“We’re meeting, getting to know each other on a personal level,” Ayotte told MSNBC. “Certainly on Monday night, there was frustration on both sides of the aisle: ‘Let’s get this resolved for the American people.’”
Some of the women reflect the politics of their home regions, swing states like New Hampshire that oscillate in their voting habits. Republican senators like Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska come from states that also elected senators from other parties; so do Democrat senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
But let’s be honest. There are inherent gender differences. Women are better at working and playing with others. As Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, puts it, when women cooperate, “it’s much less about ego and more about problem-solving.”
Women also share life experiences that help shape their approach to politics. “We’re all used to balancing family budgets and dealing with children that are bullies and misbehave,” Stabenow told MSNBC. “And so sometimes that comes in handy.”
For most of our history women were virtually invisible on Capitol Hill. It’s stunning to realize that of the 44 women who have ever served in the Senate, almost half are there today. The first 13 female senators were appointed to replace their husbands, and the first woman to be elected on her own was Nancy Landon Kassebaum, who didn’t arrive until in 1978.
Since women comprise 53 percent of the electorate, 20 percent of the Senate is still a dismally low figure. Still, it represents real progress, a critical mass in terms of numbers and experience. Many are proven political players — Shaheen was New Hampshire’s governor, for example, while Ayotte was the state’s attorney general. So when the guys try to push them around, they know how to push back.
Steve and Cokie Roberts can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.