Refinery 29: The 2017 Elections Prove That Women Are Putting Everyone on Notice
By Lily Herman
November 7, 2017 was a great freaking day to be a Democrat.
We took home governorships in Virginia and New Jersey; at least tied if not flipped the Virginia House of Delegates in the party’s best performance in the state since the literal 1800s; and won a special state Senate election in Washington that gave Democrats control of the state’s entire government and therefore control of all of the state governments on the West Coast. And those are just a few of the highlights.
Already this morning, our feeds are filled with thinkpiece after thinkpiece after thinkpiece after thinkpiece after thinkpiece about how the night was a huge win for Democrats. And it was.
But you know who brought the damn house (and in some cases, the House) down? Women.
Last night, voters in Virginia elected the first two Latina women, the first Asian woman, the first openly lesbian woman, and the first openly trans woman to House of Delegates seats. In Minnesota, Andrea Jenkins became the first openly transgender person of color to win public office, where she’ll be serving the fine people of Minneapolis on the city council. Seattle elected Jenny Durkan, its first openly lesbian mayor and the first woman mayor of the city since the 1920s. Crystal Murillo, a 23-year-old recent grad, proved that young people are in this and took home a city council seat in populous Aurora, Colorado, defeating a 79-year-old incumbent. Democrat Vi Lyles will be the first Black woman mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, a key city in a major battleground state. And Sheila Oliver is now New Jersey’s first-ever Black lieutenant governor.
And that’s just on the candidate side. Analysts are already calling last night’s Virginia races the “revenge of the suburbs” after Democrats achieved a near-sweep of northern Virginia. Almost all of EMILY’s List-endorsed pro-choice women candidates won their House of Delegates races. Planned Parenthood raised over $3 million dollars for its candidates in Virginia and talked to over half a million voters. And this doesn’t even begin to describe the countless hours so many people, particularly women, put in on the ground canvassing, phone banking, donating, and supporting women candidates, many of whom were unknowns and didn’t have the traditional support of a party.
Women voters also turned out. In the Virginia gubernatorial race, White women with college degrees favored Democrat Ralph Northam by 16 points. In a huge shift from the 2016 election, married women came out for Northam by 10 points compared to the one-point lead they gave Trump just a year prior in the state. Over two-thirds of voters under 30 went for Northam, compared to 45% who voted for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in 2013. And Black women continued to make it rain, with 91% of them voting for Northam.
Make no mistake: Women came to play on Election Day 2017 as candidates, organizers, and voters. And it paid off.
Of course, there’s still plenty of work to be done ahead of the midterm election that takes place November 6, 2018. The Democratic Party is still a hot ass mess. Republicans are trying to put tax burdens on middle-income Americans, take away our reproductive rights, continue their attacks on undocumented immigrants, and so much more. In the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races, the overall majority of White women still voted for Republican candidates. Trump is, well, Trump.
So, what can you do to fight back and keep this momentum going, a year out from the crucial 2018 midterms? Here are some options:
1. Get involved with grassroots campaign efforts for races at all levels.
Yes, federal races are shiny and exciting and important. But chances are there are some incredible local and state candidates who need your help. Nothing beats getting into the community and knocking on doors. The earlier these campaigns can mobilize large numbers of volunteers, the better.
Additionally, candidates aren’t the only things on ballots. In Maine on Election Day, for example, residents voted to expand Medicaid in the state. By getting involved early, you can help decide how these measures are written on the ballot and turn out people to the polls.
2. Put your money where your mouth is.
Many first-time candidates face the issue of not having support from their political parties. It’s a catch-22: Parties don’t want to endorse candidates until they’ve shown some fundraising and political prowess, but many candidates can’t reach their fundraising goals or meet key people without the backing of the party. Even if you’re in the bluest of areas, you can help women anywhere in the country.
3. Have the difficult conversations.
Here’s the truth: You’re not going to expand anyone’s worldview or change a person’s long-held opinion overnight. But women, particularly white women, are in a place to talk to one another and to their loved ones about these issues. By starting now and discussing topics like reproductive rights, gun control, and police brutality as well as systemic issues like sexism, racism, and homophobia, we’re more likely to see change by the time Election Day 2018 rolls around in a year. Start small and work up towards the big things.
A year ago today, Hillary Clinton lost the presidency. There are plenty of other people who’ll write that take, so I’m not even going to go there. But I’m here for women like Danica Roem, Kathy Tran, Elizabeth Guzman, Hala Ayala, Andrea Jenkins, Vi Lyles, Sheila Oliver, and all the those who are coming up the ranks now.
I’m with her. But by “her,” I’m now talking about a whole lot of ‘em. And you know what? They’re going to knock everybody’s socks off