Why Democratic women are asking Nancy Pelosi to stay on as leader

A group of female Democrats circulated a letter urging Nancy Pelosi to stay on as House minority leader, to inspire women and girls following Hillary Clinton's loss.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File
In this Aug. 11, 2016 file photo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Several dozen female Democrats circulated a letter on Friday calling for Nancy Pelosi (D) of Calif., to stay on as House minority leader, citing a need for female leadership now more than ever.

“After everything that happened in this campaign, the defeat of Hillary Clinton is an especially heavy blow to the aspirations of young women and girls,” the Democrats wrote, as reported by The Hill. “They need to see the first woman Speaker – and every woman Member of Congress – standing firm in the halls of power, continuing the fight for their rights, their dignity, and their dreams.”

Their plea comes after Mrs. Clinton failed to win the bid to become the first US female president and as “women’s issues” such as abortion and social welfare remain high on the political agenda. Female representation in politics, while increasing, is still disproportionate to the US population. But experience has shown that having women in political power creates an environment of inclusiveness of viewpoints - and some say Mrs. Pelosi, an old-timer in Capitol Hill, can potentially encourage the trend by inspiring aspiring female leaders.

Pelosi has been described as the most powerful elected women in the country’s history, having spent 29 years on the Hill, four years as House Speaker, and is a proven fundraiser for Democrats. She also had an influential role in passing the Affordable Care Act.

During Mr. Trump’s campaign, when some of his remarks about women drew widespread anger, Ms. Pelosi was a vocal critic of the president-elect. But she extended her congratulations to Trump after his victory on Tuesday, urging Republicans to work with Democrats and find common ground.

While research shows that women politicians are not any more likely to be less partisan, as previously reported by The Christian Science Monitor’s Linda Feldmann, collaboration among women across the aisle has been credited for breaking gridlock and passing major legislation. The camaraderie between female senators have also been noted in regular dinners.

According to Feldmann:

The best-known example is the end of the 2013 government shutdown, when women senators from both parties met privately over dinner and fashioned a compromise that would form the nucleus of the final deal.

More recently, the women of the Senate – all 20 of them, dubbed “the sisterhood” – backed landmark legislation aimed at combating sex trafficking, which President Obama signed into law in May 2015.

When asked for other examples, Senator Shaheen cites the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. “It was considered dead,” she says, “and because all the women [senators] got on board and pushed it, we were able to get it through.”

Women still only hold 20 percent of the seats in Congress after Tuesday's elections, a number unchanged despite women constituting half of the overall population, as The Washington Post points out.

One bright spot lies in the US Senate, where the number of minority female senators will quadruple. The Senate has never had more than one minority female member. In January, the Senate  will seat Sen. Mazie Hirono (D) of Hawaii, the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate, and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois (the first Thai-American senator), Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada (the first Latina senator), and Kamala Harris of California (the nation's second African-American female senator). All are Democrats.

Despite some post-election internal wrangling in the party about whether some top Democrats, including Pelosi, should be giving way to younger leaders, the group that wrote the letter is determined that Pelosi should stay.

“Under your leadership, Democrats delivered historic progress in the lives of women, workers, students, veterans, seniors and LGBT Americans. Working with President Obama, we built an America that is more inclusive, more secure, more prosperous, and more just,” the group wrote, according to Politico. “With a President Trump and a Republican Congress, this hard-won progress faces its greatest challenge.”

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