The 2018 Election was Won by Women. It is Time for Washington to Pay Attention

By Shaunna Thomas, Executive Director, UltraViolet Action

Let’s be clear: women changed the direction of the country last night. Because of women, specifically women of color, there is now a check on the runaway Trump Administration and their daily attacks on our rights, our freedoms, and the very fabric of our democracy.

Yes, there were some disappointing losses. And it remains true that far too many white women voted with white men against the interests of most women — although at a lower rate than 2016. There is still work to be done. But there is also much to celebrate.

This cycle, we saw more women run, more women vote, and more women win than ever before. When the new Congress is sworn-in in January, there will be more than 100 women in the House of Representatives. A historic number.

But it was not just the sheer number of women who ran and got elected that should give you hope today. It is also the historic firsts. For example, yesterday’s election gave us the:

  • First Native American women in Congress: Sharice Davids (KS), a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, and Deb Haaland (NM), an enrolled Laguna Pueblo member
  • First Muslim women in Congress: Rashida Tlaib (MI) and Ilhan Omar (MN)
  • First Black congresswomen from Connecticut and Massachusetts: Jahana Hayes (CT) and Ayanna Pressley (MA)
  • First openly LGBTQ representative from Kansas: Sharice Davids
  • First Latina congresswomen from Texas: Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia
  • Youngest woman ever elected: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY)

In addition, exit polling showed that “an overwhelming majority of Americans, nearly 8 in 10, said it’s important to elect more women to public office,” according to NPR.

This wasn’t just another so-called “year of the woman.” This was a political earthquake, and women — particularly women of color — have not only fundamentally changed the direction of this country, but have changed how Democrats run and win elections.

Women are also demanding a change in how Washington operates.

Women, who propelled Democrats to victory, will now demand our leaders in Washington, and those who want to lead the party in 2020, act as true champions for women. Women will use our transformative political power to demand our leaders promote and advance policies that will lift up all women and create a more equitable society. That means showing up for all women — poor women, immigrant women, trans women, incarcerated women, women of color, queer women, and disabled women.

This election showed the power we possess and we’re not going to settle. We expect our leaders to be committed to an agenda that lifts us all up. It’s what we demand and it is what we deserve.

To that end, UltraViolet has created a Feminist Future Agenda. A roadmap for the values and progress that true champions can and should be demanding in the weeks, months, and years to come:

  1. Disability Justice: All people, including those living with a disability, have the right to live dignified, full, self-directed lives. We must create systems of healthcare, education, housing, and employment that care for ALL people and fully address the needs of those with disabilities.
  2. End to Gender-based Violence: We demand a world where sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence are increasingly rare — and when they happen, survivors are supported and perpetrators held accountable. Our children deserve comprehensive consent-based sex education, so they can become adults with healthy, shame-free views on sexuality and relationships.
  3. Economic Security for All: We demand a nation where people have what they need to live with dignity. All people, especially women who are most often caretakers for children and the elderly, need their basic needs met. Those include affordable housing, a living wage, paid time off to care for oneself or family, a system of equal pay for equal work, and a social safety net for those who cannot work. We envision a world where all work, especially that traditionally done by women, is respected, and where one’s worth is not defined by their productivity.
  4. Health Care for All: We must create a system where everyone has access to affordable, quality, and culturally competent health care, including mental health services.
  5. Healthy Environments: Today, too many lawmakers are standing aside as corporations make profits off damaging the environment, especially in communities of color and on Tribal lands. We deserve healthy, toxin-free land, clean air, and clean water to nourish our families, communities, and futures. We must implement solutions to protect the environment and our families and to stop the worst impacts of climate change.
  6. Immigrant Justice: People have an inherent right to seek better lives for themselves and their families. We deserve an immigration system that includes fair and just pathways to citizenship for immigrants — three-quarters of whom are women and children — and asylum-seekers, and that keeps families safe, together, and free to maintain their dignity as human beings without incarceration.
  7. Justice in our “Justice System”: From over policing in communities of color to jailing survivors of domestic violence, our justice system is full of inequalities. The result is far too many people in jail away from their loved ones and families, while for-profit prisons make money off pain and isolation. We demand an end to over-sentencing and for-profit prisons. We deserve a system that supports survivors of violence instead of jailing them, and structures that invest in treatment programs instead of jails so our community members can return to their lives, families, and work.
  8. LGBTQ Equity: We deserve and demand a society that celebrates and honors a vast diversity of genders and sexualities, and where all people live free from bullying, violence, and discrimination in workplaces, schools, communities, and in accessing healthcare. This is especially crucial for our LGB and trans/gender non-conforming children, who experience violence, discrimination, and self-harm at disturbingly high rates compared to their non-LGBTQ peers.
  9. Racial Justice: We must work together to dismantle white supremacy and create racial equity in every basic aspect of life, including housing, employment, education, health care, the justice system, and representation in appointed and elected bodies.
  10. Reproductive Freedom: All people deserve access to non-judgmental, complete care to create and raise their families as they choose, regardless of their income or zip code. Reproductive decisions — including abortion — should be accessible, affordable, and affirming. Let’s make it a reality.
  11. Safe Communities: We demand safe communities, where no one has to live in fear of gun violence. This is especially important to women and our allies — a majority of mass shooters in the U.S. kill their intimate partner or a family member and nearly all have a history of violence against women.
  12. Voting Rights: Voting is powerful and it is a right. We reject all efforts to suppress voting rights or make voting more difficult — especially the rights of people of color, Native people, women, young people, poor people, and the incarcerated or formerly incarcerated. But stopping threats to voting isn’t enough — we support expanded access to voting through automatic registration, early voting, and other pro-voting policies.

A representative democracy is a minimum requirement for a healthy democracy. We have a long way to go, but we are grateful for the courage and fortitude of all the women who ran, who voted, who volunteered, who spoke out, and showed up. Because of you, we’ve taken a significant step toward ending the injustice of 225 years worth of zero representation in Congress.

So take a short break and bask in what we’ve accomplished. But don’t rest long because we can’t stop marching, we can’t stop speaking out, we can’t stop resisting, and we can’t stop voting — now’s the time to leverage our hard-fought power and force Washington to listen and to act.