Beyond the Punditry, an Optimistic View Into the Future of Reflective Democracy

Is it just me? Or does it seem like political pundits are like holiday decorations, promoting their political predictions earlier and earlier during and every election cycle. We're not even half way through 2015, and already, pundits are offering up predictions of the Senate seats that will switch parties, the state-by-state margin of victory of yet-to-be-nominated Hillary Clinton, and the likelihood of the "Bernie Sanders effect" on suppressing progressive Democratic votes.

I read these reports with sincere interest, but not because I'm interested in honing my skills as a political odds maker. In fact, I'm a bit tired of the horse race coverage of our democracy. My interest in this premature political prognostication stems from my commitment to and excitement about our evolution towards reflective democracy. Of course, at this point, the pundits don't share my interest, at least not explicitly, but hidden in the subtext of their punditry are the signs of a shift towards a political system that is more reflective of the diversity of our electorate.

Last week in a story about vulnerable Senate seats was clear evidence that at least some of the political gatekeepers of the Democratic Party are prioritizing women candidates as the top recruits in these hot and contested Senate races. For the Democrats, those potential frontrunners include six women: Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania, Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona, Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada. On the other side of the aisle, the Republicans are likely to tap New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte and Florida Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, demonstrating the GOP's interest in promoting candidates beyond white males.

Running does not guarantee winning, especially in expensive, high-profile U.S. Senate races, and that's why another story caught my eye recently. The story detailed the success of the Clinton campaign's effort to target women donors. Currently, women comprise 60 percent of the donors to the Clinton campaign, a record-level above the 47 percent of women donors reported by the Obama campaign.

What's notable about this effort is that it's not just reaching new political donors, it's activating new political fundraisers. Given that the cost of running for office is one of the most significant barriers to women and people of color successfully achieving elected office, this news is encouraging. We can only hope that the excitement for a woman president trickles down to interest in supporting the campaigns of women seeking to serve as mayors, school board members, and district attorneys. A profound shift in women's engagement in political giving has the potential to be a game changer in our march towards reflective democracy.

I don't want to over-state my optimism. The structures of our political system are slow to change. We still live in a country in which 90 percent of our elected officials are white and 71 percent are men and 65 percent are white men. In fact, when weighted for level of office, nationwide white men have 4 times the political power of all other groups.

Nonetheless, I am encouraged that the political party recruitment process is shifting and that women are awakening to their own potential as political donors. It's never too early for that kind of change.