Explaining Trump

By Claude S. Fischer

Explaining how such an unfit candidate and such a bizarre candidacy succeeded has become a critical concern for journalists and scholars. Through sites like Monkey Cage, Vox, and 538, as well as academic papers, we can watch political scientists in real time try to answer the question, “What the Hell Happened?” (There are already at least two catalogs of answers, here and here, and a couple of college-level Trump syllabi.) Although a substantial answer will not emerge for years, this post is my own morning-after answer to the “WTHH?” question.

I make three arguments: First, Trump’s electoral college victory was a fluke, a small accident with vast implications, but from a social science perspective not very interesting. Second, the deeper task is to understand who were the distinctive supporters for Trump, in particular to sort out whether their support was rooted mostly in economic or in cultural grievances; the evidence suggests cultural. Third, party polarization converted Trump’s small and unusual personal base of support into 46 percent of the popular vote. Continue reading “Explaining Trump”

Tokyo’s First Female Governor and Japan’s Glass Ceiling

By Kumiko Nemoto

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Yuriko Koike, a former Japanese defense minister, became the first woman elected governor of Tokyo. The recent New York Times article “Breaking Japan’s Glass Ceiling, but Leaving Some Feminists Unconvinced” reported that voting for her, regardless of one’s political views, would be a revolutionary act because there are few women at the top in Japan. However, the article also noted that some Japanese feminists have expressed disagreement with Koike because of her conservatism.

In the election, some Japanese feminists opposed Koike for her conservatism and for being a right-wing militarist, and instead explicitly supported the male candidate, Shintaro Torigoe, who lacked an effective campaign and ironically struggled with an allegation of sexual assault by a female college student. Some also believe that Koike lacks enthusiasm about improving women’s social status. A subset of feminists in Japan also tend to be more concerned about issues confronting working-class women than those facing women in high positions.

Koike is known to be a core member of, or has had deep ties to, the nationalistic right-wing cult Nippon Kaigi (or Japan Conference), which has 38,000 members and is said to have, among its aims, the restoration of the status of the emperor; keeping women in the home; reducing Western notions of rights and equality; beefing up the military; removing the pacifist section from the Constitution; rewriting textbooks to follow a right-wing agenda; and rejecting Japan’s war crimes and sexual slavery comfort women. However, little is known about the group’s actual activities and degree of political influence. Continue reading “Tokyo’s First Female Governor and Japan’s Glass Ceiling”

A Cornerstone for Equality: Focusing on Women’s Global Political Empowerment

By Amy Alexander, Catherine Bolzendahl, & Farida Jalalzai

Since the mid-1990s, nations’ adoption of some form of quotas for women’s representation in national parliaments has swept the globe; more than 100 countries have a constitutional, legislative or party policy commitment to this. This is a powerful sign of the dramatic change in global formal commitments to gains in women’s political empowerment. Yet, simultaneously, nowhere do women hold equal power to men in influencing and exercising political authority worldwide. This story of recent gains and resilient barriers plays out daily in our news, and for good reason. These are all threads of a compelling story of women’s global political empowerment, a story that nearly universally begins with profound discrimination against women. Thus the recent world transformation, at least in formal commitments to women’s global political empowerment, can no longer be ignored and at the same time demands deeper inquiry into its promise and limits.

The UN has declared women’s empowerment as the third of its Millennium Development Goals. Within this broad charter, political empowerment is one of a variety of areas, often less fully articulated and studied in comparison to economic indicators. Yet, gains in women’s political empowerment directly decrease the role of gender inequality as an obstacle to incorporation as social and economic equals, and open, rather than close, the political domain to all members of society. Continue reading “A Cornerstone for Equality: Focusing on Women’s Global Political Empowerment”

Who’s Working in “Women’s Interests”?: Understanding Legislatures as Gendered Organizations

by Catherine Bolzendahl

A good chunk of work, my own included, suggests that electing more women to legislature matters for policy outcomes. Mostly, we’ve argued that it’s because women care more about issues seen as being in “women’s interests,” either because women have been socialized to care more about these issues, they face these issues more directly in their day-to-day lives, and/or that others (constituents/coworkers) expect women to care more. No doubt these processes are at work, but these explanations aren’t fully satisfying. They tend to focus on individuals, reify gender stereotypes, and don’t really help us make sense of other findings, especially in the U.S., that women legislators may have fairly little impact on policy outcomes. Continue reading “Who’s Working in “Women’s Interests”?: Understanding Legislatures as Gendered Organizations”