The data are not all in on the 2020 Election but a few standouts of this election cycle are coming to the fore. If it is true that “the future is female” then the future is now because many women made a significant and substantive impact on the final results of elections around the country. Here are just a few of the fierce and fearless female leaders who made — or changed — American history on November 3:
Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris:
Of course this is a no-brainer. VPE Harris broke so many barriers with her historic run to the vice presidency, one quickly loses count. First woman, first Black, first person of Asian descent, first HBCU graduate, first member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and quite possibly first person under 5’3”.
In the person of Kamala Harris, the multi-racial, ethnic, and cultural foundation of the United States shines through. Diversity is our strength; hatred our Achilles’ heel. Harris epitomizes diversity in the way so few can and she’s given new meaning to the phrase she may ever be known for, “That little girl was me.”
Harris launched her own presidential run to great fanfare. Her supporters were crestfallen when she left the race — prematurely, many believed. From the time she was tapped as Joe Biden’s running mate, she ran a virtually flawless campaign, supporting and promoting Biden at every turn, exceeding expectations at the vice presidential debate, rocking the vintage Converse sneakers with authenticity, and weathering unfounded and unfair attacks.
She has risen, not just to the vice presidency, but to the moment. Women everywhere are rejoicing. The country is blessed to have her on the world’s stage.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
Pelosi saw her margin in the House reduced by about half, which immediately brought out her critics. It is unlikely that she will be cast aside as House Speaker, though many will certainly question the effort and emphasis the Speaker’s office put into retaining and expanding House majorities.
One should note though, that Pelosi has been a one-woman levee holding back a flood of bad Republican laws and policies over the past year. She took the necessary but unpopular step of impeaching a president who admitted to extorting a foreign government. She was the only constitutional officer at the negotiating table trying to secure a second round of stimulus funding for hurting Americans (the White House sent an “unelected bureaucrat; the Senate sent no one). And she provided a constant, constitutional check on the president’s worst impulses.
Don’t think so?
Just imagine what the past four years would have been like had former speaker Paul Ryan remained in the post. Then thank your lucky stars for Nancy Pelosi.
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik:
Stefanik took great offense to the low number of women in the Republican House conference so she decided to do something about it. The current 197-member conference has only 13 women — that’s not a lot. Stefanik launched a PAC for the sole purpose of electing Republican women and her efforts paid off. The next Congress will have at least 32 women in the House Republican conference, many of those women turning out Democrats and even Democratic women as they took their cases to the voters.
The Democrats still have a sizable lead in this area, having elected 100 women to the next Congress. Women will take 132 seats out of 435 in January. Perhaps this 30% of House members can lower the vitriol and lead with more virtue, push back on attacks and find their way to agreement.
It’s hard to quantify the impact that seeing women in high places has on other women, on children, even on men as attitudes begin to change over time.
One thing we know though, when Biden gives his first address to a joint session of Congress, there will be two women on the dais behind him and dozens of House and Senate women in the crowd. That’s a good thing.
Leader Stacey Abrams:
Much has been written about the efforts Abrams undertook to identify, register, motivate and turn out voters across Georgia. In response to scurrilous attempts to deny the right to vote to eligible members of low-income communities, making them wait in hours-long lines and turning the waiting away at closing time, Abrams turned vote-by-mail into a winning strategy for Biden and quite possibly two senate candidates in January.
Abrams mainstreamed the approach of getting the “Baptists” off the couch and to the polls, rather than trying to convert “atheists” to the message. The voters were there, she encouraged. The candidates just had to reach out, engage, and include them.
Her strategy seems to have paid off in spades.
Congresswoman Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez:
AOC has become the heir-apparent to Speaker Pelosi. No, not (necessarily) as House Speaker, but as the vilified and demonized woman-on-the-left. Republican House, Senate, and state legislative candidates nationwide worked feverishly to tie their Democratic opponents to AOC, no matter whether they held the same policy positions, had received any support from the firebrand progressive or had even met her. The attacks were not wholly unsuccessful, but as AOC herself noted, every Democrat in a swing district who signed on to Medicare-for-All was re-elected.
She is a proud progressive, as liberal as they come. This means she doesn’t just take incoming from Republicans but from members of her own party, who believe the far-left agenda makes them vulnerable to effective Republican attacks.
AOC refuses to back down. She is outspoken, she is passionate, and smart as a whip. As the de facto leader of the unofficial “squad,” she fiercely defends her sisters-in-arms and takes the fight wherever the fight takes her. She is the future; the future is in good hands.
Campaign Manager Jen O’Malley Dillon:
O’Malley Dillon is the woman behind the nearly perfect Biden for President campaign. If you do not know that name it’s not your fault. O’Malley Dillon works hard to stay out of the spotlight; she refuses interviews. Her goal was to get Biden elected as the 46th president of the United States and she has accomplished it.
Along with Symone Sanders, Karine Jean-Pierre, and Kate Bedingfield — Biden’s team of female phenoms — O’Malley Dillon made history as the first female campaign manager of a successful Democratic presidential campaign and only the second winning female campaign manager in history.
It is only right to extend an honorable mention to women in journalism, who — more than ever before — left their imprint on the 2020 campaign. From Kristen Welker’s masterful moderation of the final presidential debate to Nicolle Wallace’s straight talk being rewarded with an extra hour each weekday (and knocking off the host of Meet the Press to do it), to the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting of Ashley Parker, Carol Leonnig and others, women told the stories of the 2020 election that the voters wanted — and needed — to hear.
It is unclear if the glass ceiling is now shattered or if only a female president can do that, but women across the board and across disciplines played a role in the election of 2020. Here’s hoping that, where women are concerned, the best is yet to come.
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