Women Rise Up as a Powerful Political Force in 2018 Mid-Term Elections

“Men should be glad women want equality, not revenge.”  (alexandra@thegr8ethan, March 28, 2018)

Progressive women streamed out of their comfort zones on January 21, 2017, taking to the streets by hundreds of thousands to express their shock from the 2016 election and their need to stand up for equal rights for all people. Women knew the attacks on their rights would increase under a President Trump and the conservative-led Republican majority. They began organizing and within two months, convened the single largest march in American history, the Women’s March. In 2018, they marched again, to reiterate their commitment to equal treatment for all people and to affirm their resolute support for women’s rights and their commitment to changing the political environment.

Women have been marching for a very long time in America, driven by anger and frustration of failed systems and indifferent leaders who have ignored their rights and needs.  Beginning with the 1913 Woman’s Suffrage Parade, women marched to publicly assert their right to vote which was finally attained in 1920, after a sixty-five year effort.  Marching as a political tool has usually been a long-term endeavor requiring years to achieve legal and legislative results.  Bolstered by 24-hour media coverage and supported by social media, organizing and marching are finding new effectiveness as a messaging tool, clearly affirmed by the Women’s Marches and the teens “March for Our Lives.”  Marching may not bring immediate change, but it offers a safe outlet to women for advocacy and empowerment.  As their numbers grow, the pool of talent and interest in political advocacy is expanding, aided by technology and social media.  The second year of Trump’s presidency, women are more confident and going beyond “Trump” to fight for issues that directly impact their lives with a laser focus on the 2018 Mid-Term election.  Women, more confident of their base of support and their personal advocacy, supported #BlackLivesMatter and launched the #MeToo movement, in which problems of racial and gender injustice, police violence, harassment and sexual abuse are communal bonds.  Whether by design or consequence, women are now a major political force that is generating enthusiasm and broad participation, and the movement continues to expand. Less well appreciated is what they are achieving.

#MeToo has been more effective in the private sector than in government, as powerful men lost positions and jobs.   To the consternation of those being held accountable, progress is being made through greater workplace attention to the problems of harassment and sexual abuse, resulting in resignations and firing of those guilty of these offenses and much better behavior, generally. Women have decided they won’t put up with this abuse any longer even though many face personal risk in speaking up.  Unfortunately, Congress chose not to pass the bi-partisan Congressional bill on harassment and sexual abuse in the Omnibus Tax Bill leaving aggrieved, frustrated government employees at the mercy of the congressional arbitration process.  The process to pursue their rights against harassment and sexual abuse by Members of Congress and administrative superiors remains incredibly difficult, very lengthy, and appears designed to protect the perpetrators rather than the victims.  #MeToo is ripe for expansion within the corridors of Congress.  The “good old boy network” in government is still alive but not as well, and female Members of Congress across party lines are committed to reform of the arbitration process.  Encouragingly, a great deal of activity is happening on policy change at the state level to address harassment and sexual abuse.

When the Marjory Stoneman gun attack occurred, there was no question whether women would support the teens “March for Our Lives,” as gun violence is an old protest issue for women.  Remember the “Million Mom March in 2000?”  By working together, women and teens will achieve more success on gun safety legislation and voter mobilization for Mid-Terms than by working separately. (Women comprised seventy per cent of those marching in “March for Our Lives.”)  Women are employing their numbers and efforts with greater strategic effectiveness and creativity.  One example is the East Dallas Persistent Women (EDPW) which just published a scathing report on how closure of eighty-two Texas clinics (Planned Parenthood) has impacted women’s health services.  They intend to use this report to lobby the Texas Legislature for change and to expand public awareness of the problem.  Women are regularly seen picketing on sidewalks in front of the offices of Members of Congress and the Legislature, conducting town halls, and besieging elected officials and staff with office visits, phone calls, and letters. This sustained, highly visible activity is focused on getting the attention of elected officials, generating public awareness and support, achieving legislative change and expanding their numbers, and, it is working. They intend to defeat candidates who refuse to support legislation important to their concerns. 

