case.”  

When you leave a system alone without challenging the status quo, changes do not occur. While the Republican party has encouraged traditional values, Democrats have an image that includes traits considered feminine to the traditionalist (empathy, compassion, and nurture). 

Simply put, the Democratic Party has prioritized the election of women, acknowledging the value that a woman and also a mother’s voice brings to the table. 

Representation matters

Let’s take a look at one of the powerful women currently holding a Senate seat, Nevada’s Cortez Masto. 

In a Politico interview Masto stated, “If you’re going to ask voters to vote for you, you have to show up, and you have to engage.” 

Her voters see this, describing her as someone who is continuous and deliberate in outreach to the community. She represents women and Latin American women, providing a new perspective to the Senate. 

Her voice may be distinct from the status quo, but it represents a large portion of our American population. According to Catalyst, 18% of working women in the US identify as Hispanic or Latina. By 2060 that number is expected to reach 27%. 

Representation matters. A government by the people and for the people must reflect the culture and values of those it is representing. Democratic women understand this, they stand up and say here is my voice, let me use it for you. Empathy and presence are their strength. 

Women win big in democrat primaries

“There is some scholarly evidence that voters tend to perceive female politicians as more liberal than men,” said David Hopkins, a Boston College political scientist. “This perception makes it harder for women to win votes in Republican primaries when running against male opponents, because the ideological nature of the Republican Party leads its voters to treat the relative conservatism of the candidates as an important consideration in making electoral choices.” 

There is a clear gender gap in political lines. As men migrate toward the “traditional” values of the Republican Party, women have been steadily migrating to the Democratic Party since the election of Ronald Regan.  

Women win big in Democratic primaries because the women voters are showing up for them. 

Democratic women are included in a party that has prioritized their rise. While the climb is still more difficult for female than male Democrats, it is doable with plenty of people willing to financially back and vote for them. Something most GOP women politicians do not get. 

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