Podcasts and Radio Interviews

She Said, She Said

Jennifer talks with She Said/She Said about her career, about perfection, about collaboration, and why it’s ok to cry. She also talks about the most common misconceptions that can prevent a woman from stepping up to run for office. She is authentic, informative and insightful and while she may have a personal political bias, she checks it at the door as it relates both to her research and to her passion for increasing the number of women in elected office from both sides of the political aisle.

A Surge of Women Running For Office

Some are calling this the 2018 version of the Year of the Woman, with nearly 60 percent more women running for the House and Senate than in 2016.

But women candidates are still getting questions about how they'll juggle family responsibilities, where they'll get enough campaign money and how influential they can be once they're elected—the same questions that female candidates have been getting since the early days of politics.

There's also a question of lasting impact. Yes, in the days of Trump the number of women running for office has increased for the midterms but will that continue into 2020?

MPR News host Kerri Miller spoke to Jennifer Lawless, the director of women and politics at American University, about this surge. Miller also spoke to Jennifer Carnahan, chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, and Lauren Beecham, director of womenwinning (sic). Miller ask guests how women can maintain this momentum.

The 23%

When it comes to getting women into politics, Jennifer Lawless wrote the book on it -- literally.

She’s the director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University and the author of Running from Office: Why Young Americans are Turned Off to Politics and It Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don’t Run For Office.

Since Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election in November, there's been a revived and unprecedented movement to get more women involved in public service. Lawless says it makes her optimistic -- but only tepidly -- about the future of women in politics.

While seeking appointed office or working on campaigns is great, Lawless says now is the time for women to start thinking about putting their names on a ballot.

“There are some positions, policies, roles that only elected officials can play. With 500,000 elected positions in this country, someone is going to occupy them ... I find it really hard to believe there isn’t some issue or problem that you couldn’t make better by throwing your own hat into the ring,” she says.

That's What She Said

The Ezra Klein Show

There are 500,000 elected positions in the United States. I'll say that again: 500,000. And that's no accident. "Our political system is built on the premise that running for office is something that a broad group of citizens should want to do," writes political scientist Jennifer Lawless.

But Lawless's research reveals something scary — something that helps explain the political moment we're in. Participating in politics has begun to repulse the average America. 89 percent of high schoolers says they've already decided they will never run for office. 85 percent doubt elected officials want to help people. 79% don’t think politicians are smart or hardworking. And when good, normal people turn away from politics, the system breaks down. Well, be the change you want to see in the world.

This is an inspiring discussion, or at least I think it is. It's about the steps in political participation that come after Facebook posts and even marches. It's about how involving yourself directly in the daily work of politics is both easier and more meaningful than you might think. It's about the myths that keep people — and particularly keep women — from ever considering running for office. It's about recognizing that politics is much more than the presidency and the Congress, and that the opportunities it offers to make the world you live in a bit better are more numerous than you think.

Lawless practices what she preaches. She ran for Congress in Rhode Island, and her story of that race, as well as the best advice she got while running it, should not be missed.

Jennifer L. Lawless joins us for a discussion about why young people in America seem to be almost wholly uninterested in running for electoral office.


New Books in Political Science

The two conducted surveys of over 4,000 younger Americans. What they find is that their young Americans rarely think, talk or consider politics. While many seem to care about the world, this infrequently translates to running for office or aspirations to work in politics. They find: Just 11 percent of respondents said that they had thought about running office “many times” while 61 percent said they “never” considered it. Asked if various jobs paid the same, they find just 13 percent of respondents said they would want to be a member of Congress, versus 37 percent who chose business executive and 27 percent school principal; only 19 percent indicated that a future goal was to become a political leader. And less than 10% of respondents said that their parents would want them to pursue a job as a member of Congress, compared to around 50 percent for owning a business.