Predictably,  women have progressed from grassroots activism to seeking political office.  Thousands of women-led activist groups formed after the 2016 election and they are participating in campaigns and they are running for office.  The success rate of these mostly first-time candidates is high and their numbers and enthusiasm impressive.  This could not have happened as quickly had they not become involved at the grassroots level, where they gained confidence and skills needed to compete for office.  Politico reports:  “After primaries in Texas and Illinois, at least 480 women are still vying for House and Senate seats — a number that will shatter current records for both chambers if it holds — according to data from the Center for American Women and Politics. And 76 female candidates are expected to compete in gubernatorial races in 34 states this year, another record-breaking statistic.”  The AP released an updated report this week on the number of women who are running for office.  Politico has teamed up with The Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers and Women in Public Service Project at the Wilson Center to develop a Women Candidate Tracker which “… will include up-to-date information about who’s winning and losing, where election dollars are flowing and the issues dominating the debate.”  Bookmark it and hear women roar!

Teachers are usually reluctant to “make waves” – especially at work, yet they are out in force, protesting and striking despite criticism calling their actions “undignified and inappropriate behavior for educated professionals.”  What is surprising is that the strikes are happening in Republican-led states and without union assistance.  What’s different?  Republican efforts to suppress and destroy unions have been very effective in “right to work states”, but teachers have finally had “enough”of systematic underfunding of education.  The traction being achieved without, or even in spite of the unions is powerful. Most teachers are female and they are tired of seeing their income, benefits, and pensions cut, their class sizes increased and classroom resources decreased under years of tax cuts.  They want fair pay for support staff, facility repairs, textbooks and equipment because they understand quality education takes many people and adequate resources. When the state legislature offered a pay increase, teachers refused because support staff and other important needs were not included.  They have taken their concerns to their state legislatures too many times only to be ignored.  Now teachers are fighting back through protests and strikes, leading to a resurgence in teacher’s power and strengthening calls for unionization. Is there any doubt they will be actively involved in the 2018 Mid-Term Elections?  Their students are standing with them, noting that teachers are leading the fight “for” them, and they, too, are learning how to stand up for their rights and are promising to vote.  Further, Oklahoma residents of all political allegiances are supporting teachers because they know teachers are fighting for their kids and their state. The tough and successful West Virginia teacher’s strike created a ripple effect in other states that is breathing life back into the call for resistance.  Oklahoma, Arizona and Kansas are queued up for strikes because they feel nothing else has worked.  Kentucky teachers are protesting and strikes are a next step.  Teachers feel they have little to lose in these “red” states that have prioritized tax cuts for high earners and corporations at the expense of public education and children for years.  Republican state legislators are continuing to resist teachers’ demands for restoration of adequate funding for public education and some are attempting to bluff their way past federal court deadlines for budget action.  Amazingly, the Kansas GOP legislature considered a constitutional change that would forbid the courts from authority over funding education in a court battle that began in 2010!  Eight years later, the courts have joined the school districts in saying, “enough.”

There is much more that is needed and women’s groups are working in many different levels of political activism.  Whether women research, march, protest, strike, get involved in grassroots campaigns, lobby, assist in voter turnout, or run for office, they are involved in the political process as never before.  Experience has taught women that change doesn’t come quickly, but they also know if they don’t get involved, change will never come on issues important to them and their families.  Each woman goes forth for her own personal reason, but collectively, their numbers and commitment are impressive and they are achieving success.  Women may turn out to be the single most important factor in the 2018 Mid-Term election. They are just getting started and they intend to “make trouble.”

 

 

17 Comments

  1. An update on the sexual harassment bill that initially failed to pass Congress. The proponents persisted and it passed unanimously today by voice vote. I wish the members had been bold enough to utilize recorded votes, but at least employees of our government will now have more protection and a fairer process to pursue their claims.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2018/05/24/senate-passes-bill-to-change-how-congress-deals-with-sexual-harassment-claims/?

  2. Had to post this incredible exposure of Southern Baptist Minister Paige Patterson who has advised women who come to him for help with abusive husbands. His advice (in a “found” 2000 audio recording) : “has counseled physically abused women to avoid divorce and to focus instead on praying for their violent husbands, and to “be submissive in every way that you can.” He hasn’t tempered his views as a reading of the article confirms.

    All in the name of Jesus.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/05/sbc-patterson/559532/?

  3. A “telling” veto from Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, Republican, of a tax reform bill passed by the KY Legislature that would – among other things – provide millions of dollars for public education.

    Bevin: “Bevin, who proposed a plan that would have cut state funding for school transportation and would have provided less money per-pupil than what the legislature passed, said he wasn’t concerned about how his vetoes would affect education.

    “It’s illegal for them to strike in this state,” Bevin said. “I would not advise that, I wouldn’t, I think that would be a mistake.”

