Mazie Hirono and Tammy Duckworth: Women Make History on Election Night
Barack Obama has been re-elected. I never dreamed of being able to write that the first time around and here we are discussing it again. No doubt, this was a hard-fought battle by the Romney campaign and it was a close margin of victory for the president in many of the battleground states. In a graceful concession speech, Romney, often criticized for the lack of inclusion in the Republican Party, called for a spirit of cooperation. Obama did the same as he spoke with hints of 2008 in his voice and delivery. He went back, in a way, to those big ideas he gave us in 2004 at the Democratic Convention and again in 2008 during his now famous "Yes we can" speech.
That optimism, that focus on inclusion and hope for cooperation, is reflected in the Democratic Party's stance on womens' issues and the 12 point win with female voters in the election. It is amazing to foreigners that the states have never had a female leader when countries that are often chastized for their treatment of women, have had leaders like Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, and Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson to name a few. Nearly every developed country on Earth has more female represenation that the states. Our Congress in general has had female representation for less than a century.
The tide feels like it's changing because of last night though. Sometimes a candidate wins and it is their race, their victory. Sometimes, though, you get a candidate whose victory and term in office is much bigger than just them:
Twenty women will join the Senate, the most ever. That means 1 in 5 Senators will be a woman, finally reflecting, in a small way, the fact that more women vote than men.
The first Asian American woman, Mazie Hirono (D-HI) was elected to the Senate. Not only that, but she is the first Senator have been born in Japan and is a Buddhist. A historic win for sure as Hirono says, "I bring quadruple diversity to the Senate."
Tulsi Gabbard, not to be outdone, was also victorious last night. She's also only 31, an Iraq War veteran, and won by a healthy margin in Hawaii's second congressional district. As if that wasn't enough she made history by becoming the fist Hindu to be elected to Congress. On a more personal note, this means a great deal to me.
As the battle over labor rights waged in Wisconsin, we watched a failed attempt to throw out Republican Governor Scott Walker. Add to that the fact that vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is also from Wisconsin and any Democratic victory in the state seemed unlikely. But, this election has been nothing if not full of the unlikely. Obama won Wisconsin's electoral votes and Tammy Baldwin will now be the new Senator from the state defeating, of all people, former Governor Tommy Thompson. Wisconsin has never sent a woman to the Senate. No state has ever sent an openly gay person to the Senate. Baldwin may have felt she ran '"to make a difference" and not to make history" but she did both last night.
What happens when a female Iraq War veteran loses both her legs and part of her arm in combat, comes home to painful physical therapy, runs for Congress in 2010 and loses? She gets back up, speaks at the Democratic National Convention, and wins. Tammy Duckworth is now the congresswoman-elect for Illinois's 8th congressional district. She handily defeated the infamous and ignorant Joe Walsh who seems to think that abortions are never necessary to save the life of the mother, much to the medical community's chagrin. What do they know, they are just doctors!
Todd Akin thinks women are pretty magical too. Maybe they are onto something given how enchanted an evening Claire McCaskill had in Missouri. It was a 'legitimate' victory decided a mere three hours after polls closed. McCaskill, the encumbernt, retains her seat in the Senate. During the Republican primaries, it is said that McCaskill's team targeted Akin to be the candidate with attacks on his opponents:
And then there is New Hampshire, the state that delivered the most interesting victory of the night. As it stands, this is representation of New Hampshire in addition their new governor-elect, Maggie Hassan. Just another unlikely moment that has changed the face of this country forever.