Sisterhood and the Election of 2018
American political history will be made within the next few months. The country has not witnessed such a moment since the women’s suffrage movement became law on August 26, 1920. On that date, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified and women were given the right to vote.
The most recent mass election of women was in 1993 when five new women senators were sworn in to the United States Congress; that was a revolutionary election. However, that year will prove minor when compared to what pollsters expect will change both the color and gender of the United States Congress this November. Although the Senate may not be in the equation, women of all races and backgrounds will make history in state houses across the country, and in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The basis for women to make a historic run for political office is President Donald J. Trump. Regardless of political party, most women were outraged in October, 2016 when the infamous ‘Hollywood Tapes’ were made public. On the tapes, he was heard discussing his own sexual deviance. Significantly though, Trump was still elected with the support of 53% of white women. According to exit polls at the time, large numbers of voters simply stayed home assuming Hillary Clinton had the election wrapped up. It’s appears that things will be different this time around.
A Sea Change Election
Along with the president, there also are accusations of apparent sexual misconduct of several incumbent congressmen and senators. Already there are 24 announced retirements from the House, and three so far from the Senate; the Congress is changing. According to Emily’s List, which recruits, supports, organizes, and trains potential women political candidates, the upcoming mid-terms will have more than 5,000 women running in primaries across the country, and in the general election in November. Originally, more than 13,000 enthusiastic women, mostly all new to politics, registered with the organization.
The Administration’s differences on policy matters is also encouraging more women running for office. For example, Trump has rolled back funding for Planned Parenthood which has been a stalwart organization for women’s health concerns. Planned Parenthood provides health screenings, HIV testing, counseling, preventative injections, and birth control as well. Cecil Richards, president of the organization since 2006, claims that ”there has never been a better time to run and be an activist”.
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Women of all races were invited to a Women’s Convention in October 2017. It was held as a result of the outrage women were feeling about the election of Donald Trump. Many women were inspired to attend after witnessing the incredible numbers of women who had marched for justice around the nation and the world. Some felt that the only way to gain power was to come together as a stronger voting block.
Congresswoman Waxine Waters, ‘Auntie Maxine’ to some, was the featured speaker. The convention was entitled ‘Reclaiming My Time’ which is a reference to Water’s proclamation during a Congressional Hearing in Washington. During the hearing, she invoked her right to speak over the objections of the Republican witness who continually attempted talk over her. It was a watershed moment in that it illustrated a women overcoming the male-dominated Hearing.
Women Of Color
Following the Alabama special election, in which black women swung the election in favor of Democrat Doug Jones, Richards urged white women to build coalitions with black women.
“All across the country, the Women’s March inspired doctors and teachers and mothers to become activists and organizers and, yes, candidates for office,” Richards said, CNN reports. “And from Virginia to Alabama and to last week in Wisconsin, women have beaten the odds to elect our own to office. ... Women of color, transgender women, rural and urban women.”
In the surprising results, Alabama had not elected a Democratic Senator in more than twenty-five years, black women comprised an astonishing 29% of the total vote. That turnout exceeded Obama’s number years earlier.
Tom Perez, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, acknowledging the strength and importance of the black women vote called them “the backbone of the Democratic Party”. The Alabama victory has fueled the hopes of party leaders who see the win---and the turnout numbers---as a roadmap to taking control of Congress in November.
But former NBA basketball star, Charles Barkley an Alabama native, cautioned Democrats against taking the black vote for granted. He was particularly vocal regarding attitudes concerning poor people---white and black---who’ve consistently voted Democratic, but taken for granted following elections. He insisted the vote was a ‘wake-up” call for Democrats. The statistics bear out his concern: in 2017 black women held just 3.7% of state legislative seats, and only O.6% of executive positions around the country. Only one black women sits in the Senate, Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California. The Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University reports that black women made up a meager 3.6% of the entire Congress. But black women don’t want thanks, they want political power to help make policy.
Healing The Coalition
Also at issue for the black women’s vote within Democratic circles is the notion of white women and trust. After all, white women did help put Trump in office giving him 53% of the vote in 2016. Some black women believe that progressive, white feminist are still saddled with supremacists tendencies and cannot be trusted.
Activist Sara Haile-Mariam has spoken out on the issue. Speaking of the need to eliminate racism and white supremacy, she says, “It’s not for me to convince the white women who supported Trump of my humanity---maybe white feminists can convince [white people] of their own humanity.” She believes white women should work within their race to fight bigotry and prejudice as a means to build trust between the races.
Haile-Mariam asks white women to look at the interests all women share equally and to vote for women’s interest, not against them. She questions white women, “Don’t you understand what it is to be unseen? Don’t you know what it is like to be passed over, to feel unsafe…can’t you see that in the fight to end patriarchy it is a necessary and instructive opportunity” [for women to band together].
Many experts believe that if white and black women coalesce around common issues like health care, gun safety, education, and nutrition, the mid-term elections will be historic wins for the Democratic Party. Over the last century, the party in power at the mid-term elections, in this case the Republicans, has lost seats and the majority therefore turning the House over to the opposition party.
The consequences of a Democratic landslide in November means Trump’s ability to get anything accomplished for the remainder of his first term is limited. For one thing, he would have zero support in the House, and probably face more investigations and probably an impeachment vote. In addition, if the Dems took the Senate he could have serious problems appointing nominees or judges, and state elections down the ballot could turn into liberal legislative agendas. Also, Republican losses in November will change the entire look and feel of the presidential election in 2020.
Women have not forgotten that Trump defeated a woman in the election of 2016. Indeed, if he is in office in 2020, he may face another one.
‘Black Votes Matter: African-Americans Propel Jones To Alabama Win’
Bryan Naylor, Dec. 2017, NPR
‘What’s Trump’s Problem With Black Women?’, Sophia Nelson, Oct. 2017, Politico
‘First They Marched, Now More Than 13,000 Women Are Planning To Run For Office’,Claire Landsbaum, Feb. 2017, Vox
‘Desiree Cooper: Women’s Convention In Detroit Seeks To Build Coalitions’, Oct. 2017, Blac Detroit
‘Democrats See Roadmap For 2020 In Huge Turnout Among Black Voters In Alabama’, Eugene Robinson and Eugene Scott, Dec. 2017, Washington Post
'Could 2018 Be The Year Of The Woman’, Video, You Tube
'In 2018 Black Women Want More Than Thanks, They Want Political Power’
P.R. Lockhart, Jan. 2018, Vox
© 2018 Dan Dildy