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The Gender Gap in National Politics

by Professor Will Huhn on March 7, 2012

in Constitutional Law,Equal Protection,Wilson Huhn

Recent events including the introduction and defeat of the Blunt Amendment in the United States Senate and political commentator Rush Limbaugh's vicious attack on Sandra Fluke in the context of the debate over birth control have highlighted the extent to which the major American political parties have become polarized on gender issues, with women favoring the Democratic Party.  But this was not always the case.  Historically women identified more with the Republican Party.

Here is a historical perspective with data concerning the "gender gap" in national politics.


From the Historical Data page of the website Women in Congress:

The first woman to serve in Congress was Jeannette Rankin, Republican of Montana, who took office in 1917.

In 1950, the year I was born, nine members of the House of Representatives and one Senator were women.  That year five of the female members of Congress and the lone female Senator were Republicans.

In the 112th Congress 78 members of the House and 17 members of the Senate are women.  Of these, fewer than one-third are Republicans (24 of the House members and five of the Senators).

Supreme Court

From the Justices portion at Oyez:

The first female justice on the Supreme Court was Sandra Day O'Connor, who served from 1981 to 2006.  She was a Republican.  The second, third, and fourth women appointed to the Court are still serving: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993), Sonia Sotomayor (2009), and Elena Kagan (2010).  All three are Democrats.

Elections for President

There has never been a female President, but there has been a "gender gap" in presidential elections at least since 1928.  Before 1980 women either were neutral or favored Republican candidates for the presidency.  Jo Freeman in Gender Gaps in Presidential Elections notes that women strongly preferred Herbert Hoover in 1928 and Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.  Since 1980 women have favored the Democratic candidate for the presidency.  Freeman explains:

Historically, it was the Republican Party that was the party of women's rights, and the Democratic Party that was the home of anti-feminism. After the new feminist movement rose in the 1960s-70s, the parties switched sides.

The Center for the American Woman in Politics has published a Fact Sheet The Gender Gap: Voting Choices in Presidential Elections showing how men and women have voted in Presidential elections since 1980.  In 2008 women favored Barack Obama over John McCain by 7 percentage points.

Comparison to the African-American Civil Rights Movement

The movement of women from the Republican to the Democratic Party mirrors what occurred with  African-Americans.  The party of Lincoln was responsible for the Emancipation Proclamation and the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, and supported equal rights through the 1920s.  Warren Harding, for example, openly advocated equal rights, appointed African-Americans to federal positions, and supported the adoption of the Dyer Bill, an anti-lynching law.  After 1968 the Republican Party moved to the right on civil rights as it became reliant on southern and socially conservative white voters.  Meanwhile during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, First Lady Eleanor worked tirelessly for equal rights for African-Americans, and under the administrations of Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson the Democratic Party moved into the forefront in defense of equal rights on the basis of both gender and race.

Barack Obama's recent phone call to Sandra Fluke is reminiscent of Jack Kennedy's first phone call to Coretta Scott King.  In 2012, an African-American President called a white woman who was the victim of a despicable misogynist attack from a leading national commentator to reassure her that her parents should be proud of her.  In 1960 a white presidential candidate called the African-American wife of the leading figure of the civil rights movement, who had been arrested on trumped-up charges, to reassure her of her husband's safety.  Shortly after Kennedy reached out to Coretta King, Martin Luther King, Sr. told Morris Abram that he had thrown his support to the Democratic candidate because Kennedy had "called my daughter-in-law and wiped the tears from her eyes."  But that is a story worthy of a posting of its own.


larry d. March 7, 2012 at 9:57 am

The democrat party has been amazingly consistent. Gov't subsidized housing, subsistence checks and forced segregation have been their race-based calling card since Andrew Jackson's Trail of Tears. It should come as no surprise that they've been defining women in terms of the uterus for all these years, as well.

larry d. March 7, 2012 at 11:34 am

More good stuff from the progressives:

"Of course Bill Maher (and his Real Time panel) was going to have something to say on the controversial Bachmann Christian counseling clinic, but this much? Spurred on by a discussion of the clinic, Maher’s panel put together one of the raunchiest segments we’ve seen on his program…and for a show that’s on HBO and has done this, that’s saying something. And while it might have occasionally been uncomfortable to watch, it definitely wasn’t boring.

And it actually started somewhat seriously. Sex advice columnist Dan Savage had a strong message for the type of “therapy” the clinic appeared to employ: “You can’t pray away the gay, but you can torture a conflicted closet case to death.” And Maher ripped the clinic for receiving government money (through Medicaid) to practice “witchcraft” (what other Maher-related memories does that word bring back?).

…And then things started going off the rails. Comic Marc Maron shared a few thoughts on Marcus Bachmann, and the…appearance he gives off:

“I hope [he] takes all that rage that comes from repression and denial into the bedroom with her…and I hope he fucks her angrily, because that’s how I would.”

Even though it was his intention, Maron took things too far for us there: that line was just too reminiscent of this whole thing. And Savage seemed to recognize that not everyone might be thrilled with what Maron had just put out there, and so to fend off any potential allegations of sexism on the panel, he offered this:

“I sometimes think about fucking the shit out of Rick Santorum…I’m up for whipping up some Santorum in Santorum.”

larry d. March 7, 2012 at 7:07 pm

ord, this time in Alabama:

An Evening with Bill Maher

March 17, 2012 Chairman’s Reception at 7pm

Performance at 8pm

Come join Alabama Democrats at the Von Braun Center Concert Hall in Huntsville for an Evening with Bill Maher. 700 Monroe Street Southwest, Huntsville, AL 35801.

Tickets are $100 and include admission to the pre-event Chairman’s reception and prime seating at the performance.

Paid for by the Alabama Democratic Party. P.O. Box 950. Montgomery, AL 36101. (334) 262-2221. (800) 995-3386.

Do you think he'll drop the "c-bomb" on Palin? At $100 a plate, those Alabama progressives want to get their money's worth, I'm sure.

larry d. March 9, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Huffpost columnist Bill Maher just doesn't stop, does he?

larry d. March 10, 2012 at 1:06 am

Sorry to pick on Maher so much. Here's a good rundown of other prominent democrats and their misogyny. You've got to think its an integral part of the progressive ideology at this point.

larry d. March 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Another good one from the progressives. They look like the type to listen to crackpot law professors, don't they?

larry d. March 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Boy oh boy. Even I didn't understand how misogynistic progressives are. No one can out-hate them when it comes to women, and you've almost got to wonder at this point whether they've fallen into a Boss Limbaugh trap by opening up this ugly can of worms.

More from Democrat icon, Huffington Post columnist and prominent Obama supporter Bill Maher:

larry d. March 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Speaking of the Democrat War on Women, there was another OWS rape recently. How many is that, hundreds? How many rapes occurred during the Tea Party gatherings?

Or does actual rape not count?

larry d. March 14, 2012 at 7:13 pm

No wonder Obama wanted to nurture the "Arab Spring" so much. Turns out he's taking his War on Women global:

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