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Chester County Press

Editorial: The Houlahan Factor

01/22/2019 01:37PM ● By Richard Gaw
When Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania's 6th Congressional District campaigned for and won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives last fall, the impact of her victory transcended party politics in Chester and Berks counties, and became a grander part of a movement that saw the midterm elections of 110 women to Congress.

The stunning results saw the election of Republicans and Democrats to seats in the House and Senate, that included the first Native American woman, Muslim woman, Somali-American woman, openly LGBTQ woman, youngest woman and even included an African-American woman who represents Massachusetts, a state that has for several decades been a hotbed of racial unrest.

While these elections have become the latest touchstone of change, they may also be the most important in U.S. history. These newly-elected officials arrive at a time when our country is buried in a new Civil War, where bullets have been replaced by boots-in-the-ground partisanship, and a rhetoric of ugliness that has pulled at the nation's seams and threatened to leave us all in a tattered pile of string.

A daily page turn of our modern media documents the growing volatility of the argument, festering like a wound that will never heal, and brought to us from the voices of men – mostly white men – who cling to the halls of power and influence for just those purposes alone.

At first, the election of these 110 women seem to indicate the public's acknowledgment that the center of our nation was not holding, and that a dramatic change was needed, but look closer. Examine these elections for what they clearly represent and they will reveal in plain truth what has been forcefully mismanaged in this country for the past two centuries, and has galvanized to such levels of empowerment that it simply can not be held back.

This last election has, once and for all, proven that the glass ceiling has finally been shattered.

The future of governance in this country should be – and will be – led by women.

It's for all of the right reasons. In a newly-published analysis of the 151,824 public bills introduced in the House between 1973 and 2014, women legislators were significantly more likely than their male counterparts to sponsor bills in areas like civil rights, health and education. Research has also proven that women legislators sponsor more bills and pass more laws that benefit women in the workplace and infuse more money back into their districts than their male counterparts.

Women legislators bring nine percent more federal money to their districts in the form of bills that are likely to benefit women and children, and address issues like education, health and poverty, women's health coverage and legislation that tightens sexual harassment laws.

A look at Houlahan's brief time in the House proves that she is in full step with these and other issues. She serves as the Freshman Leadership Representative to the New Democrats Coalition, a solution-oriented group committed to pro-economic growth, pro-innovation, and fiscally responsible policies, that want to bridge the gap between parties to achieve partisan methods of governing.

An Air Force veteran, Houlahan is also a member of the With Honor, a bipartisan organization of new veterans committed to creating a more effective, less polarized form of government.

It is less than one month into the terms of these 110 women, a temporary honeymoon period that will eventually lead to a full assessment of their effectiveness as leaders. And yet, their position in Washington, D.C. is already airborne, on the backs of their diversity, ethics and a commitment to helping cultivate a more diverse culture.

Why it took so long to establish an equal playing field between men and women remains one of our nation's most compelling indecencies, but in the halls of Congress, the glass ceiling has finally fallen in the Rotunda. While it is fundamentally right to embrace this change, it is also sound principle to assess its performance in the coming months and years. They have inherited a nation broken down by the incivility of its voice, and the future of how that voice will resonate rides on their ability to repair it.

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