Dear Women: We Still Need You to Defeat Trumpism

How Democrats can rev up the core constituency that voted them back into power—even without a certain someone on the ballot.

I must confess, I thought I’d feel better by now. We’d be vaccinated; COVID-19 would be under control; Donald Trump would be gone; and Democrats, with control of the White House and both houses of Congress, would restore sanity to American government. In short, I thought I would be able to breathe easier.

But I didn’t account for January 6.

And I didn’t account for Americans refusing to take the vaccine.

And I didn’t account for Delta.

And I didn’t account for Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

And I didn’t account for the gutting of Roe v. Wade.

And now, it’s October, almost a year after we learned that we were going to finally enjoy a respite after four awful years of a cruel president, with his corrupt minions, inflicting cruel policies on the nation. The election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was a triumph for democracy, and a blow to the rising tide of fascism and bigotry at home and abroad.

In some ways, though, I almost feel worse. I feel powerless.

I am disgusted by the Republican Party’s denial of the significance of a violent insurrection on our Capitol. I am floored by our fellow Americans allowing themselves to get sick and die just to own the libs—or because they really believe the dangerous right-wing misinformation that pervades our media ecosystem. I am horrified when people show up at school board meetings to rail against mask mandates. I remain confused by two Democrats and their hold on our party’s progress. And I am outraged by the Supreme Court’s casual assault on women by allowing the Texas abortion law to stand.

The worst part is that this is when I thought I could finally stop “fighting.” I thought I could enjoy the fruits of the previous five years of resisting, marching, writing, volunteering, calling, texting, motivating others, organizing, and working for this moment to arrive.

After five years of fighting, I don’t want to fight anymore. Why? Because I am too drained and fatigued from the past five years. Many of my friends who were my fellow warriors in battle—who, like me, are mothers who live in the suburbs—tell me they are feeling the same way. They are not fired up—and they don’t want to remain in a perpetual state of war against the right-wing assault on our democracy.

And that’s a big problem for the Democrats. Because I’m exactly the kind of person the Democrats need to keep engaged. I’m a suburban woman, and I’m a force multiplier—as are thousands of women like me.

Don’t take my word for it. The Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote an entire book about it. And look at the data. According to VoteCast, a survey of the American electorate conducted at the University of Chicago, Biden dominated with suburban women, winning 59 percent to Trump’s 40 percent. These women, it should be said, make up nearly a quarter of the electorate nationwide—and were a major factor in key swing states that Biden carried, such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

These women were also one of the core constituencies that helped Democrats take back the House in the 2018 midterms. According to CBS, 53 percent of suburban women voted for Democratic candidates, up from 47 percent in 2014.

Now, the major concern is that many of the women who were enraged and offended by the Trump administration will be less motivated to volunteer, mobilize, and vote in the 2022 midterms. They don’t hear from former President Trump every day anymore, there’s not a new shocking incident to keep them up at night, and they don’t worry about Washington as much because they know the Democrats are in power. Understandably, they are checked out. But that’s a dangerous place to leave them.

The Republican Party is mounting a vicious campaign at the state level to eviscerate voting rights­—and, equally disconcerting, to give their own officials the power to decertify election results. They are attacking women’s reproductive rights with a strategic array of new state laws and bans that are making their way through a federal judiciary packed with GOP-appointed judges. They continue to spread lies and misinformation about a pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 of our fellow Americans. Even with Trump out of the White House, Trumpism still poses a dire threat to the country.

That means the Democratic Party will need to start working now to make sure those same women who showed up in 2018 and 2020 don’t sit out 2022. Here are a couple of ideas.

Keep the message about Roe v. Wade front and center.

I don’t know if the media has just dropped the ball, but women outside of the activist realm aren’t freaking out—because they aren’t getting the import of what the Supreme Court did last month. Yes, there were marches last weekend, and yes, they were well attended. But, like with many news cycles nowadays, it will soon be supplanted by some other outrageous story.

To keep women fired up, the Democratic Party and all its supporting groups need to keep the women’s health, pro-choice conversation front and center through 2022. Think of it as the “Hillary’s emails” for Democrats. We simply can’t let up—both to benefit women’s health and to keep women engaged in a post-Trump world.

Focus on the existential threat Republicans pose to our democracy.

This is the time when Republican governors and state legislators are primed to enact voter restriction laws and rules that will suppress the vote in the next elections—because they are more than a year away, and most Americans simply aren’t thinking about them. If you’re an MSNBC addict, then yes, you know all about what’s happening in Georgia. But the Democratic Party and progressive activists need to make sure that less politically attuned voters understand what’s happening around the country—and feel obligated to do something about it.

Don’t forget about the 2021 elections.

Folks across the country need reminding that 2021 has some races that could use their help. Virginia’s elections—including a tight governor’s race—are this November. A Trump acolyte, Glenn Youngkin, is giving Terry McAuliffe a run for his money. If he wins, it will be a disaster for the Commonwealth. If he loses but comes close, it will still be a small victory for the right—and, as Jakob Cansler argued in the Monthly, it could provide a blueprint for how Republicans can win in blue states post-Trump. Indeed, for McAuliffe to win, he will need a strong showing from Democrats—particularly women—in the northern Virginia suburbs. All hands should be on deck; women across the country should pull out those pens and write some postcards, spend an hour a week phone-banking, sign up to canvass, volunteer for voter protection work, or donate to help get more ads on television. And don’t forget about those down-ballot races. The Virginia House of Delegates candidates need help, too.

Show me the money.

Democrats need to get the message out more loudly that early money is vital for the candidates running in the 2022 midterms, particularly those challenging Republican incumbents or facing GOP challengers. Donating to a campaign is a vote of confidence for the candidate. We got used to doing it in 2019 and 2020­, and it needs to stay that way. Whether you make small donations to many candidates, or larger donations to a select few, contributions to folks running in 2022 will allow them to hire more campaign staff and consultants, obtain more endorsements and donors, and build momentum. Of course, we’re not hearing the urgent drumbeat for dollars like we did in 2020 (thankfully), but these folks need help.

So what am I doing? I’m chipping away. I’m donating to a few women candidates because I believe, more than I ever did before, that we need more women in positions of legislative, executive, and judicial power to protect our rights as women. I’m advising Sarah Godlewski’s U.S. Senate campaign. She’s the Wisconsin state treasurer running in the Democratic primary to take on incumbent Senator Ron Johnson. (Full disclosure: She’s also a personal friend.)

I am still looking for other ways to be useful—whether its writing, volunteering, or something else entirely. The most important thing, though, is that no matter how tired I get, no matter how overwhelmed I feel, I can’t step back or disengage. Because this is how the GOP is going to try to defeat us: by wearing us out and then attacking our democratic institutions to maintain minority rule when we’re not looking. For that reason, I am calling women back in for duty. We have saved this country before—and we can do it again.

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Julie Rodin Zebrak

Julie Rodin Zebrak is the Washington Monthly's director of digital strategy and outreach. She is a veteran attorney with nearly 20 years of experience at the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice, and the founder and CEO of Yes Moms Can.