Women hold the power this Election Day

Women hold the power this Election Day

Stacey Newman

First, women marched in St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and in thousands of other cities. The next year, they did it again because the dangerous consequences of the current White House administration’s policies were crystal clear.

And now a record number of women are running for political office — for Congress and for legislative seats here in Missouri.  It didn’t take long after the 2016 general election for many of us to get the message: “If you’re not at the table, you’re most likely on the menu.”

Nearly 100 women statewide are on the Nov. 6 ballot for the Missouri Legislature, the highest number of female candidates since at least 1992. Asked why they are running, many say it’s because of the result of the last presidential election.

At the congressional level, 256 female candidates are running throughout the country, also a record, a predictor of the election of  more women since the legendary 1992 “Year of the Woman,” when an unprecedented number of women were elected.

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Women said then it was because of how Anita Hill was treated when she testified against Clarence Thomas in his 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

The power of women in 2018 doesn’t just exist in candidates running for office. Women are also on target to have extraordinary powers at the ballot box.

Nationwide, at least a million more women have registered to vote than men. New polling since Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings show what most of us women already know, that female voters are going to break all previous records in voter turnout in November.

The gender gap of women to men voting for Democrats for years has hovered about 20 percent, with white males in the majority voting for Republicans.

Before Kavanaugh was confirmed, experts predicted that the 2018 Democratic gender gap would increase to 26 percent. I said it would be higher. The newest polling by CNN shows two-thirds of registered women preferring Democratic candidates, 63 percent to 33 percent for Republicans.  In contrast, 50 percent of men say they will vote for Republicans, with 45 percent for Democrats.

It doesn’t take science to explain the predicted 30-point female gender gap.

With reproductive rights under attack in our state capitol through at least 30 birth control and abortion restrictive bills filed each session, women are getting the message that their government and potentially the U.S. Supreme Court will decide if and when they become pregnant. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is not just a novel and television series but a frightening foretelling of reality.

Women observing what happens when a woman comes forward with sexual harassment or abuse allegations has not only exacerbated the #MeToo movement but made it obvious who at the table gets to decide justice or the lack of it.

Candidates threatening to take away access to health care including protections for pre-existing conditions and eager to dismantle public education have our hair on fire. Gun lobby-endorsed candidates who have no desire to save our kids’ lives in neighborhoods and at school have us downright furious. And those same candidates and incumbents are seen as downright cruel, standing silently by as immigrant children are separated from their parents and put in cages.

As women have done since the 1940’s women-led March of Dimes drives against polio, the 1980’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) campaigns and the historic 2000 Million Mom March against gun violence, we know how to channel our anger into action.

What about those women who marched in 2017 and 2018?  They are now running political campaigns and volunteering in massive numbers to get other women out to vote, including many who have never before done anything “political.”

I’m one of those women organizing and using every campaign skill I’ve learned in my career. As the former Missouri women’s vote director for the 2002 Democratic coordinated campaign and 2004 John Kerry for President campaign, I have never seen this level of enthusiasm, time commitment and dedication of women of all ages and ZIP codes opening their homes for pop-up phone banks, door-knocking in droves and just showing up.

The St. Louis County Election Board is already estimating that midterm voter turnout will increase to nearly 60 percent of registered voters from the typical 35 percent. We know that most of those will be women.

You don’t need to explain to us that our families and our own lives are at stake. We truly would like more men to show up for us. But since they’re not, we’ve got this.

We women have a democracy to save. Just watch Nov. 6.

Stacey Newman is Missouri state representative of the 87th District, which includes Clayton and parts of Brentwood, Ladue, Richmond Heights and University City.