Hillary’s Missed Opportunity: The Mom Vote
A Call-to-Action for the Next Presidential Nominee to Harness the Force of Moms
Hillary Clinton is a proud mother and a grandmother. She had, to put it mildly, a successful career as a working mom, and indisputably has spent a lifetime working on behalf of women and children. Hillary personally has supported the careers of countless women, including thousands of working moms across the country, who have, quite literally, followed her to the ends of the earth to work for her and to help elect her.
So why would the first woman, mom, and grandmother running for President rarely tap into her inner mom on the trail? Why wouldn’t she use that universal experience — being a mom — to reach more women? And why would the first mom within a stone’s throw of the White House devote so few resources to attracting mom voters?
I am sure that there were many complex, data and poll-driven reasons that went into her campaign’s approach to reach women. And, as we now know, there were many formidable external forces (including Russia, the FBI, and cyber-bots, to start) that prevented Hillary’s win.
External forces aside, there was one gaping hole where the Hillary campaign missed a key opportunity to reach a critical group of women who should not have — but ultimately did — pull a lever for our #SoCalledPresident: The Moms.
Moms4HRC is Established
How do I know about this missed opportunity to reach The Moms? Because in 2016, I was inspired to pause my own career in order to do whatever I could to help get Hillary into the White House. I chose, as a mom of teenage daughters myself, to focus on the mom vote, a demographic the campaign had declined to actively pursue itself.
Before taking a career hiatus, I reached out in the spring of 2016 to the Clinton campaign to explain that I planned to quit a leadership position at a large federal agency, and wanted to volunteer full-time to help elect the first female President. Their response? You can knock on doors and call voters. Certainly, I could do that. But I also learned there was no “Moms” group for Hillary for me to join. The campaign had Women for Hillary, Latinos for Hillary, LGBTQ for Hillary, and many other defined constituent groups. How is it that the first Mom running for President didn’t have an organized “Moms for Hillary” with the campaign?
So, as a complete novice to political campaigns, I launched Moms4HRC in June, 2016. My vision was two-fold: (1) to use social media to attract pro-Hillary moms to the Moms4HRC Facebook page, and then reinforce their support with affirmative content focused on the issues that moms tend to care more about; and (2) to get more moms like me — educated, highly motivated, politically aware — active to help elect Hillary. I knew so many women around the country who planned, hands-down, to vote for Hillary. Now all we had to do was put those Moms to work.
Using Social Media to Share Facts with Moms
It is widely known that a majority of women use Facebook as their primary news outlet. So, on Facebook, Moms4HRC became a researched source to nourish moms with facts. I wanted Moms, no matter where they lived, to have strong “talking points” to explain why they were voting for Hillary — besides the fact that she was a pro-choice woman and a Democrat. I armed them to serve as on-the-ground ambassadors with evidence and facts to educate others about Hillary’s values and her work. I wanted to remind them with great content that Hillary has long advocated for autistic kids, paid family leave, raising the minimum wage, increasing access to quality day care and education. With that information, the Moms could make mom-to-mom connections on soccer fields, at the pool, at the neighborhood barbeque, at church, they would be empowered to persuade undecided voters. I wanted to help women tune out the noise of Benghazi and the emails. There were far too many solid reasons to support Hillary that seemed to get lost in the shuffle.
To say that Moms4HRC received an incredible response online is to put it mildly. In three months, the page amassed over 20,000 followers — men and women from every state. But campaigns will tell you that a large social media presence is not enough to win elections. Actual volunteer boots on the ground are required.
Motivating Moms on the Ground
While Moms4HRC was taking off online, the Women’s Outreach team on Hillary’s campaign asked me to find moms to knock on doors and phone bank, and to identify moms to serve as team leads in battleground states.
So I went to work. I turned to my newly created online network and recruited moms in the battleground states and beyond to serve as Moms4HRC liaisons with local Hillary campaign offices. With my leadership and support, the liaisons activated and motivated their own mom networks around the country. Despite their own busy lives filled with work, young kids, disabled children, and single parenting, they were happy to juggle even more — for Hillary.
To motivate Moms amidst their busy and chaotic lives, Moms4HRC sought to make volunteering easy. We offered on Facebook “bite-size” ways to get involved every week in bright calendars listing events all over the country. We offered two-hour windows to register voters outside the neighborhood grocery store. We organized phone banks with wine for a girls’ night out. We shared pictures on social media of moms and kids helping the campaign all over the country, such as running lemonade stands to fundraise. We even threw a kid-friendly fundraiser in Maryland which raised over $20,000.
We also did a lot of reinforcing and training. We assured moms that anyone could join the movement and help elect the first woman President. We explained that any talent they could offer — talking, texting, hosting, shopping, walking, canvassing, donating and driving — was needed and counted as volunteering for the campaign. We went to the moms on their terms, with their scheduling and parenting needs in mind, and found ways to make it almost impossible NOT to volunteer.
The Value of Moms for Campaigns
Despite the enthusiasm and deluge of interest, Moms4HRC never quite interested the Clinton campaign in the way I’d hoped. Which leads me to wonder: who might Hillary have reached if the campaign had devoted more time, leadership, and outreach to reach and recruit moms?
Over a period of six months in 2016, a complete novice discovered a niche the campaign had missed and ignited the full power of moms around the country.
I had no budget, a free conference line, social media, an email listserve, four teenage girl interns, a volunteer deputy, and a few seasoned political mentors who believed in me. Yet, thousands of women got politically active for the first time in their lives through Moms4HRC. Most members of our community had never canvassed, phone banked, or registered voters, but quickly learned that it was doable — even with kids. Just as importantly, they saw that volunteering, in any fashion, was rewarding and not as daunting as they had imagined.
When the post-election numbers show that 53% of women in this country voted for Trump, I think about all of the moms that the Hillary campaign never reached. Moms supporting Hillary were ready to make history. We were ready to show our daughters that women can be anything they want to be. We were willing to make huge sacrifices to do it. We were willing to add it to the never-ending list of mom jobs we all juggle. We were willing to bring politics home. Because as moms, nothing felt more important.
Advice for Future Candidates
My advice for future candidates is simple: put the Moms to work. Moms are seasoned multi-taskers, and we get sh*t done, especially if we think it will benefit our kids. Moms are connectors and influencers in churches, schools, and communities. Moms also write checks and are wonders at paying for things online. Moms4HRC raised over $55,000 for Hillary through grassroots fundraising.
But — most importantly — political candidates need Moms because we are open, candid, credible and persuasive ambassadors for issues we care about. We spontaneously spark conversations and forge satisfying bonds with perfect strangers all the time. We come across as completely sincere, and we instinctively trust other moms for all kinds of advice. Why not have a Mom who believes in you do your bidding?
Don’t make the same mistake the Clinton campaign made. Leverage the Moms, and let us bring politics home.
If you are interested in learning more, we are Yes Moms Can, and we are Bringing Politics Home. With nearly 30,000 Facebook followers, you can find us on Twitter and Instagram @YesMomsCan and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YesMomsCan.