[Note: This was submitted to the Herald-Leader but not published.]
If you want to fix Washington, elect women. It’s just that simple.
Many people are frustrated and deeply troubled by the bitter partisanship in the country and the widespread dysfunction in Washington that it has caused. There are all sorts of theories as to the cause, and lots of ideas about how to fix the problem (including mine). But the easiest and quickest way to fix Washington, to end the divisive partisanship, and to get government running properly again is to elect women.
When the government was shutdown in early October of this year, it was a bi-partisan group of women Senators who were able to work together and devise a plan that was marginally acceptable to both sides. This allowed Congress to fund the government and get it opened again. The Senators included Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Democrats Patty Murray of Washington, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Resolution of the budget impasse was just the most prominent example. According to a recent study, women are 31% more effective at advancing legislation in Congress than are men.
The success of women in government is not unique to the United States. According to some international studies, the more women in elected positions within a nation’s government, the fairer the political system, and the more effective the government. It is no coincidence that the nations with the highest standards of living – the Scandinavian countries of Europe – have the highest percentage of elected women in government, at just over 40%. Studies show that the more women in government, the more that rise to leadership in commerce and industry. This is important now that more women are college graduates than men.
The voters of Kentucky are fortunate to have a number of excellent female candidates running in 2014, particularly Alison Lundergan Grimes for Unites States Senate, and Elisabeth Jensen for Congress in the Sixth District in central Kentucky. Both are Democrats, as am I, so I realize that my reference may seem partisan. But that’s a problem for the Republican Party in Kentucky to address, not me. There are a number of intelligent, effective, and deeply conservative female politicians around the nation. This includes Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senatorial Candidate Liz Cheney of Wyoming, and Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. All are committed conservatives, but all have admirable track records of effectiveness. They are partisan, but not the hard edged, bitter and pugnacious partisanship of many male politicians.
I’m not suggesting that all women politicians are wise and effective, because they’re not. And I am not suggesting that women are not overly partisan, because clearly there are some women that are as divisive and mean-spirited as men. There are ineffective women politicians on both sides of the political aisle, and bitterly partisan women across the political spectrum.
But the reality is that, in the main, women have proven to be more interested in working on advancing policies than in fighting over ideas. They are willing to cooperate when necessary, and compromise when appropriate. The Republican Party would be well advised to find more competent female candidates. But in the meantime, the nation will benefit by electing those women who are running now.