    Note: Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Florida, New Jersey, West Virginia prohibit public employees from striking. That didn’t stop teachers there from striking but it has made it much more frightening and difficult for teachers to speak out. They have livelihoods at risk. How do they protest in the face of complete refusal by state legislatures to adequately fund public education? Also, many of these same states do not allow collective bargaining. Other public employees are also covered under these laws.

    http://www.governing.com/topics/finance/tns-bevin-kentucky-budget-veto.html?

    http://education.findlaw.com/teachers-rights/teacher-s-unions-collective-bargaining-state-and-local-laws.html

  4. Mary, I wish to congratulate you on an excellent post. It is very much to the point. Having different perspectives in our national discourse other than the alpha-male perspective that in recent years has tended to dominate the limited discourse in Washington DC is much to be desired. To often the conversation in DC is dominated by alpha-males who are at loggerheads. That is no doubt one of the major reasons that the U.S.’ government is so dysfunctional at this time. Possibly, if there were more women in government at tall levels, more would get done.

  5. EJ

    Another excellent article.

    The feminist writer Stephanie Zvan was once asked how we would know when women’s equality had been achieved. Her answer was “When we can be as cranky as the men.”

    By that metric, I hope the current wave of angry women never ceases.

  6. Keep on writing Mary. Another excellent article.

    As for the content, all I can say is hope you are right. We will need it. And frankly, I have always felt the world would be better in the hands of women. You can call me sexist, but I think women are far more pragmatic and sensible than men.

    If women ran the world, we would have not gone to the moon, but there would be no world hunger.

      1. No, there is no rule.

        Starting with “we would have not gone to the moon,” that implies women lack one or some of the scientific knowledge, personal interest or drive, competitiveness, leadership skills, or resource allocations to get us to the moon. Women lack none of these things. Positing an alternative history of a majority women-lead 1950s and 60s United States only alters the possibility of reaching the moon the same way a near death of Alexander the Great could have lead to the contemporary United States being established by China or not at all. It’s fun butterfly effect discussion, but it says nothing about women’s talents. That statement is condescending.

        And whereas there have been a dearth of women leadership relative to men, history has no dearth of women leadership that proves the second phrase untrue. Saying “there would be no world hunger” is sanctimonious at best. Dilma Rousseff and Park Guen-hye prove women can be just as corrupt as men, Angela Merkel and Theresa May show they’re just as prone to get caught up in the foibles and complications of their nation as any other. Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have targetted attacks on funding food relief efforts like Donald Trump, but not much on her platform indicated that she would have improved food relief in general.

        One of the most powerful activist women in the US currently is Marion Hammer of Florida. She’s highly organized with lots of local groups to hold Floridian representatives accountable to her demands, and has measurable and clear effect on local policy. Her influence is so great that she basically explains a lot of why Marco Rubio has been tripping over his words, torn between the needs of one group of constituents and the power of another.

        Marion Hammer was the first woman to head the NRA: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/03/05/the-nra-lobbyist-behind-floridas-pro-gun-policies

        Finally, your statement underlines one of the reasons why the Democrats lost the 2016 election: by assuming that women would necessarily want to vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman, rather than vote against her or not vote at all because they didn’t like her policies. This is the same reason they lost black votes, because Democrats assume black people want to vote for them because they’re not specifically attacking black communities, but the Democrats don’t necessarily offer anything to black people either. Politics needs to be more nuanced than that, we’ve just unfortunately got shoved into a corner with zero-sum partisanship.

        Just like men, some women want to feed the world, and others want to go to the moon. The problem is that women are not given the agency men have to do either of those things. Once they are, we’ll find women caught up in the same complexities and debates men are privileged to, but a man entering the White House having sexually assaulted many women would be treated the same way a man entering the White House having sexually assaulted many men would have been treated. That is what is at stake here, leveling the playing field.

        Your statement is sanctimonious nonsense.

      2. Aaron, I stand by my statement. Women are far more pragmatic than men, on the whole. If women ran the world, in any timeline, but let’s focus on the mid 60’s. Women would have said, “we are not going to allocate resources to the space race when there are far more pressing needs”.

        Yes, there are certainly many that are just as competitive, just as ego-driven as men. But throughout my life, I have found them far more sensible than men, when things get serious.

    1. Thank you. This was an important post for me to write and deserving of great thought. Here’s an article that appeared today that adds more information about the “Teacher’s Resistance”that you will appreciate. I deeply believe in the power of women to bring about change. They are really the only active constant resistance functioning in the Trump era.

      https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/apr/07/resistance-now-teacher-protests-oklahoma?u

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