WASHINGTON — How many times have we heard that this is the year of the woman?
Let’s just say, several. Each decade for the past century or so seems to have presented a fresh feature to justify yet another proclamation of historic import.
From suffrage (1920) to the pill (1960) and legalized abortion(1973) to Gloria Steinem and Ms magazine (1972) to “Reviving Ophelia” (1994) — fast-forwarding to the recent pink-capped Women’s March (2017) and the #MeToo movement (2017) — women have been pushing their way forward to reach parity with men.
Many of the original goals have been reached. Women now outnumber men in college, graduate school, and medical and law schools; three of the nine Supreme Court justices are female; and, incrementally, women are reaching the dubious objective of serving alongside men in combat roles.
But one area where women remain underrepresented is in state legislatures, governor’s offices and the U.S. Congress, the final frontiers for the battles that matter most.
If intentions become reality in November, then 2018 really may be the Year of the Woman. And to whom should we pay homage?
None other than President Donald J. Trump.
Thanks to a series of issues and comments underscoring his apparent contempt for women who aren’t subservient to his appetites, political or otherwise, the weaker sex is fighting back. At least 431 women are running or are likely to run for the House this year — 339 Democrats and 92 Republicans, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. Two years ago, the number at this point was 212.
On the Senate side, an astonishing 50 women are running or are likely to run, twice the number as in 2016. In some states, the deadline for filing hasn’t occurred yet.
More staggering still, Emily’s List, a Democratic organization that supports only pro-choice women, reports having received 34,000 requests this year for information about running for public office. Let me say it again: 34,000. In 2016, only about 920 made similar queries — and that was record-breaking.
Melania and Donald Trump at the Presidential Inauguration — Photo: DoD
Republicans have plenty to worry about with this range of interest and momentum. If women can flip 23 seats from red to blue, Democrats can take back the House. Given the level of intensity, this seems every bit as likely in 2018 as it was for Republicans in 2010, when the midterms saw a surge of tea party candidates who ran primarily against “Obamacare” — and won.
The Republican-led Senate could also be in jeopardy. If Democrats can keep all 11 of their female senators up for reelection this year in place and also win two seats with candidates being backed by Emily’s List — Rep. Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — the Senate could also turn blue.
That’s a lot of ifs. But again, intensity favors women this year. And candidates such as Rosen, a former computer programmer currently in a dead heat with incumbent Sen. Dean Heller, makes clear that she is running against Trump.
“We can find smart solutions in Washington,” she says in a fundraising plea on her campaign website, “but only if we stand up to Donald Trump’s hatred, bigotry, and narcissism.”
Sinema, however, has taken a different approach, crediting her hard work as well as help from “family, church and, sometimes, even the government” for her rise from childhood homelessness to the House of Representatives.
If she secures the Senate nomination, she would probably face a tough opponent in Republican Kelli Ward, who touts herself as “very conservative” and whom John McCain defeated last time around. But Ward is also known for her brashness. When McCain’s brain tumor was discovered, Ward said that he should retire and that she should be considered as his replacement.
Although the national momentum is being driven primarily by Democrats — and Republicans aren’t as likely to criticize the president — Republican women aren’t twiddling their thumbs. The Center for American Women and Politics reports 92 GOP women are running for the House, 21 for the Senate and 31 for governorships. And with candidates such as Rep. Martha McSally, a retired pilot and commander in the U.S. Air Force (who loves dogs), the conservative female stereotype has been forever shattered.
In a perfect world, voters would choose candidates without consideration of gender. But clearly, we do not live in such a world, which has been made worse by the current occupant in the White House and his supporters in Congress. The scope and magnitude of Trump’s offensiveness to many women cannot be overestimated.
Nor would it be wise to underestimate women’s determination to clean House (and Senate). They’ve had it. The swamp ain’t seen nothing yet.
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