Fighting the Good Ole Boys

Through the years Dominican female politicians have had to fight against machismo, for the confidence of Dominican people and more to participate in politics. Although these issues still exist, to an extent, there is a new challenge for these women that comes from within their own political parties- the good ole boys. The good ole boys can be defined as a group of men, and sometimes women, who have their own private vision for a political party, make up their own rules and are the unofficial controllers of a party. Many times these good ole boys are current political office holders that are not willing to give up these positions to anybody, let alone a woman. Members of this good ole boys club are often times members of the political party leadership and those that aspire to become the party leadership. The good ole boys club can also be seen as clientelismo, Clientelismo is a system where interested parties give money or resources to a political party in exchange for political positions or influence over policies. One example of clientelismo could be the relationship between Haliburton and the George W. Bush administration. However, in the end it is this club and its clients that serve as one of the last obstacles keeping women from receiving political nominations for elections to public positions and from receiving are larger number of cabinet positions within the executive.

When I think of the good ole boys in the Dominican Republic one recent experience comes to mind. This past March the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) held their first conference about gender equality. During this conference Dr. Jacquline Jimenez Polanco gave the main address speaking about some of the obstacles for women in politics. After her presentation one woman stood and stated that she was a talented women with about four degrees and jobs and yet she still can not get a nomination on the party’s ticket yet there is a man that has less qualifications than she does and he has a nomination. What is going on here? It’s clientelismo, and more specifically to this example a reaction of a non-client party member to the success of a possible party client in receiving a party nomination. Passionate reactions such as this one continued until members of the upper levels of the party and finally the party’s Secretary-General stopped the “discussion.” The fact that these women had recently finished going through the party’s primary process for the May legislative and municipal elections was a major factor to not only their passionate reactions but the freshness of their stories.

Another interesting way that clientelismo has played into the hindering women from reaching higher political positions is the manipulation of the quota law. In the Dominican Republic there is a quota of 33% for party tickets and a parity quota in the positions of regidor and sindico. The latter means that if a regidor is male then the vice-regidor has to be female and the same occurs with the sindico positions. Currently in the Dominican Republic women represent 16% of the House of Deputies and 88% of the vice mayors. This overrepresentation of women in the local vice positions is simply the good ole boys manipulating the quota law. It is a manipulation because it seems that the good ole boys in these parties are saying, behind closed doors of course, okay the women wanted a quota well we will give them a quota but we will only put them in the positions that we want them to have. And it is this sentiment that has contributed to the overrepresentation of women in subordinate positions such as vice mayor and the continuation of the under representation of women in power political positions such as deputy. Which was not the intention or purpose of the quota law.

However there is some hope and signs of facts that do not support the good ole boys club. A recent study by Elizabeth King and Andrew D. Mason published by the World Bank entitled Engendering Development that shows that there is a link between greater female participation and lower levels of corruption.* Another sign of hope against the good ole boys club is the world wave of female heads of state. This wave is showing that citizens in nations across the world are looking for an alternative to the good ole boys system. Lastly, looking back to the Dominican Republic, a recent article about female mayors in Quehaceres** a publication of the Investigation Center for Female Action (CIPAF) states that female mayors have a different focus for their administrations. These sindicas are more transparent than their male counterparts and their popularity is not based in clientelismo but based on the decentralization of their administrations and their budgets that focus on community not client demands.

It is only through the continued discussion of challenges of female political participation and the continued hard work of female politicians in the offices that they do hold that the good ole boys system can be challenged. Another route of change is through the vote. It is also only until those that are frustrated with the current political system come out and vote against the good ole boys that change will come. Until then the good ole boys will continue to mislead and bribe the vote out of the Dominican people. Hopefully in future elections that Dominicans or citizens of any country for that matter will come out and vote not just to bring in new representatives but continue to vote out the clients and the good ole boys so that it is truly pa’ lante que vamos! ***


*King, Elizabeth and Andrew D. Mason. Engendering Development Through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources and Voice Summary. 2001 The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank. Washington, D.C. P 8

** Las mujeres pueden…¡y mejor! Experiencias exitosas en el Gobierno Local. Quehaceres. Year XXVI Number 1 March 2006. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. P6.

*** Phrase taken from Es pa’ lante que vamos- A phrase currently used by the Dominican Fernandez administration meaning it is forward we go. This phase of encouragement is used to encourage citizens that things are improving in the Dominican Republic.

© Danielle Pritchett 2013