It has been said that 1992, the year that four women were elected to the U.S. Senate and seventeen women were elected to the U.S. House, was the “Year of the Woman.” If that is the case, then it is appropriate to call 1998 the Year of the Woman Voter.
As we approach the 21st century, this is an exciting time for American women because they are making great strides and transforming the conventional beliefs of only a few decades ago. Not only do more and more women hold public office, they also compose more than half of the electorate and have the ability to alter the political landscape in a single election.
Since the early 80s, America has made significant progress in electing women to public office. The total number of women serving in Congress, for example, has nearly quadrupled since 1979. Seventeen women served in the 96th Congress, with sixteen elected to the House and one to the Senate. Today, fifty-four of the current 434 members of the House and nine of the 100 Senators are women. Similarly, eighty-two women today hold statewide elective executive offices across the country. That’s 25.4 percent of the available positions. These trends reflect not only the changing attitudes of the American electorate to women holding office but also the fact that women are opening doors for other women.
The increased presence of women is not limited to politics. Today, women are a powerful force in virtually every aspect of life. Women are starting businesses at twice the national rate, employing over 18.5 million people (more than the Fortune 500 companies combined worldwide). More and more women are becoming neurosurgeons, astrophysicists, Supreme Court justices, stockbrokers, and school superintendents. Women are making 80 percent of all consumer decisions and 75 percent of the health care decisions in this country. Girls are being taught that there are no limits to what they can achieve–that their opportunities are endless.
With increasing numbers of women seeking and achieving higher levels of office, and women making a greater mark on public life in America than ever before, the novelty of women in elected office is wearing off. Gender is playing less of a role and issues are, once again, at the forefront of debate. This is good news for women and indeed for all Americans.
So, then, why are liberal-leaning groups continuing to focus their efforts on simplifying the varied and complex beliefs of intelligent women–especially the beliefs of young professional women? Americans are continually being led to believe that women have a separate set of “gender-specific” issues, and that these “women’s issues” take precedence over other matters and determine how women vote. Have women not come too far in their pursuit for equality to be categorized now as a distinct group of people with narrow goals–which serve as litmus tests to their political attitudes and voting behavior?
To be sure, women value certain issues more than others, such as their children’s education, neighborhood safety, and the accessibility of quality, affordable health care and child care, because these issues effect their day-to-day life. As mothers, wives, professionals, and citizens, women are continually striving to balance the competing demands of work and family and improve the quality of their life.
But, issues are issues. They are gender neutral. Issues impact the lives of every American, man or woman. Tax relief is beneficial for men and women because it enables all taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned dollars and have control over their own spending priorities and independence. The education of America’s children–the future–is significant to the lives of all Americans who gain from an informed, educated society. Eliminating crime and drugs from local communities gives every woman, man, and child a greater sense of security. And abortion impacts more than just the life of the woman involved.
I am in favor of a responsible, efficient federal government that spends less of this great nation’s tax dollars and leaves more in the pocketbooks of hard-working Americans who are better suited to act in their best interest. I favor free and open trade in an increasingly global marketplace that relies on the economic prosperity of all developing countries. I believe that local control of education is more effective than a centralized system that spends more on bureaucrats than on students and teachers. I believe in equality through empowerment, not entitlement, and I view the government’s role as a limited partnership whose purpose is to give a hand up not a hand out. I value integrity and personal responsibility and believe that America’s greatness comes from its people.
Does every person with two X chromosomes feel the way I do? Probably not. And I am certain that a cure for breast cancer, access to contraception, and wage equity all affect the lives of men in one way or another–or at least they should. The point is that my convictions are based on who I am–a young American professional who was raised in a generation that was taught that women could achieve any dream they set for themselves. The liberal notion and tactic of classifying women as a special interest group is insulting because women of Generation X are limited neither by the traditional beliefs of their predecessors nor the political correctness of their contemporaries or successors.
Conservatives can appeal to women, especially young professional women, by talking seriously about the content of issues and by communicating that content in a way that is personally relevant to their lives.
The upcoming election may mark 1998 as the “Year of the Woman Voter” because women have an opportunity–or even greater, a responsibility–to go to the voting booths and elect those whose ideals that we, as Americans, hold dear rather than follow a pre-determined voting path.