What a victorious week it was for American women. In Tuesday’s mid-term elections, 11 of 23 women who ran for the Senate won office. At least 122 of 233 women who ran for the House won as well, which means that the share of seats American women hold will rise from 20 percent after the 2016 elections to 28 percent.
“Women’s victories,” The Washington Post reported, “powered the Democrats in retaking the House.”
In winning, so many women set records. Rashida Tlaib (Michigan) and Ilhan Omar (Minnesota) will be the first Muslim women in the US Congress. Omar is also the first Somali-American elected to that office; Tlaib is the first Palestinian-American woman to accomplish the same feat. Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia are the first Latina women ever elected to represent Texas in Congress.
Among their colleagues will be Debra Haaland (New Mexico) and Sharice Davids (Kansas), both Democrats, who will be the first Native American women in the US Congress. Davids is also the first openly LGBT person to represent Kansas.
For the first time, voters in Connecticut and Massachusetts chose African-American women to represent them in Washington. Jahana Hayes, an award-winning teacher whose classes included government and history, defeated a Republican former mayor in her first campaign for public office in Connecticut. Nine years ago, Ayanna Pressley became the first woman of color to win a seat in the Boston City Council. This year, she ran unopposed for Congress after defeating 10-term congressman Michael Capuano in the Democratic primaries in Massachusetts.
Like Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated a political veteran, 10-term New York congressman and potential speakership contender Joe Crowley, in the primaries. At 29, Ocasio-Cortez last week became the youngest woman ever elected to the US House.
What made these historic wins possible? For starters, there was a decision to turn anger into organized political action. That anger began simmering after Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the presidency to Donald Trump in 2016. It gained momentum after sexual harassment and abuse charges began to surface against several high-powered men, including Trump himself.
When he campaigned this year, Trump belittled Stacey Abrams, saying she was unqualified to become governor of Georgia even if she “has more elite education and lawmaking experience than Trump himself,” as The Washington Post pointed out. Abrams is a novelist who has served for years in the state legislature and has earned a master’s degree in public policy and a doctorate from Yale law school. She may be headed for a runoff election against Republican Brian Kemp, who stayed on as Georgia’s state secretary and, in effect, its top election official all throughout the election.
Writing in theconversation.com, Jennifer Mathers observed that the mid-terms “also demonstrate that women can overcome factors that are typically disadvantages for a candidate, such as being a challenger rather than an incumbent, having little or no experience of elected office, and promoting policy positions that are outside the mainstream.” These policy positions include affordable housing as a human right, universal background checks as part of gun control reforms, expanded online registration as a way to fight voter suppression, and stricter rules for disclosure of political spending, in order to limit the influence of big donors and special interests on government.
Identity politics surfaced, without apologies. Pressley, who ran for office in the only district in Massachusetts where the majority isn’t white, told Boston.com “that the people closest to the pain should be closest to the power, driving and informing our policymaking.”
What stories await Filipina candidates and voters when our elections take place less than six months from now? (email@example.com)