The Year of Empowered Women

We aren't stopping with a march or two. We are a force. We are going to win.

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Photos: Elizabeth Burke.

Last weekend marked the end of the first year of the Trump Presidency. And to celebrate, millions of women marched! Kidding. Millions of women did march across the country, but not in celebration of all the amazing advances this administration made on our behalf, but in continued opposition to this administration and its utter disregard for women’s rights.

Millions of women and men, for the second year, marched to make their voices heard — voice that reject this administration’s strident and disastrous anti-women policies, from the defunding of the Global Gag Rule, ensuring that the poorest women around the world have no access to family planning, to shutting down sex education for teenagers, which helps to create more unplanned teen pregnancies. President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell happily put in place a man, Neil Gorsuch, on the Supreme Court who believes that all women should be barefoot and pregnant. In a backdoor move to weaken Roe v. Wade, Trump signed a bill allowing states to defund Planned Parenthood. I guess a man with five children by three different women doesn’t give birth control (or his own fidelity) much thought.

Clearly the Trump administration is not a friend to women or our issues unless you are a porn star who wants to be on his TV show.

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Jan. 20, 2018 — the anniversary of Trump’s first and last inauguration — also found women marching against his anti-immigration policies, his anti-LGBTQ policies, his open sexism and his misogyny. And they aren’t stopping with just a march or two.

2018 is an election year. The midterm elections are Nov. 6 and more women than ever are running for office. In 2017 elections (special and otherwise), Democrats flipped 34 state legislative seats, one governor’s seat and one US Senate seat from red to blue. Is this a bellwether for the coming year? I think so. In fact, while we all like Oprah, I’m not sure replacing one TV personality with another is such a great idea for the Presidency. That’s why I’m focused on hundreds of non-celebrity women running for office. They are from all backgrounds, all cultures, all ethnicities. They are emboldened by the intolerable actions of this administration. They will take back our country from the right-wing, religious extremists who don’t seem to own a calendar.

The #metoo movement has given not just voice but actual power to women who demand equal respect and #nomoregroping. African-American women won Doug Jones his Senate seat in Alabama and are a force to be reckoned with. They are solidly middle-class and reliable Democratic voters.

Trump’s anti-women agenda aims to legally enshrine forced pregnancies, lower pay for equal work and a complete disregard for basic civil rights. Because he wants their votes in 2020, Trump has staffed the Department of Health and Human Services with evangelical Christians whose messianic disregard for women is the real God they worship. They don’t care that Trump himself has no actual religious beliefs or moral code. They are just happy to dismantle every protection for women’s health and lives.

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Let’s not forget Trump’s first 100 days, when he made it his business to create Executive Orders aimed at specifically harming women and their families. According to the Center for American Progress, he:

helped bad employers who repeatedly violate the law, eliminate child care for military families, cut nurse training, cut after-school programs, deny women reproductive, educational, and counseling services by limiting Title X availability and of course, his favorite, continued attacks on Planned Parenthood.

The full list in this article — 100 ways in which Trump is harming women and families — is astounding and heartbreaking. We know it’s also a call to arms.

Likes rats fleeing a sinking ship, more than 30 House Republicans have announced they will not run for re-election. (Seems these illiterate cowards can actually read the writing on the wall.) Democrats only need to pick up 24 seats while maintaining the seats they control to take over the majority in that chamber. It’s a daunting but doable task. Historically, midterm elections see a loss of seats in the sitting President’s party, and that’s when the sitting President has fair-to-middling approval ratings. Trump’s ratings are lower than his morals.

Some of these soon-to-be-former GOP Congress members are leaving to seek higher office, but most are, um, “retiring” or “leaving for family reasons.” One anti-abortion, family-first hypocrite, Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, had pretty much no choice but to resign after it was revealed that he asked his mistress to get an abortion. Poor guy. All he wanted was what he would have denied to any other woman not pregnant with his baby.

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Some House seats are opening up due to accusations of sexual harassment, but here both Democrats and Republicans must bear the shame. The thing about sexual harassment is that it has no political ideology, only the men who believe that their power allows them to surrender to their basest behavior. What is especially outrageous for women, and what in part is fueling their desire to run, is watching our Sexual Assaulter-in-Chief get away with harassing and abusing 19 women with no repercussions.

Over in the Senate, things for the GOP are marginally better, although we are coming after them, too. One would have expected Jeff Flake and Bob Corker to retire after decades of service or due to a scandal, but these guys are (especially for senators) comparatively young and scandal free. Why would they retire and allow relatively safe Senate seats to possibly go to Democrats? You-know-who is the reason. Flake’s retirement is especially damaging as the health of Sen. John McCain makes it possible that he will resign before his term ends.

But let’s keep our focus on women for a moment. Since Trump took office, the interest in running has been so immense that 16,000 of us — think about that for a minute — have contacted Emily’s List, which works to recruit and train women candidates. These numbers are so immense that Emily’s List knocked down a wall to build a new conference room and have hired a fleet of new staffers.

For the antiquated and seemingly out of touch Democratic Party, this is good news. These women are needed; they are new faces with new energy bringing with them new ideas and one other thing that’s new: they’re not beholden to the Democrats National Committee. With no particular loyalty to the Democratic machine, they can stand up to the longtime political operatives who gave us the uber-flawed Hillary Clinton.

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This is to say that Trump, while a primary motivator, is not the only reason many women are running for office. We are tired, once and for all, of being dictated to by a group of Old White Men, Republican or Democrat. Women’s issues this year are going to be established now and forever as everybody’s issues and they’re not going to taking a back seat to any man anymore. We have waited for our time and, yes, we thought it was our time before (1992, anyone?). We have waited patiently for someone, anyone, to take up our causes. Women, more often than not, still control the purse strings in the family and a healthy, financially stable family is an economic asset to the US. Equal pay for equal work also means equal local, state and Federal tax dollars. Women are the major purchasers of large items in their household. According to the Brookings Institute, in a story published in October 2017:

The U.S. economy will not operate at its full potential unless government and employers remove impediments to full participation by women in the labor market. The failure to address structural problems in labor markets, tax, and employment policy that women face does more than hold back their careers and aspirations for a better life. In fact, barriers to participation by women also act as brakes on the national economy, stifling the economy’s ability to grow. The lives and fortunes of women in the workplace affect us all.

We know this administration doesn’t have our back — they only care that we’re on it. This dysfunctional, self-dealing swamp-creature administration will not represent a progressive America. Women are a force. Women, at last, are in it to win. No longer will an American journalist be called “the pretty Korean lady.” No longer will religious evangelicals tell us what we can and cannot do with our bodies. No longer will Old White Men take away our healthcare.

2018 is the Year of Empowered Women. It can’t come a moment too soon.