“Young Mom” Candidates Changing the Political Landscape

For several years, there has been a strong push in the United States to increase the number of women in local, state and national government. Many organizations have been working tirelessly for years to recruit, train and elect more women.

Emily’s List, whose focus is electing pro-choice women to congress and governor, has a Political Opportunity Program which provides guides and training to help qualified Democratic women run for office. The Susan B. Anthony List’s mission is to support anti-choice women, though they focus their training more on advocacy than on candidate training. These organizations, and others like the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority, are also working hard to fund women candidates.

Statistics show that an increase in women representatives shows a greater focus on policies that affect everyone. Inevitably, “women” issues such as reproductive rights and child care are put to the forefront when more women are elected. However, more legislation is introduced regarding economic policy, education, civil rights and the environment when women have a larger presence. There is also a substantial improvement in economic performance in countries where women hold key national leadership positions.

But first women have to be convinced to run.

The barriers for women to enter U.S. politics are numerous and complicated. Politics has become a profession and like any industry has its own rules of engagement. The nature of our system proves difficult for any newcomer to make a name for themselves, leading to the necessity to make alliances. There are generational political dynasties like the Kennedys of Massachusetts, the Bushes of Texas, or the Landrieus of Louisiana.  It’s not just who you know but who you are related to.

Of course, in America, there is also money.

There is a small group of people in our country that finance our political system. While many candidates have had success with small donations and grass roots fundraising (the greatest power of this was exemplified during President Obama’s first campaign for the presidency), most have to rely on large sums of money from deep pockets to really compete. Women candidates often lag behind their male counter parts for many of the same reasons female entrepreneurs don’t have the same access to funding, or women are paid less than men.

Then there is the sexism.

Obviously, men with young children have run for office successfully. No one asks them on the campaign trail who is taking care of the children because his wife is usually standing slightly behind him, smiling, holding the little one. In politics, the traditional role of the woman has been to support, not to run. Even then, there is an expectation of the ideal political wife. The two women most criticized for how they tried to modernize the role of First Lady were also the only two women with postgraduate degrees: Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.

Historically, women have always been at the forefront of the issues facing our country – just not in office. They were in the streets and, later, at the ballot boxes. Electing women has been a harder push, largely due to the cultural barriers about a woman’s role in society. Women that did get into office were often widowed, filling the seat of their husband. Their children were often out of the house already, if they had children at all. In the 1970s, that began to shift, with more women being elected on their merits and, more importantly, at a much younger age.

Their families were also younger.

The first woman to give birth as a sitting Congresswoman was California Representative Yvonne Brathwaite Burke in 1973. Since then, there have been more women with school-aged children serving in office. Still, on a national level, the number is still small, considering the nearly 100 women serving in Congress. Even in modern times, the bulk of the child rearing still falls on the mother, making certain aspects of legislating difficult on a young parent. Balancing late night feedings and late night votes that affect millions of people can be a daunting prospect for any young parent.

Today, women are kissing babies while holding their own.

Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers has had all three of her children while serving representing Washington’s 5th District since 2005. Democratic New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was elected while pregnant. In 2008, Sarah Palin gave birth to her youngest son shortly after winning her election as Alaska’s governor. That same year, California Representative Linda Sanchez was the first unmarried woman in Congress to get pregnant and give birth.

Their success is due in no small part to their very supportive partners — and great childcare.

The concerns of mothers with young children are much different than those mothers who are older and embarking on the “empty nest” stage of life. Today’s challenges are much more complex than those of our foremothers, and having current insight and experience is a much needed perspective when considering legislation. A young working mother may point out at a school board meeting the importance of strong after school care when looking at the budget. A mother who had to miss work because of sick children who couldn’t go to school understands the importance of paid sick leave.

This election cycle there are a number of women with young children running for state and national office. Democrats have nine candidates running for governor or Congress, though Republicans also have a number women with young families on the ballot. In the past, women have downplayed their family status, seeing it as a liability due to less than favorable views of working moms.

Now, they will say, “as a mom” when explaining their stance on an issue, a tactic not often taken by men. Women are highlighting their current motherhood status as a plus, giving them an important perspective into the issues their constituents will face.

52 comments

Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago

thanks

SEND
Jim Ven
Jim Ven9 months ago

thanks for sharing.

SEND
Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago

thanks

SEND
Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

SEND
Jonathan Harper
Jonathan H3 years ago

ty

SEND
Katie D.
Katie & Bill D3 years ago

Oh we all like to see this, give them credit for doing it.
Thank you

SEND
Paul B.
Paul B3 years ago

Allan, of course you would understand being a young single mother yourself.

SEND
Paul B.
Paul B3 years ago

It has to be tough to be away from your children so much. With your time split between DC and home, about half and half, I am not surprised more don't enter politics until children are out of school.

SEND
Janis K.
Janis K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Donnaa D.
donnaa D3 years ago

ty

SEND