Many have asked this question for decades, even centuries: Why are women not represented in the American political system? Typically, the answer is that a combination of factors stop women from running, let alone winning. Common reasons given according to NPR and Vox are that women don’t think they are qualified, women are more often busy with childcare, there aren’t many female role models in office, and people are less likely to encourage women to run for office.
While these are intriguing and probably influential, I wonder if we should flip the question from why aren’t women represented by our political system to why our political system doesn’t represent women? Instead of simply telling women to get over our hurdles, is there a larger problem in our political system that deters a significant portion of our population from entry?
A recent Gallup study reported that, while some may have expected people to turn out in large numbers when dissatisfied with Congress, this was not the case in 2014 even though dissatisfaction stayed near all-time lows before and after the midterm elections. This could show any number of things, but I see dissatisfaction and inaction. Rather than engaging to change something or encourage others to run, most people turned out to vote for the same people they had been dissatisfied with.
Similarly, and more recently, studies from the University of Chicago after this year’s presidential election report that most people are dissatisfied with our political system and even report that the two-party system doesn’t seem to be working. Not only are Americans frustrated with our political system, but they don’t think its structure serves them well. Once again, however, along with this widespread dissatisfaction, how are we to change?
If our political system is neither working for women nor most people, isn’t there something wrong with our system? In asking this question, we perhaps introduce the very thing that could crumble it – doubt. Doubting any idea, any intangible substance makes us realize its true nonexistence. If this becomes widespread, the idea actually becomes nonexistent – the democracy of our democracy could become nonexistent. Perhaps some would say it already is. Some may wonder how, if the Constitution was written in 1776 for a country of 3 million according to the University of Washington, it could possibly support the 318 million today.
But, doubt also perpetuates the necessary questioning that continues betterment. Is that all the current tumult is? It feels so raw, but are the questions and anguish just part of the incremental betterment of the system we are a part of? Should we look past the faults and shine the flashlight of history through the doubt, reminding us of Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Ida B. Wells? Perhaps some day just a little better than today, we will be the ones in college students’ newspaper articles.