The Women’s Wave

There’s continuing talk of a “wave” election in November; an election where Democrats across the nation vote in larger numbers than Republicans and take back control of Congress and many state legislatures. While a blue wave is likely, it won’t be the result of superior organization by the Democratic Party. Instead it will be the result of a grassroots mobilization led by women.

A November blue wave is predicted because most political experts believe that Democrats, and Independents, are more motivated to vote than are Republicans.  A recent USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/03/01/voters-vow-elect-congress-stands-up-trump-poll-shows/376578002/ ) reported that voters are unhappy with the country’s direction and dissatisfied with President Trump.  “58%-32% [of] those surveyed say they want to elect a Congress that mostly stands up to the president, not one that mostly cooperates with him.”

Notably, Trump is losing the support of women.  The most recent Washington Post poll indicates 65 percent of women disapprove of the job Trump is doing.  (Notably, a majority of white women disapprove of Trump.)

Outside Washington, women are driving the resistance to Trump.  This fact has three implications: the first is that women are leading the movement and, in many cases, running in opposition to incumbent Republican men.  The second implication is that women are directing the construction of grass-roots voter mobilization efforts; in many instances these are separate from the Democratic Party.  The third implication is that women are building campaigns based upon issues that resonate with their home base.

Female Candidates: Multiple news sources have commented on the record number of women — overwhelmingly Democratic women — running in 2018.  At the end of January, NBC News (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/huge-2018-story-more-500-women-are-running-major-office-n841916 ) observed that “More than 500 women are running for major office.”

A significant percentage of the female Democratic candidates are women of color.  Notable is Stacey Abrams ( https://staceyabrams.com/) who is running for Governor of Georgia.  If I only told you that Stacey was an unmarried black woman, you’d think she had no chance in this race.  But if I introduced you to Stacey — a graduate of Yale Law School, who is the Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives — you’d come away believing that she is the most qualified candidate.

Stacey Abrams is the founder of The New Georgia Project which, for the last four years, has been working to register voters, primarily people of color.  (In 2008, Barack Obama lost Georgia by 200,00 votes and there were 700,000 unregistered black voters.)  Like Stacey, many of the 2018 female candidates are linked to grassroots organizations — most of which have a get-out-the-vote component.

Independent from the Democratic Party:  The Stacey Abrams campaign is independent of the Democratic Party; this is true for many progressive female candidates.

A prime example of an independent organizing effort, led by women, is the Restaurant Opportunities Center (http://rocunited.org/ ).   ROC is running campaigns for the benefit of America’s 14 million restaurant workers — the majority of whom are women.  (BTW: two-thirds of these women report being sexually harassed on the job.)  In 2018, ROC is focussing on Michigan where state law permits restaurants to pay workers as little as $3.52 per hour.  ROC is organizing 134,000 restaurant workers to put a “fair wage” initiative on the ballot and to vote in 2018.  (In 2016, Trump won Michigan by 12,000 votes.)

New Southern Strategy: The national Democratic Party has been focussed primarily on the Democratic bastions (California, New York) and the historic swing states (Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin).  Meanwhile the resistance is funding strong efforts in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.

Recently, there was a funding conference for the new southern strategy (https://waytowin.us/about/ ).  Their funding strategies contrasted with those of the national Democratic Party.  Way to Win begins locally with a “focus on field organizing and… targeted digital strategies.”  It’s collaborative with an emphasis on “building independent political power… [and] long-term relationship[s].”

Empowering the Base: The key element that distinguishes the new grassroots mobilization is that it starts at the local level not in Washington.  The Way to Win charter states: “We believe that we can win by focusing on our base — a multiracial coalition of people of color, young people, and progressive white people — and offering an agenda that will try impact people’s lives.”  Way to Win has five goals:
1. Reflective Democracy — candidates that reflect their communities
2. Local racial and economic justice accomplishments
3. Barrier removal — particularly barriers to voting
4. Base turnout increase
5. Shift political giving to the base — rather than the Washington political infrastructure.

Because of the emphasis on local issues, the new grassroots’ mobilization focuses on different issues from community to community and state to state.  One example is the push in Michigan for a “fair wage” for restaurant workers.  In Florida, Way to Win is supporting the “Restoration of Rights Coalition” which has sponsored a ballot initiative “to restore voting rights for more than 1.6 million formerly incarcerated people.”

By being community-centered, rather than candidate-centered, the new grassroots’ mobilization aims to last for more than one election cycle.  The political support aims to build a true progressive infrastructure not merely the election of a particular candidate.

There’s a wave coming.  It’s being led by progressive women, outside Washington, and it’s likely to dramatically change the political landscape.