More women than ever are running in the 2018 elections, and it’s not just about Trump
We’ve finally put 2017 behind us and there are just just about 300 days left until the midterm elections, in which most reasonable people want to turn both the House and Senate against Donald Trump. It’s not a bad resolution, especially since more women than ever are running in the 2018 elections, which means there’s a shot not just at flipping Congress from one party to another, but drastically changing the way it looks. It’s not just the federal government that’s in for a change, either. On a local and state level, women are getting into the game.
And this shift has already started in some states. In November 2017, for example, the Virginia state senate went from 17 women to 29 women in their 100-member House of Delegates. That’s a big jump. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, there are already 353 women running for a spot in the House of Representatives, compared to just 272 the year before. If you want to get a real sense of just how many women are sick of sitting on the sidelines, Emily’s List, an organization dedicated to training women to run for office, says that 25,000 women reached out in 2016 about running and that they’ve trained 2,500 of them. (For comparison, in 2016, just 1,000 women reached out to ask for help on their campaigns.)
A lot of experts and headlines claim that this surge in women running for office is a direct response to Trump’s election. Sure, in a way, it appears to be. Watching a bigot who’s been repeatedly accused of sexual assault take a seat in the Oval Office instead of a more qualified woman was…hard to watch, to say the very least. But that cheapens all of the hard work that women do, and have been doing, to organize and prepare each other for political campaigns.
In addition to Emily’s List, there are tons of smaller organizations all over the country that train women to run for office and hold informational conferences. One in New Hampshire recently convinced a woman who was going to wait until after law school to maybe run a local campaign a little sooner, according to NPR. In Minneapolis, Tamara Flowers attended one and decided that she was going to go for her school board. She told MPR News:
"I think it's very important because I know that I'm worthy and I know that all these women who are with me today are worthy as well. So I think it important because I want to each my four daughters that they are worthy too."
Emily’s List president Stephanie Schriock told Bustle, “This is definitely a watershed moment — we’ve never seen anything like this. Even if we looked at last election cycle, where we actually did talk to more women and run more women for office than we have in the past during the whole ‘15/’16 cycle, we were pretty excited about that.”
It does feel like a watershed moment, but it’s happening at a grassroots level, with women organizing themselves and supporting each other. The first “Year of the Women” was in 1992, when more women then ever before had run for Congress, but it was way less than the numbers we’re seeing right now. This has been a long time coming. And it’s not just because women are “angry” or “fed up” with Donald Trump or the mostly white male administration.
Schriock said a similar thing happened in 1992. She added:
"The year of the woman, in 1992. You had a moment where women were so angry across the country, mostly related to the Anita Hill hearings. And women across the country were watching those Senate confirmation hearings, and literally saying 'well, why aren’t there any women senators there?' That moment resulted in a surge of women that we had not seen before. That year, 24 first-term women were elected to seats in the House of Representatives."
Reality check: Women still make a quarter of what men make. Gender parity in businesses is still a long way off. Women’s health care is under attack every single day. The #MeToo movement consisted mostly of stories of sexual harassment and abuse that occurred over time, often years go. Women didn’t just wake up on November 9, 2017 and realize that they could run for office. They’ve been fighting to do this for years while being held back by powerful men and sexist stereotypes that made running for office seem almost impossible.
But that might be over now, or at least changing more significantly than ever. Women aren’t running for office just because Trump pissed them off, but they will likely win because he is just so bad at being president. It won’t be a totally feminist moment until all of the white women who voted for guys like Trump and Alabama’s Roy Moore start to vote in the interests of women more than the interests of white people. If we can manage that, this might not just be the “Year of the Women,” but the first of many more to come. Women were running for office long before Trump, and hopefully they’ll keep at it long after him, too.