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Random Fluctuation Causes Crisis: No Major Increase In Female Politicians Likely
From the New York Times:
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
LOS ANGELES — There are 1.9 million women in Los Angeles. The two senators from California are women, as is the state’s attorney general.
But this city, a bastion of progressive politics, has a curious distinction these days. Only one woman holds elective office in the entire government of Los Angeles, a member of the 15-person City Council from the San Fernando Valley who was sworn in only on Friday.
The mayor is a man, Eric M. Garcetti, who defeated a woman, Wendy Greuel, for the job in May. The city attorney is a man. The city controller? You guessed it.
Los Angeles County, with a population of 9.9 million that includes Los Angeles, has just one woman on its five-member Board of Supervisors. And the race to fill the City Council seat for Hollywood, which Mr. Garcetti vacated when he was elected mayor, gave voters a choice of 12 candidates — all men.
Los Angeles, especially the hilly section like Garcetti's old district, has a lot of gay men, but it's a lousy place for lesbians: too expensive, and Los Angeles's straight women are far too obsessed with their looks to pay heed to lesbian feminist scolds. Beverly Hills Persian women, for instance, pay a lot of money to gay men for various luxuries, but they would also be about the last people on earth to take lesbians seriously. Vermont would be a lot more attractive to lesbians.
The overwhelmingly male lineup in local elected offices has caught many people here by surprise, overlooked in the general lack of interest in this year’s campaigns. And it has become a subject of considerable chagrin, civic embarrassment and impassioned discussions about exactly what happened.
“When I was in elementary school, there were like five women on the City Council,” said Nury Martinez, the city’s lone woman in elected office, speaking in her empty Council office at City Hall. “It’s a shame and embarrassing that in a city of four million people we are down to one woman.”
Eventually, Nagourney gets around to relating this non-story to something more interesting:
The case in Los Angeles might be particularly egregious, but the number of women holding office across the country has flat-lined in recent years.
“Can you believe it?” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who works extensively with female candidates, including Ms. Greuel. “It’s part of a national trend. We are seeing this in a lot of places — in offices in statewide office, in a number of city councils. But it’s really shocking. That is a state that is very pro-women.”
The situation here has caught the attention of national women’s advocacy groups, including Emily’s List, which is planning to begin a training and recruitment campaign here aimed at enlisting women to run for office.
“We do not want to see any city without equal representation of women — and in this case, we are really, really off, “said Stephanie Schriock, the president of the organization.
Katherine Spillar, the head of the Feminist Majority Foundation, called the situation “shocking.”
“I’m very concerned,” she said. “We have gone backwards instead of forwards. Shame on Los Angeles.”
To some extent, the gender lineup at City Hall is an anomaly, the result of the natural ebb and flow of electoral politics. Ms. Greuel, the previous city controller, had to leave her position because of term limits — in this case, to run unsuccessfully for mayor. She would have been Los Angeles’s first female chief executive.
Several analysts suggested that the sheer number of women in high elected office in California had inured voters to the issue, and blunted what might otherwise have been a historical urgency to Ms. Greuel’s campaign.
I've met Wendy Greuel. She's a nice lady. But, "historical urgency" is hardly the first term that she inspires.
There is no reason to expect the situation to change significantly any time soon; few obvious female candidates are on the horizon. Indeed, to a large extent, the issue here and across the country reflects a lack of interest on the part of many women in seeking office, political analysts said.
“The issue isn’t that voters won’t vote for women — it’s that we don’t have enough women running,” Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said in an e-mail. “It’s a recruitment issue.”
In one measure of the representation of women in state and local government, 73 women hold elected statewide positions across the nation, or 23 percent of available positions, according to the center. That is almost identical to the percentage reported in 1993. The figure then increased through 2001, to 28 percent, but has been in a steady decline over the past 12 years, the center said.
The current surge in these kind of feminist bean-counting articles is an artifact of the 2012 Obama campaign reinflating old feminist resentments for the sake of increasing turnout among Obama's core supporters, who are America's fringe voters.
But the reality is that nothing much is going on in terms of gender trends. The current feminist era began 44 years ago, and by a couple of decades ago, most of what was going to change had changed.