Home > Montana, Social issues > Catching up

Catching up

Since I’ve been gone for the past week, I’ve missed some things. One of those things is a flyer for Tracy Velasquez that was distributed in Bozeman. New West has a story and a picture of the flyer. Velazquez has a response here.

The flyer is pretty bad. I understand what Velazquez was going for; she wants to highlight women’s issues. The flyer, however, is a terrifically bad attempt at it. Rather than running on women’s issues, she’s running on gender. There’s a big difference. The flyer groups Republican and Democratic representatives together, voting record and positions be damned. It’s identity politics. The New West story makes this point pretty well:

Observers say it’s an obvious ploy by Velazquez to encourage X chromosome voters to vote for her because she, like them, is a woman. But is it a tactic that will energize Democratic voters or turn them off? Is it politically correct to use gender as a wedge issue when it is considered offensive to similarly try and part voters along issues of race, religion and sexual orientation? “As a woman, I’m offended,” said a voter who, until the flyer arrived, had been undecided.

Velazquez makes this point in her defense:

I understand my opponent thinks women’s issues don’t matter to my house district. Perhaps he doesn’t understand that here in Montana, and in America, there is a lot in play this time around that women would like a say on. Some of these issues include:

Is it divisive to say that women deserve representation? Not any more than it’s divisive to say that race and class played a role in the pitiful response to Hurricane Katrina. These are tough issues. And, unfortunately, this is a zero-sum game: nineteen more women every two years to get to a 50-50 Congress by 2020 means nineteen less men every two years.

I realize that ellipse cuts out most of the substance of her response, but I’ll get to it in a second. It seems like Velazquez wants to claim that women can’t be represented by men. Which is rather absurd. The ellipse cuts out examples in support of her claim that women are not properly represented. She lists this, for example,

-Values. There is a gender gap in America when it comes to what men and women believe on important issues. A January 2006 Gallup Poll showed that 62% of American women, versus 53% of men, want our troops to come home from Iraq by the end of 2006. Only 34% of women approve of President Bush’s handling of Iraq, compared with 53% among males; three-fifths of women disapprove of Bush’s handling of the economy, while only half of men disapprove. (Bloomberg, April 2006). In a separate February 2006 poll, 64% of women are dissatisfied with the direction the country is going, compared with 53% for men. The fact is, women see the world a little differently than men – and we deserve to have women representing our world-view.

I think she’s taking a good point about gender differences and extrapolating it incorrectly. 47% of males agree with the 67% of females on Bush’s handling of Iraq. Which suggests we can find males that agree with females on this issue. And that’s the important point. It’s more likely for a female candidate to agree with other females on the issues, but that doesn’t really matter when we’re looking at individual candidates. We can compare Phillips and Velasquez and decide who to vote for without basing our vote on what gender they are. Perhaps if you’re a male you’re more likely to agree with Phillips and if you’re female you’re more likely to go with Velasquez. It’s just that that’s irrelevant when you’ve looked at each candidate and compared their views to your own. We’re looking at overall numbers here. If a woman looks at her current representative and sees that she agrees with him, is she still not properly represented because he’s a man and she’s not? Taking the focus off the issues and putting it on gender leads to that conclusion.

Velasquez’s points are reasons for encouraging more women to run as candidates. They’re reasons for making people who don’t already take women seriously as candidates do so. But they do not allow us to ignore the merits of individual candidates in favor of voting by gender. Nor do they justify the inflammatory nature of the flyer. The other side of the flyer is on the right track. Too bad this side has overshadowed it.

Categories: Montana, Social issues
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: