Trump gives us a new Year of the Woman
No, the Year of the Woman was not hype. The election returns provide ample reason for those working to shift the gender balance in politics to celebrate. Consider:
Of their seven gubernatorial pickups, four of the Democratic winners were women.
The only Democratic Senate candidate to pick up a seat was a woman, Sen.-elect Jacky Rosen of Nevada.
Women will hold at least 96 seats in the House, a record; at least 23 members of the U.S. Senate and nine governors will be women.
Overall, at least 117 women have been elected as House members, senators or governors.
It’s not simply that women won, but women entirely new to politics and/or running to be the “first” won (e.g., an African-American House member from Massachusetts, two Native American women, a female governor in Maine). A number of the big wins were by women who had served in the military or intelligence community — one powerful reason for fully integrating women into these avenues of public service. These include former CIA operative Abigail Spanberger of Virginia; Elissa Slotkin, an Iraq War veteran from Michigan; former Navy commander Elaine Luria of Virginia; and former Navy helicopter pilot Mikie Sherrill from New Jersey.
While the vast majority were Democrats, Republican women broke through to win the governorship in South Dakota and a Senate seat from Tennessee.
President Donald Trump provoked a lot of women to march, to run, to give to political causes and to vote for Democrats. Whether it was his bullying or his racism or his support for alleged child molester Roy Moore or his own payoffs to accusers or his nonstop stream of insults, a whole lot of women decided, rather than to stew, to get into the fray.
This was about women in the suburbs shifting their support from Republicans to Democrats.
Absorbing the constant sting of Trump’s verbal arrows, women did not “get over” Trump’s election or learn to live with his serial affronts. They did not take kindly to his mocking of the #MeToo movement or of Christine Blasey Ford. It’s fair to say women who would not otherwise have gotten politically involved did so because they could see the mostly male political powers were not looking after their interests.
So they marched, organized, became donors, ran for office, made new alliances and “persisted,” as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., complained when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, DMass., refused to sit down and be quiet as instructed.
One should take a step back to appreciate that for all Trump’s assaults on the rule of law, attacks on democratic norms, attempts to intimidate the media and to undermine objective reality, his antidemocratic actions were met with an outpouring of democratic activism. These were the people who felt most aggrieved.
Yes, plenty of men also organized and ran for office, etc. But it was the women who had broken barriers in the military and persevered as immigrants or who had never dreamed of a political career. That they jumped into the fray — many for the first time — says much about the vitality of our democracy and the ability of women to creatively organize outside conventional networks.
Once seated, these women might behave differently than their male counterparts or even women who arose in generations passed. They haven’t spent their adult lives in partisan trenches, so they might be willing to reach across the aisle. If so, the country will be in their debt. In any event, the Trump era might have revived our participatory democracy — and given it a new, decidedly female profile.