Never have so many women run for a seat in the US Congress. President Donald Trump is no stranger to this unprecedented wave of 256 candidates … mostly Democrats.
At the dawn of the 2016 presidential election, Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University, New Jersey, had hopes that a Hillary Clinton victory would spur a greater number of women to jump into the political arena.
If the ultimate glass ceiling remained intact, two years later, the women nevertheless won the primary elections in record numbers. A phenomenon observable at all levels of government.
Two years ago, they were 183; now they are 256 to try to get elected on November 6 at the Congress – 234 in the House of Representatives and 22 in the Senate.
The mobilizing effect of the victory of a man accused of misogyny by his detractors is “fascinatingly ironic,” acknowledges Debbie Walsh laughing.
“After the election of Donald Trump, the women realized that if they wanted to see like-minded candidates who care about the issues they care about, they themselves had to run for office,” she notes.
Same story with Lindsay Crete, Deputy Director of Campaign Communications for Emily’s List, a powerful political committee that supports pro-choice Democratic women.
“It’s obvious that they could not stay away from watching President Trump and Republican radicals … adopt policies that hurt their families and their communities,” she says.
The chasm between Republicans and Democrats is widening
From one election to another, women candidates are systematically more numerous in the Democratic camp, Debbie Walsh emphasizes. “But this year it’s disproportionate,” she adds.
The Democrats are 3.3 times more numerous than their Republican sisters, and their progress since 2016 has been dazzling.
In the Democratic ranks, the 15 candidates in the Senate and 182 in the House make up 42% of the candidates. For Republicans, who have 7 Senate and 52 House candidates, the proportion drops to 13%.
Lindsay Crete of Emily’s List campaign laments the disparity between the two parties. “We would reach parity much faster if we were not the only ones committed to this effort,” she says.
The record number of female candidates echoes the greater voice of women in the public space.
The day after the inauguration of Donald Trump in January 2017, the March of Women, held in several cities across the country, set the tone. And showed future candidates that they would not be alone, says Lindsay Crete.
“It was an inspiring moment to see millions of women stand up and say, ‘This man does not represent us, he does not represent our values and we will not let that happen,'” she says.
In the same way, the movement of denouncing sexual assault # MoiAussi, which has won over some politicians, has recognized the need for a “new type of leadership,” says Lindsay Crete.
Some candidates have publicly said they have been victims of sexual assault.
But if the protest has not run out of steam, it’s a lot thanks to Donald Trump himself, adds Debbie Walsh, referring as much to his statements, especially about women, as his behavior or his policies.
The Republican president, for example, called one of his former advisers a “bitch” and his administration introduced a new policy that would deprive clinics of federal funds if they practice abortion.
Its mandate was punctuated by protests, where women often occupied the foreground, on issues such as abortion, gun control, and migration policies.
“For the last two years, they have increased their political contributions, are more street protesters, and are more numerous at the head of resistance organizations,” said Debbie Walsh.
And their collective motivation to triumph the candidates seems immense. “Throughout the 2016 election cycle, 920 women approached us to make the leap into politics or to help other women campaign,” says Emily’s List spokesperson.
“For 2018, this figure has risen to more than 40,000,” she says.
The vast majority of Democratic candidates are also in Republican strongholds. Most are also newcomers who are measured against outgoing elected officials, historically favored to win, says Walsh.
Focusing on the “long term”, Lindsay Crete is nevertheless optimistic. She sees this electoral cycle as “a pivotal moment” in the march to achieve parity.
It is evidenced by the thousands of women who are trying to get elected to school boards, municipal councils, governors or state parliaments, where records have also been broken.
Posts that often serve as stepping stones to higher echelons, she specifies.
“If women win, they will change the face of politics and leadership, perhaps for generations to come,” says the activist.
Alex Demtoir was born and raised in Syracuse. He has written for NPR, The Business Insider and Passport Magazine. In regards to academics, Alex earned his BBA from St. John’s University. Brandon covers entertainment and culture stories here at Global News Tribune.