Marching Into the Future of Progressive Women's Leadership
Advocacy The 2017 Women’s March drew 3.5 million Americans to protest in solidarity for human rights. As midterm elections draw closer, the minds behind the March hope to help more progressive and diverse leaders into power.
There are currently 472 women running for Congress in 2018. Add to that number at least 57 women running for the Senate and 78 likely running for governor. Not only are these record numbers of female candidates, they’re women of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, married women and single women, veterans and immigrants. They’re American women, in all sizes, shapes and shades.
A seat at the table
“We can expect the women running for office to play by their own rules,” says Teresa Shook, founder of the Women’s March. "These grassroots candidates are standing up for issues important to women and families — paid family leave, gun violence, education, equal pay, health care, reproductive rights. They are embracing their diversity… they own it."
“They don't have to ask for permission from men and they don't have to apologize for having platforms that are boldly progressive and rooted in equity and justice,” adds Tamika D. Mallory, the March’s national co-chair. A year after the March on Washington, the Women's March announced Power to the Polls, a new initiative geared towards mobilizing the surge of civic momentum towards positive political change. “This is the promise of the Women's March,” shares Bob Bland, co-chair of the March. “For people to hear our voice, not just in the street, but at the polls. And then in elected office.”
Play your part
But this promise relies on American citizens staying engaged through the midterms, which historically have low voter turnout. “If folks don’t know the importance of midterm elections, we need to change our communications strategies,” says Carmen Perez, another national co-chair of the March. “Trump couldn’t wreak as much havoc without the house and the senate behind him. We need to strip him of that power by turning over these seats. And we need to lay the groundwork for our progressive 2020 president by providing the support system they need in Congress.”
Money and time, the women urge — even if it’s only $5 or five minutes — are two critical ways anyone can show their support. “Unlike many of the incumbents who have big campaign funds,” notes Shook, “these grassroots candidates campaign on a budget.” This means, she encourages, “even small donations count.”
Mallory continues, “We can register voters in our local communities, volunteer our time to canvas, drive people to the polls, all to make sure that people who have been marginalized in the past feel a sense of protection like they are part of a newfound family.”
A mandate for change
Perez suggests another, bolder way women can get involved: “Be audacious enough to run for office. Not just for state and federal office but also for school boards and local elections,” she argues. “We desperately need active civic engagement.”
At the end of the day, Bland insists, this is about more than politics, red or blue. It’s about a just, peaceful world for all, and everyone — the young, the old, women and, yes, men — needs to get involved. “We fight against misogyny, bigotry, racism, prejudice, toxic masculinity, sexual harassment and assault,” she says. “What we call collective liberation is the idea that we all share these values. And so we can all fight together for our freedom. Beyond the 2018 elections, beyond the 2020 elections, we need to continue building a world for our children and for ourselves that we want to live in.”