More Women Are Deciding That Politics Isn’t a Spectator Sport

During the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, there were only two women in the Senate—Barbara Mikulski and Nancy Kassebaum. Subsequently, the 1992 elections were labelled “the year of the woman,” because the grand total went all the way up to six out of 100.

Today Bill Scher writes that 2020 will once again be “the year of the woman.” As interesting as that kind of speculation may be, it feels like a waste of time at this point to think solely in terms of a presidential election that is still three years away. Personally, I’m much more interested in the kind of reporting being done by Tom McCarthy from Bethlehem, PA in an article titled, “‘Women are pissed’: Trump protest turns to action – and surge in female candidates.”

Trump scored a narrow upset victory in the county, which had voted twice for Barack Obama. Trump’s support among women in Northampton probably mirrored his majority support among white women nationally, local pollsters say. That support helped Trump grab the state of Pennsylvania, and the White House.

The loss was devastating for activists like Zrinski. But it was also galvanizing, to an extent that has begun to look bad – possibly alarmingly bad – for Trump and Republicans. Because one year after the presidential election, a wave of first-time female candidates stood for state and local office in Northampton County and across the United States – and they won.

It’s fascinating to hear what has motivated some of these women to not only join the resistance, but run for office themselves.

Democratic and progressive women in Northampton County have been motivated by frustration with Trump, but their feelings of disenfranchisement go beyond the president, they said…

“Women are just pissed, frankly. They’ve had it. I think up to now it’s been a lot of talk of, ‘There, there, we’ll take care of it, we’ll take care of you’.

“And it’s not happening. And women are realizing, I’ve got to step up, I’ve got to take care of myself, I’ve got to take care of my kids.”…

“I think women got energized,” said Heffner in an interview in the deep-cushioned office where she counsels clients. “I don’t want to give him the credit. I want to say it was watching Hillary lose.

“Watching an intelligent woman, who had every qualification for that office, lose. She seemed to have it in the bag, and still not be able to pull out the win – it was a shock. And I think more women stepped up to say, I’m going to run for this office, even if it’s a small office. And other women emerged to help the people that ran.”

From the older suburban white women that are organizing their family and friends in their living rooms (as reported by Judith Shulevitz) to the young women who are signing up to run for office via organizations like Run for Something to these women organizing at the local level in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, it is clear that the days of women assuming politics was a spectator sport are over. I’m sure there are many reasons why that is happening at this particular moment in history. But rather than waiting until 2020, there is very real evidence that the year of the woman is actually underway right now.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.