top of page

BLOG

Gender Discrimination: How Our Institution Could Improve

As the country that many on the global stage see as the beacon of freedom, prosperity, democracy, and equality, the United States of America's history is riddled with countless instances where citizens have fought to achieve true equality under the law, of which some marginalized groups are still fighting some two hundred and forty-seven years after our nation was founded. Of the many topics at the forefront of discrimination, gender discrimination has maintained a vast presence in our society regardless of the strides we have taken forward for women, the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups. However, the dynamic intersectionality between our governmental structure and multifaceted responsibilities has shaped the complex landscape of gender discrimination in our country, pinpointing the nuanced ways our policy is crafted, implemented, and oversight impact on the gender-based inequalities we see in our society. Using the Responsible Party Government theory, we dissect both United States political parties' positions, alignment, and likeness in their response to gender discrimination over time and outline the changes needed to change public trust in our institutions.

The Responsible Party Government theory outlines a positive theory of parties and, in today's political climate, a utopian theory of how our political parties should operate. For a party to adhere to the Responsible Party Government, according to the American Political Science Association, each must provide a "clear statement of party principles and position, nominate candidates who will adhere" to the platform that has been laid out, "communicate differences to voters during campaigns" to allow for adequate choice, "exercise discipline in office" and allow the electorate to assess the consequences to "...hold governing party responsible" for what they have achieved during their time in office (Krimmel, Lecture 5). Reduced to its core, the Responsible Party Government "...must be democratic, responsible and effective" (Toward A More Responsible Two-Party System 1). However, due to the political divide in the United States of America, these principles do not fully appear in both parties consistently over time and face a lack of cohesion or likeness concerning gender discrimination.

Like many issues in American politics, the vast umbrella of gender discrimination has encountered an evolution and extreme polarization between Democrats and Republicans. However, early in the 20th Century, both sides of the aisle shared the same sentiment on specific topics. In 1948, the Democratic and Republican party platforms brought forth the need for the "...submission of a constitutional amendment on equal rights for women" (US: Democratic Platform #Civil Rights: Gender Discrimination). Additionally, in 1972, each party promised to push to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and expand the "...jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission to include denial of civil rights on the basis of sex" (US: Republican Platform #Civil Rights: Gender Discrimination). Just eight years later, in 1980, it would mark the last cohesive platform similarity with the acknowledgment that Social Security needed to be adjusted due to the bias against women.

Through careful examination of each party platform, both the Democrats and Republicans would veer into the polarization of many gender topics, including abortion, marriage equality, and LGBTQ+ rights. Following the landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion appeared in both 1976 party platforms, creating the foundation of a divide in the parties still seen today. While the Democrats recognized the "...religious and ethical nature of the concerns which many Americans have on the subject of abortion," the Republican party lambasted the Supreme Court decision while pushing for an "...enactment of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children" (US: Democrat Platform #Civil Rights: Gender Discrimination, US: Republican Platform #Civil Rights: Gender Discrimination). This fight would become a cornerstone of the Republican platform with inclusion from 1976 to 2016 and the Democrat platform for one election cycle following the decision of Roe v. Wade before becoming a permanent fixture from 1992 to 2016.

Comparative to the stark contrast between parties on abortion, marriage equality is another standout policy issue that underlines the vast difference in policy and platform between parties regarding the umbrella of gender discrimination. While gay individuals have played a part in our society since the beginning of time, same-sex marriage first appeared on the Republican platform in 1992 as one singular line, "We oppose any legislation or law which legally recognizes same-sex marriages and allows such couples to adopt children or provide foster care" (US: Republican Platform #Civil Rights: Gender Discrimination). Gradually, their rhetoric around the sanctity of marriage increased every election cycle to a total of twelve instances in 2012. However, the Democrats, on the other hand, would only mention marriage equality five times in a span of eight years and drastically shift from marriage as a state-level issue to that of the federal level with their support for the "...full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act" (US: Democrat Platform #Civil Rights: Gender Discrimination).

Besides the few instances where the parties align on issues under the umbrella of gender discrimination and the vast differences in abortion and marriage equality, the Democrat and Republican platforms do not always stake out alternative positions on every significant issue. Some issues, like the Equal Pay Act, tend to kick the can down the road, so to speak, with a consistent drive for equal pay from the Democrats. However, they do not provide a solution other than mentioning that they "...will modernize the Equal Pay Act" in 2008 (US: Democrat Platform #Civil Rights: Gender Discrimination). On the opposite side of the aisle, Republicans ceased to mention equal pay in their platform in 1988, after only nine inclusions since 1948. By neither party genuinely adhering to the Responsible Party Government theory idea of a "clear statement of party principles and position" or "communicate differences to voters during campaigns," effectively, they run the risk of alienating the electorate (Krimmel Lecture 5).

Outside of the party platforms published by the Republicans and Democrats, the State of the Union speech given by the current President also provides a nuanced perspective on the critical issues at stake in our democracy. Though women's issues appear the most when analyzing eight current or former Presidents, none actively align with change, passed legislation, or party platforms (US: SOTU #Civil Rights: Gender Discrimination). One could argue that though the President is the head of their political party, the lack of congruent messaging underlines that the party does not adhere to the principles of Responsible Party Government. By lacking effectiveness, it, in turn, lowers the public opinion that something is changing instead of making it seem as if it is. Action equals change, and change ignites the electorate. Without that spark, the sitting party risks being held accountable and removed from office due to the inaction on an essential issue like gender discrimination.

