Cultural norms in relation to political representation

In “Is gender like ethnicity? The political representation of minority groups” by Mala Htun, the author analyzes the politics of gender and ethnicity and its effect on various electoral systems before introducing the best system to represent these two types of groups. The author describes how gender is a crosscutting group, meaning that it does not smoothly coincide with other social structures, class, or geography. This type of crosscutting group is best represented in government using quota systems, which can be within the parties or legislature-wide. Many countries introduce quotas with the hope that they will be a temporary stop on the road to equal representation of women in the legislatures. On the other hand, coinciding identities tend to drive party membership and voting patterns and are best suited to reservation systems that go around the parties and alter the electoral system to be more just.

In Ireland, the introduction of gender quotas by regulating the party candidates in 2016 has lead to many more women participating in politics. However, Ireland’s spot on the gender representation world ranking has been seriously declining in recent decades and the quotas did not seem to win women actual seats in the legislature. Some theorize that this has to do with the long-standing Irish sentiment that a woman’s place is in the home. However, the numbers are more encouraging in local governments, where women hold about 20% of the positions that govern at the county level.

Can cultural forces to keep women out of politics be so strong that even quotas fall short of their goal to better represent women?

Cultural norms can be beneficial or harmful for women based on their location and regime type. For example, in the UK, it is normal to see women in the workplace (even if not always in the highest-paying roles), which makes participation in politics a small step forward rather than a shocking sight. In addition, powerful figures like Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May have paved the way for other women in politics, so a quota system might be effective. However, some authoritarian societies like China have gender inequality rooted in the system so deeply that many Chinese parents have aborted or killed newborn Chinese girls since they have thought to be of less value than sons. In a society like this one, even quotas might not be effective since women aren’t very empowered even outside of politics.


Htun, Mala. “Is Gender like Ethnicity? The Political Representation of Identity Groups.” Perspectives on Politics 2, no. 3 (2004): 439–58. Found in Dickovick, James Tyler, and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. p255-268.

Demolder, Kate. “Ireland Needs to Elect More Women and This Is How We Achieve It.” January 23, 2019. Accessed January 27, 2019.

Conflicts Within the Democratic Process

Henry Vaule



Memo #14

According to The Atlantic and many other news outlets, Russia hacked the 2016 election. These hackers attacked the U.S. through social media, propaganda, and the Democratic Party. Both Facebook and Twitter found thousands of fake Russian accounts that had been influencing American voters. This caused confusion for many as there were limited credible news sources. The information that was stolen from the Democratic’s email servers was then given to Wikileaks. Many news sources spread this stolen information and thus helped the Russians. Overall, Russia was able to damage and humiliate America’s democratic system.

In his ongoing quest to diminish and belittle America’s political influence in the world, Putin has recently exchanged military and financial aid for Venezuela’s oil reserves. Also, Putin has publicly supported Venezuela’s current socialist president, Nicolas Maduro. This support directly contradicts America’s current situation with Venezuela as Trump has recognized the self-declared president, Juan Guaidó as the true leader.

How can America and Russia maintain a peaceful political relationship while Russia is secretly attempting to influence American politics?

Although it seems that Russia has been the main culprit of influencing one another’s politics, both America and Russia are guilty of this crime. Since the end of the Cold War, America and Russia have found ways to attack each other without actually fighting a war. This discrete battle usually takes the form of each country attempting to manipulate struggling governments like Venezuela. However, this recent cyber attack marks one of the first times of a direct attack in many years. Especially considering the importance of this election, Putin and his assumed fleet of hackers have definitely crossed a line and American-Russian relations are at an all-time low for the twenty-first century.

Julia Ioffe. “What Putin Really Wants.” The Atlantic. (December 11, 2017.)

“Putin Taunts Trump: 400 Russian Military Contractors Sent to Venezuela in Support of Maduro.” The Washington Times. (February 04, 2019.)

PR or SMD? It’s not all the same to me…

In Andrew Reynolds and John M. Carey’s “Getting Elections Wrong”, they argue against Meisburger’s defense of a single-member district system (SMD). Reynolds and Carey believe that proportional representation (PR) can be highly effective, and they debunk his idea that PR is only possible in established countries that have parties and strong ideologies. They also explain the PR has been successful in Tunisia post-Arab Spring, and that the PR system best represents minority groups.

Is proportional representation successful in reflecting the will of the people on crucial and divisive issues such as healthcare?

In The Star Vancouver’s November 1 article “Proportional representation could create a better health-care system, advocates say”, Cherise Seucharan says that British Columbia residents are choosing between a PR and SMD system of representation. The article says that PR provides the best system of election for healthcare, and does not affect the country’s economic growth. An expert she interviewed even stated that PR leads to “seamlessly integrated” healthcare in a society. It can be hard to tell which system will best reflect the will of the people but in terms of health care in Canada, it is the best option. However, it remains to seen how it would fair for other issues and in other countries with distinct cultures and characteristics. For example, in the United States, a change to a PR system could seriously dismantle the laws and ideas America has considered fundamental. To illustrate, the majority of Americans support further gun control legislation, and this change to the Second Amendment would actually be a reality in a PR system.


Reynolds, Andrew, and John M. Carey. “Getting Elections Wrong.” Journal of Democracy. April 17, 2012.

Seucharan, Cherise. “Proportional Representation Could Create a Better Health-care System, Advocates Say.” November 01, 2018.