What Progress Looks Like for GOP Women

Julie Conway | Jun 11, 2020

There have been hundreds of articles written since the 2018 election which have focused on the painfully small number of GOP women currently serving in the US House, most of which are now coupled with an emphasis on the record setting number of GOP women running in 2020. Any way you slice it, the current Congress does not adequately represent the diversity of this country. There are 101 women in the House, barely over 23% of the 435 seats.

While it is quite laudable, and frankly very exciting, that well over two hundred GOP women have stepped up to run, the reality is that it only matters if she is the shiniest candidate, significantly well-funded, runs a flawless campaign, AND if she is running in a District that is actually winnable in the Fall. The math is very simple. We could have a 1000 GOP women running this year, but at the end of the day only one candidate will survive a Primary in every seat. And then of course she only becomes a member of Congress if she has emerged in one the few open, safe, Republican seats, or if she beats the odds and topples a Democratic incumbent in one of the about 35 competitive races in the country. The harsh truth is that every cycle there are only a limited number of seats that are truly competitive – 2020 is no exception.

As someone working to elect more female Republicans, my excitement about our prospects is tempered by my fear that we are absolutely setting ourselves up for failure. The most GOP women ever elected in one cycle was 9 in 2010. Let’s for the sake of the argument say an incredible 18 Republican women (non-incumbents) win in November. This would be an unprecedented doubling of the most GOP women ever elected; a tremendous accomplishment. Yet, the narrative from those who equate true success with mathematical parity writes itself: “Despite a historic number of women running for Congress, the Republicans only manage to elect 18. The GOP continues to be dominated by white men.”

I also caution that for those who believe having more women in Congress is important, the success of GOP women this year will most certainly come at the expense of a number of Democrat women.  My hope is that instead of fixating on the number of women running and embracing that as the definition of success, the focus can shift to the quality of the candidate and what she brings to Congress. We already have some terrific GOP women who have become the nominee in a number of competitive Districts, with certainly more to come as the primary cycle winds down across the country. We will absolutely see an increase in the number of GOP women serving in the House. I only hope we can celebrate the progress and the quality of women elected, and not be drowned out by those who prefer to perpetuate a flawed premise that supports a narrow numbers-based storyline. After all, progress sometimes has to be gradual and I know that the meaningful efforts underway will move us closer to a Congress that represents the diversity of the county.

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