As discussed, the polarization of issues under the umbrella of gender discrimination between parties and the likeness between the Democrats and Republicans has seen very few instances where the parties seem to align on a vote in Congress. Analyzing the roll call data for gender discrimination, only five times in the recorded history from 1950 to 2014 did the likeness between parties exceed the threshold of ninety-five percent (Krimmel Roll Call Data for Papers - Fall 2023). The five notable instances of likeness include the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Proposed Equal Rights Amendment in 1970, and the Helms Amendment Bans Abortions in 1982 (US: Roll Call #Civil Rights: Gender Discrimination). Of these, the latter two provide further insight into the interparty politics at play within each of the political parties. As though the likeness is high between the parties, the individual cohesion within each party is heavily divided due to the variation of opinion on the subject of the bill in question.

Additionally, by taking an inward look at each party's voting behavior on bills that fall under the umbrella of gender discrimination, it is apparent that within their own party, cohesion is not a guarantee like we have come to see in more recent votes in Congress, where the entire party votes the same way. However, from the data, both parties have a comparable percentage of cohesion below the sixty percent threshold. Republicans have twelve votes, or thirty percent, under sixty percent, while the Democrats have thirteen votes, or thirty-three percent, respectively. This divide found in both parties underlines the difference of opinion within each party from the extremely polarizing issues that can be found within the umbrella of gender discrimination. Comparatively, it proves that most of the time, both parties have a greater cohesion in their position than not.

From each party's platforms, the President's State of The Union speech, cohesion, and likeness between parties, it is apparent that both parties only align with the Responsible Party Government theory at various times in history due to how it will elevate their party leading to or in an election year.   However, one can theorize that due to the very polarizing issues that arise from the umbrella of gender discrimination, each party actively chooses to align with the Responsible Party Government theory at specific times to avoid the possibility of driving members of their party away due to the line in the sand policies or proposals introduced by the party. This back-and-forth tug-a-war adherence underlines the American electorate's inability to trust our institutions and questions whether our democracy is even working for everyone instead of the few. When used effectively by the Republicans and Democrats, their actions help engage the electorate and push their position into the public consciousness, as seen following the overturning of Roe v. Wade or the years leading up to marriage equality.

At a moment in history when only sixteen percent of Americans "…trust the government to do what is right…," the time is now for Democrats and Republicans to subscribe more to the Responsible Party Government theory in order to restore confidence in our institutions (Public Trust in Government: 1958-2023). Using the Responsible Party Government theory as the framework moving forward, both parties would help strengthen our democratic institutions and increase stability both internally and externally, thus hopefully increasing confidence across the board. Additionally, providing the American electorate with a straightforward, coherent platform or policies every year will allow Americans to maintain informed decisions and educated votes that will hopefully lead to increased voter engagement at the same time. Without the Responsible Party Government theory, both parties will continue to perpetuate the same incongruent path that lacks unified decision-making, an inability to hold party leaders accountable, and ineffective representation that drives the electorate to lose trust in their elected officials, the institution, and democracy. Alternatively, the American Political Science Association reduces the claim to its finest point, "Doing nothing is no help when something ought to be done" (Toward A More Responsible Two-Party System 91).

While many see the United States of America as a beacon of freedom, prosperity, democracy, and equality from the outside, an inward perspective outlines the many remaining faults and inequalities. Though many strides have been made concerning issues under the umbrella of gender discrimination, much progress remains to achieve for women, the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups to be fully protected in our country. By dissecting the Republican and Democrat positions, alignment, and likeness, we uncover the shortcomings of each party and the inability to always adhere to the Responsible Party Government theory. While neither party is consistent in their adherence to the theory, with little effort by both parties, the electorate would reap the benefits of a complete understanding of the party's position that could provide more straightforward decision-making on issues at the ballot box. With the dynamic intersectionality between our governmental structure and multifaceted responsibilities, we can shape the complex landscape of gender discrimination in our country and ultimately create a brighter, more equal future for all by adhering to the Responsible Party Government theory.




Works Cited


Krimmel, Katherine. "Lecture 5." American Political Parties, 20 Sept. 2023, Columbia University, New York, NY. Course Lecture.


Kimmel, Katherine, Roll Call Data for Papers - Fall 2023. 20 Sept. 2023. Microsoft Excel file.


"Public Trust in Government: 1958-2023." Pew Research Center - U.S. Politics & Policy, Pew Research Center, 19 Sept. 2023, www.pewresearch.org/politics/2023/09/19/public-trust-in-government-1958-2023/.


"Toward A More Responsible Two-Party System: A Report of the Committee on Political Parties." HathiTrust, American Political Science Association, 28 Dec. 2022, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015082032817&view=1up&seq=1.


"US: Democratic Platform #Civil Rights: Gender Discrimination." Comparative Agendas, http://www.comparativeagendas.net/tool. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.


"US: Republican Platform #Civil Rights: Gender Discrimination." Comparative Agendas, http://www.comparativeagendas.net/tool. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.


"US: Roll Call #Civil Rights: Gender Discrimination" Comparative Agendas, http://www.comparativeagendas.net/tool. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.


"US: SOTU #Civil Rights: Gender Discrimination." Comparative Agendas, http://www.comparativeagendas.net/tool. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

Comments


Commenting has been turned off.

When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece. – John Ruskin

bottom of page