While the world is focusing this weekend on the end of the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency, there’s a more vital milestone to mark:
This Sunday marks 100 days since the Women’s March.
And as we explore that big question of how not just to re-energize the Democratic Party but how to expand our base, we have an answer — it has been provided by the earliest days of the Trump administration:
Look to American women to lead the charge.
The organizers of the Women’s March deserve credit for tapping into something — a nervous energy, a need to do something, feelings of guilt among some who didn’t vote, didn’t donate, didn’t volunteer. But now we are moving forward, and it is the women who have become citizen activists since the election who deserve credit. They have been the backbone of the resistance. And that should scare the heck out of the Trump team.
So far this year, Emily’s List, an organization that supports Democratic women candidates who support abortion, says it has heard from 11,000 female candidates expressing interest in running for office in 2018. Last year, it heard from 900 such women.
Women have organized postcard writing campaigns against nominations, such that of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and sent countless letters to the editor after the reinstatement — and expansion of — the global gag rule, which restricts aid to women’s and men’s health organizations around the world.
Women showed up at town hall meetings to question their members of Congress, including Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada, and, recently Sen. Jeff Flake in Arizona, about plans to “defund” Planned Parenthood — a move that would leave women across the country with nowhere to turn for essential reproductive health care.
They expressed outrage when Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to allow the Republican Senate to undermine access to birth control through the Title X family planning program. This move would let states cut off funding to any organization that provides abortion services, even though federal money has not covered abortion services for more than 40 years.
While the prospect of electing the first female president didn’t get enough women to vote the way many of us anticipated, the systematic effort by the Trump team to roll back protections for women’s health, for equality in the workplace and for women’s economic empowerment has done the trick.
Unfortunately, many politicians still fail to recognize how issues such as access to birth control, the right to choose to have an abortion and equal pay connect to economic prosperity for women. They are often treated like topics that should be discussed in a once-a-year holiday dedicated to women.
The truth is we are not going to have more women in the boardroom, more women running for office and more women running national organizations if we make it harder for women to choose what medical care they receive and when they have children. Women know this very well.
And they recognize that even as this administration gives lip service to things such as “women’s empowerment” and paid family leave, it is undercutting the very things that ensure women can lead safe, healthy and successful lives.
You cannot say you are fighting for women’s economic empowerment, but then oppose a woman’s ability to choose when or whether she has children. You cannot say you are fighting for women to participate fully in the economy and then not fight for access to affordable birth control, child care or paid family leave.
A true fight for economic empowerment would not leave women behind.
And this is not just about a Republican in the White House. The Democratic Party has some work to do as well.
We have a big tent, as we should. That is key to how we will win again one day.
But talking about the need for women to have access to birth control shouldn’t be controversial within that tent.
Almost 75% of American women support retaining Planned Parenthood’s federal funding for it, and that includes a whole lot of independents and Republicans, according to a Kaiser health tracking poll released last month. They also support women being able to use Medicaid to get a pap smear at a local health clinic or a Planned Parenthood clinic, and ensuring that organizations dependent on Title X are able to stay open.
These things should all be core to who we are as a party.
The Democratic Party must not treat women’s health and economic empowerment as an afterthought — but instead put them at the forefront. It hasn’t always been smooth for party leaders to talk about birth control and access to preventative health care. But women across the country sure have to face these issues every day.
So let’s not paper over them. Let’s say pap smear out loud and talk about birth control on the stump. Believe me, the majority of people in the audience, women and men, will be quietly nodding their heads.
Let’s understand that women are now the majority of college students, and they’re earning more than half of masters and doctoral degrees. That nearly half of breadwinners in this country are women. That these women need equal pay, paid family leave, affordable child care, good schools and safety for their kids — and they need to be able to decide when and whether to grow their families.
And Democrats need to be the party that stands for them.
We need to stand up for the 1 in 5 women who turn to Planned Parenthood for health care. We need to stand up for the overwhelming majority of women who have used birth control. Those women are already standing up for the ideals they believe in — and for their families and the people they love. They need a party that has their backs.
To turn the tide in 2018 and beyond, Democrats don’t need to run from reproductive rights — they just need to show voters what’s at stake in Trump’s America. That’s what American women are doing right now, and in record numbers.