Unapologetic progressive. Fearless activist. Plucky liberal.

17 Percent

Women make up 51 percent of the population of the United States. However, they make up just 17 percent of Congress.

In case you’re not paying attention, that disparity is not something to be proud of. Countries such as Rwanda, Nepal, Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan and China—not exactly known for progressive stances on women’s rights—have a higher percentage of women in their national parliaments than the United States does.

And come Nov. 3, the picture might be even more dire. According to an analysis at Daily Kos, women of both parties are at risk of losing their races, and the worst-case scenario is a loss of 11 women in both chambers. When there are only 90 to start with, such a loss is devastating.

This can’t be taken as anything other than a call to action. It’s unconscionable that men have such a disproportionate role in decision-making, on both the state and national levels. We must act to encourage and support more female candidates.

The 2012 Project is doing just that. A campaign of Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, the 2012 Project aims to recruit women of all political stripes from underrepresented fields to run for office. It is focusing attention on women older than 45, who usually have more experience in their professions and whose families are grown.

For the record, I do believe women of both parties should have seats at the table. However, they should be women in the vein of Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Elizabeth Dole, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Although I don’t always agree with their views, they have put in decades of service in their careers. I’m not in favor of nominating candidates such as Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell or Sharron Angle, who all seem to be running for office on a lark and never name any actual policy ideas. Sarah Palin didn’t serve even a full term as governor of Alaska, and make no mistake: She quit not because her “celebrity” was becoming a distraction to the office but because she could make more money by traveling the country giving speeches. Most politicians have a talent for equivocation, but Palin raises it to an art form. She has such a loose grasp of reality that blogger Andrew Sullivan (who is no liberal) of “The Daily Dish” has a regular segment called “The Odd Lies of Sarah Palin.” Those lies number in the 40s now. She also refuses to communicate except via Fox News, Facebook or Twitter—and Republicans are seriously considering her as a candidate for 2012?

Christine O’Donnell seems to have a similar problem with the truth. She can’t quite figure out from what college—or when—she graduated. During a debate with opponent Chris Coons, she couldn’t name a Supreme Court case she disagreed with. And this is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard a politician say:

O’Donnell warned about mice with ‘fully functioning human brains.’ “Now we’re using this to start cloning humans. … They are — they are doing that here in the United States. American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.’ [O’Reilly Factor, 10/16/07]

Sharron Angle is in close competition with O’Donnell for most extreme views of the 2010 elections. She has angered the local press in Nevada by refusing to speak with them. She calls news conferences where she gives speeches and walks away without answering a single question. She also doesn’t think it would be her job as a senator to bring jobs to her home state. She thinks rape victims who get pregnant should “turn a lemon situation into lemonade” by bearing their rapists’ children. She claimed that two American cities are under Shariah law—one the cities (Frankford, Texas) doesn’t even exist. The mayor of the other, Dearborn, Mich., wrote her a letter denying his city had been taken over by Islamic extremists. Angle is also against health care reform and, in some cases, existing health care law. She thinks that because she is too old to get pregnant again, she shouldn’t be responsible for paying for other women’s pregnancies. Angle also told a roomful of Hispanic students that “some of you look a little more Asian to me.”

These women are not examples of stellar candidates. However, there are many school board members, mayors, state representatives, governors, senators, even presidents out there just waiting to be encouraged to run. So talk to your mother, daughter, sister, wife, neighbor or best friend, and urge her to enter politics. All of us will be better off for hearing from more female voices.

And if you don’t believe me, read this: Why Women Make Better Politicians

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