The Goal of Gender Parity in Elected Office Is as Dumb as It Is Insulting

The Fargo City Commission

Voters in North Dakota have no problem casting ballots for female candidates. We know this because women routinely win elections at the state and local levels.

It’s absolutely true that there are more men then women in elected office in our state. But then it’s also true that a lot more men than women choose to run for office in the first place.

When the right woman comes along for the job that woman gets votes from North Dakotans.

Yet some literally argue that we’re supposed to vote for females because they’re female. And when certain female candidates lose elections, we’re told that it’s sexism. Case in point, the bellyaching over female candidates losing in the recent Fargo City Commission race:

FARGO – Another election cycle has passed with no women winning seats on the all-male Fargo City Commission. Three women – Arlette Preston, Linda Boyd and Liz Maddock-Johnson – campaigned but were unsuccessful in Tuesday’s election.

Preston worries that the lack of female leadership could send a message to young girls that achieving elected office is unattainable. She said women bring things to the table that men don’t.

I would hope that young girls in North Dakota would look to the women who are already elected to public office in our state – from our junior U.S. Senator to our State Treasurer to one of the three members of the Public Service Commission – to see that women can win elections here.

According to Boyd, specifically, the gender of the men who are on the city commission is an impediment to their ability to govern effectively:

Boyd, another former commissioner, said it’s an absolute advantage to have a woman on the board, and that it’s important to have gender diversity and other kinds of diversity as well.

“I think five middle-aged, white guys is not a representation of our community,” she said.

I wonder if Boyd would be comfortable criticizing the race of a governing body made up of mostly minorities?

It’s an honest question worth considering, because you cannot imply that voters should cast their ballots for diversity without suggesting that those voters consider things like race and gender. And if we open that can of worms, how is voting for someone because they’re a woman (or a racial minority, etc., etc.) any different from voting against them for those same reasons?

It’s not, really. In each instance we are asked to prioritize things like competence, accomplishments, and governing philosophies behind the color of their skin or which set of sexual organs they might be sporting.

That’s wrong. It’s also stupid.

Consider, again, the Fargo City Commission race. The issue of special assessments loomed large in the race, as did things like city spending. Should voters have cared more about achieving gender balance on the commission than they did about selecting the candidates they feel would best address those issues?

That’s what those obsessed with identity politics ask us to do.

I hope there are not voters who vote against candidates because they’re female, but I’m not so naive as to believe that those sort of people don’t exist in our imperfect world. Yet to the extent that’s a problem – and I’m not sure it’s a problem to the extent that some like to think – how are we solving the problem by asking voters to engage in a different flavor of discrimination?

I think we should encourage more women to run for public office. I want women interested in public service to know that it’s an option for them. But I hope, when those women do run for office, they can do so with the knowledge that the votes for them are about things more meaningful than their gender.

At the ballot box vote for ideas. Vote for philosophies. Vote for competence. Don’t vote for identity.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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