Women Candidates Will be a Major Force in the 2018 Mid-Term Elections
When I learned that, on January 20 of this year, there would be a reprise of the great 2017 Women’s March, I was a bit concerned.
Would many people really show up? Would the 2018 Women’s March be only a cathartic remembrance of that extraordinary event one year ago — when outrage at the election of Donald Trump erupted into the largest public protest in modern U.S. history? Would the thousands of people active in the Resistance’s many organizations and grass-roots “huddles” be too engaged with their concrete action campaigns to show up for a largely symbolic event? Would a year of non-stop struggle have worn people out and left them too discouraged to come together and march?
Was I ever wrong! As the numbers and images came in from different parts of the country on that day, it became clear that what the Women’s March stood for has grown and strengthened during the first year of the Trump presidency. Over 200,000 marched in New York, 50,000 in Philadelphia, 300,000 in Chicago, 500,000 in Los Angeles, some 200,000 total in the various cities of the San Francisco Bay Area, and tens of thousands in Houston, Phoenix, New Orleans, Santa Fe, Reno and other cities.
And then, the following day, an all-important Las Vegas “Power to the Polls” rally was attended by over 20,000 people from all over the country to kick off a national campaign to register one million new voters for the 2018 elections. Las Vegas was chosen because it’s a microcosm of all the issues we face nationally. “What happens in Las Vegas won’t stay in Las Vegas” was one of the slogans.
The gist of the speeches, interviews with participants and political commentators during that January 20–21 weekend was that the Resistance, with women everywhere stepping up to leadership roles, has now gone far beyond the mere venting of outrage. It’s about mobilizing women and men at all levels, throughout the country, to bring about electoral change in 2018. It’s about focus and working towards the immediate goal of “flipping Congress” at the national level, without which other change will be nearly impossible, and getting more women elected to public office at all levels in states and localities.
In the cover story of New York Magazine’s January 22 issue titled “The Other March on Washington,” Rebecca Traister states the approach succinctly: “What’s the fastest way to fix a broken system? Take it over.”
The momentum is palpable. There are a record number of non-incumbent women candidates running for Congress — 38 for the Senate and 325 for the House— and 75 for state governor positions. The preponderance of them are Democrats.
The Time cover for January 19 shows a full-page panel of these women candidates with the heading “The Avengers” to illustrate the cover story by Charlotte Alter about the “Pink Wave” surge that is rising to challenge the electoral status quo.
Emily’s List, the organization that works to get pro-choice Democratic women elected to office, reports that, since Election Day 2016, 30,000 women nationwide have inquired about running for political office. The many organizations that help train would-be women candidates are experiencing large-scale attendance at their programs.
If any further evidence is needed that the Women’s March momentum has become a serious movement, is a threat to the right-wing “Take America Backward” forces, and is likely to make a crucial difference in the outcome of the 2018 mid-term elections, it can be found in the vitriolic rhetoric of some of the backlash.
Take, for example, Courtland Sykes, a Republican contender in this spring’s Missouri primaries to determine who will run against incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Clare McCaskill in the fall. He has been described as offering “Trump-inspired populism on steroids.” He denounces “manophobic hell-bent feminist she-devils” and says things like “I don’t buy into the non-stop feminization campaign against manhood. I want to come home to a home cooked dinner at six every night, one that my fiancée fixes for me and one that I expect one day to have daughters learn to fix.”
In the face of this kind of out-and-out misogyny, which the Trump era has now normalized as once again O.K. to express (part of the right wing’s own brand of “political correctness”), one of the most urgent things politically engaged liberals and progressives can do to help save the republic is support more women getting elected to political office this fall. In the crucial elections for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, of course, but also in the thousands of state and local elections throughout the country that will also significantly help turn the tide and affect the long-term future.
In his recent op-ed piece “I Stand with the She-Devils,” columnist Nicholas Kristof writes correctly that women’s rights aren’t just an issue for women, that the policies these women will promote when in office are policies that will be good for all, and that “to be on the right side of history, we should all, men and women alike, stand on the side of the she-devils.”
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