By Amelia Lim

At a Newswomen’s Club and Bloomberg panel on women and the midterms, one panelist was Republican, the other a Democrat. But while in disagreement of political party, they still agreed on the difficulties women candidates face even after being elected, and the need for more support among women in politics.

“These are dark times for women in our electorate,” said panelist Margaret Hoover, 40, moderate Republican and host of PBS’ Firing Line. Her democratic counterpart Karen Finney, sitting cross-legged to Hoover’s left on the Bloomberg headquarters’ stage in Manhattan, nodded in agreement. “Better decisions get made when we have a seat at the table,” said the 51-year-old former Senior Advisor for Communications and Political Outreach and Senior Spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Both clad in blue dresses (a coincidence Finney acknowledged by stage-whispering, “It’s the blue wave,” to the panel’s 50-person audience), the two panelists, moderated by Bloomberg Senior White House correspondent Margaret Talev, discussed on Oct. 30 what is at stake for women in the midterm elections, and its implications for 2020 and beyond.

The panelists compared the so-called 1992 Year of the Woman’s rise in women U.S. senators after the Anita Hill sexual allegations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, with today’s #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation following sexual allegations against him.

Since 1992, the numbers of women both running for office and elected to U.S. Congress has more than doubled. Is 2018’s wave of women candidates attributable to women’s anger with the Trump administration? Not exactly, Finney said. She emphasized that more women running for office stems from their drive and credentials.

Even when women are elected, they face obstacles climbing up the ladder of political leadership. According to Hoover, Attorney General races tend to be a stepping stone to governor—an obvious place for women to develop a bench, a term denoting a leadership role in government. It is an effective route in proving their worthiness to voters’ doubts of whether women can be “tough enough” and can keep people “safe,” said Finney, whose cousin Letitia James was elected as New York’s Attorney General Tuesday.  

The possibility of becoming a “backbencher” in Congress is also a very real concern, said Hoover, alluding to members of Congress who take a backseat in political party leadership. She cites New York Democratic congressional nominee and youngest woman ever elected to Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who is “going to need help” finding her voice in the House. Finney agreed. According to her, with the midterm elections now behind us, what is needed now is stronger support between women in politics.

“Women kind of suck at supporting each other,” Finney said, smiling. “We have to get better. We have to start backing each other up at meetings.”