“Soul-search­ing” and a call to ac­tion

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Brian Ea­son

The Thurs­day night “State of the Woman” gath­er­ing at Phyl­lis Han­fling’s apart­ment in Den­ver was sup­posed to be a happy oc­ca­sion — a cel­e­bra­tion of the his­toric po­lit­i­cal gains of women across the U.S.

In­stead? Well, you know: Hil­lary Clin­ton lost. Don­ald Trump won. The na­tion’s high­est glass ceil­ing en­dured, still un­bro­ken af­ter 240 years.

“It was a shock for ev­ery­one,” Han­fling said.

And the erst­while cel­e­bra­tion, spon­sored by Emerge Colorado, be­came part group ther­apy, and part call to ac­tion.

“We had to turn around and do a lot of soul-search­ing,” said Jenny Will­ford, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the group, which re­cruits and trains women to run for Demo­cratic of­fice.

More than 50 women — and a hand­ful of men — at­tended the gath­er­ing, which fea­tured re­marks from a star-stud­ded cast of women who are elected Democrats.

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, for­mer Den­ver Deputy Mayor Cary Kennedy and for­mer Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis de­liv­ered a vari­a­tion of the same mes­sage: This wasn’t what they’d hoped for — but it was progress. And now is not the time to give up.

“We have to rec­og­nize that this is progress,” said Kennedy, a ru­mored po­ten­tial can­di­date for gover­nor in 2018. “I know it’s in­cre­men­tal and it’s not what we wanted. … But my (teenage) daugh­ter’s gen­er­a­tion is go­ing to ex­pect to see a woman on that high­est stage ev­ery elec­tion go­ing for­ward.”

The speak­ers re­flected at length on the ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tion: On the one hand, an Amer­i­can woman won the pop­u­lar vote for the first time in his­tory. On the other, she lost to a man whose com­ments about women rep­re­sented the very thing they felt they were fight­ing against.

In the most in­fa­mous in­ci­dent, Trump was caught on a leaked 2005 “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” tape boast­ing about kiss­ing and grop­ing women with­out per­mis­sion.

For Kennedy, the elec­tion hit home hard­est when think­ing about her teenage son and daugh­ter and what she had taught them about the pres­sures and ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion young girls face.

“We woke up on the day af­ter the elec­tion and we had elected a man who val­i­dates it — and says it’s OK,” Kennedy said.

For Davis, who cam­paigned for Clin­ton as a sur­ro­gate, the elec­tion was a les­son in how emo­tions can mo­ti­vate vot­ers.

Trump, she said, ap­pealed to the emo­tions of the white work­ing class — of­fer­ing hope in the face of their eco­nomic fears and sup­ply­ing tar­gets for their frus­tra­tion, whether it was im­mi­grants or free trade.

Obama, be­fore him, of­fered a dif­fer­ent brand of hope, but it was an emo­tional ap­peal to vot­ers’ hearts none­the­less.

Clin­ton, she said, tried to of­fer a mes­sage of love, but it didn’t con­nect.

“Now Don­ald Trump has to gov­ern,” said Davis, who mounted an un­suc­cess­ful bid for Texas gover­nor in 2014.

“Now Don­ald Trump has to prove that he’s go­ing to im­prove their lives. My bet is that he’s not go­ing to do that.”

The chal­lenge for Democrats and women, then: call­ing him out if he fails to de­liver.

“We can’t be so dis­ap­pointed in our loss that we al­low our­selves to be dis­cour­aged and go silently into the night — be­cause, be­lieve me, that’s what they want us to do,” Davis said.

In Colorado women did well over­all: The state voted for Clin­ton, elected seven of the eight fe­male can­di­dates backed by Emerge Colorado, and re­mains a na­tional leader in gen­der equal­ity at the State­house.

But women still lost ground. Will­ford said 42 per­cent of the leg­is­la­ture was fe­male be­fore the elec­tion. On Jan. 1, that falls to 38 per­cent.

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