My book, Vote Her In: Your Guide to Electing Our First Woman President, presents the case and the strategic plan for electing our first woman POTUS. Illustrated with images and messages from the historic 2017 Women’s March, it is a deeply-researched− while inspirationally-argued−manifesto. The #VoteHerIn podcast builds on the book’s thesis through interviews with notable American women leaders whose political expertise and experience mobilize this movement.
Launched in February 2019, in 25 interviews I and my co-host, Two Broads Talking Politics founder Kelly Therese Pollock, regularly remark on how much we and our listeners have learned from podcast guests. Consequently, as we begin this historic year for women in politics, celebrating women’s federal suffrage and the movement to elect our first woman POTUS, I’ve shared below highlights of these inspirational conversations; shared in hopes that you, too, if you haven’t already, will join this movement to elect HER.
WE LEARNED SO MUCH FROM THESE GIFTED, COMMITTED LEADERS:
- To a one, our podcast guests affirmed an unwavering commitment to reproductive rights and reproductive justice.
Early-on, we interviewed presidential candidates Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar. Both underscored their unwavering commitment to women’s reproductive rights and justice, including the constitutionally-protected right to legal abortion. While there are other matters of equal urgency for American women, such as achieving equal pay for equal work, no one can argue credibly that−absent a firm commitment to reproductive autonomy−American women will have the POTUS we need, or the country we deserve. (Podcast interviewee, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue, also made this truth crystal-clear.)
- Executive political power is the “Holy Grail” for American women politicians. Significantly, there are numerous contexts in which to achieve it and exercise it.
Since the US Supreme Court stated the constitutional right to legal abortion in its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, there has been a steady, (alas, if gradual) increase in the number of women in elected office. For instance, there were 16 women members of the US Congress in 1974; by contrast, in the Congress elected in 2018, there were 127.
Simultaneously, there has been a steady increase in the number of women holding executive office in various institutional contexts in which public policy decisions are made. Here, I reference political parties, not-for-profit organizations, political action committees, and government agencies of various sorts. At the same time, women political candidates, media figures, and writers have also significantly influenced public policy, thereby becoming singular political figures, too.
Is this all a coincidence? I think not. Absent one’s ability to control one’s reproductive life, how can one reach the top rung?
Podcast interviewees who discussed their executive political power, and the importance of women having it, included Jill Wine-Banks, first woman general counsel of the federal Department of Defense, now a widely-influential writer and commentator; Jan Schakowsky, a leader in Speaker Pelosi’s majority and national, progressive politics; and Toi Hutchinson, advisor to Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker, former Illinois state senator, and immediate past president of the National Council of State Legislatures. Unanimously, these women underscored a key argument in the book, Vote Her In: electing the first woman to the most powerful job in the world−POTUS−will uniquely affirm the case for women’s executive political power. (Now, we can only say women can be anything.)
- Never underestimate the rhetorical and political power of a woman’s truth-telling.
MoveOn executive, and media analyst, Karine Jean-Pierre, recounts in her recent book, Moving Forward, her rise to success by overcoming sexual abuse, race and sex discrimination, and deprived family circumstances exacerbated by being an immigrant family. Yet, her #VoteHerIn interview is a cheery and inspirational one, as was our interview with Sol Flores, an Illinois deputy governor, daughter of Puerto Rican migrants to the US mainland, also sexually-abused as a child. (Just when you think you can’t knock on another door, make another phone call, or write another check, listen to Karine and Sol; do like Karine and Sol do.)
- Dreams can come true, but not without asserting your grit, discipline, and commitment to sisterhood.
In their podcast interviews, two dear girlfriends of mine, (most of the #VoteHerIn 2019 interviewees are my friends of longstanding), City of Chicago Clerk, Anna Valencia, and US Ambassador to the World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin, shared their remarkable stories of realizing their dreams.
Anna’s story begins in a small, southern Illinois town, Granite City, in loving and encouraging, but modest, family circumstances. Ertharin’s story, a similar one, opens on the West Side of Chicago, a largely poor, African-American neighborhood. In both instances, grit and discipline are supremely evident, as is the sisterhood these remarkable leaders promote. In the interview with Ertharin, she and I even laughed a bit about how long we’ve been in our sisterhood. (But laughed with joy, for knowledge of this partnership, and the dreams it can realize.)
- Girls and women across all American generations are equally committed to women’s political parity and power.
Another political partner of mine, Dr. Anne Moses, founder and president of Ignite, shared with us and the podcast’s listeners the findings of an important new study about the commitment of young women to politics and policy change.
For instance, Anne noted young women’s keen interest in climate change, along with the interest they share with other generations of women political activists in issues including equal pay, and protection of women from domestic violence, rape and other forms of sexual abuse. Consequently, Anne challenged women activists of older generations to think together with these young women−not from a falsely-perceived vantage point of superiority attained through longevity−but through a peer-to-peer understanding of the intractability of the enemy we face. (Brilliant political analyst, Amee Vanderpool, did the same in her podcast interview.)
- As Dr. Marin Luther King noted, the arc of history bends towards justice, (though there is no telling how long that journey may take).
In her #VoteHerIn interview, author Linda Hirshman reminded us of this truth, underscored by Dr. King in his speech the night before his assassination: “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now.…I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” (In this time when we hope [and the prayerful pray] for the recovery of Dr. King’s comrade, John Lewis, there is no more important truth to remember.)
WE CONSIDERED KEY STRATEGIC AND TACTICAL CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN CANDIDATES:
- The only way to win is to get more votes than the next girl.
Cindy Axne is running for re-election in her Iowa Congressional district, having won for the first time in 2018; notably, in a conservative state where woman candidates are a rarity. In her #VoteHerIn interview, Cindy was both frank about how to campaign, as well as about the importance of advocating for practical policy solutions that take-into-account the everyday challenges in voters’ lives.
Cindy−along with Audra Wilson, executive director of the Illinois League of Women Voters, in her interview−reminded us that, in this important way, every state in the Union is just like every other state in the Union: composed of families who deserve the best their elected officials can do for their communities. (No wishful, ungrounded thinking needed here!)
- Primarily-white, male-run media continues to discriminates against women.
At the outset of the #VoteHerIn podcast, midway, and then in our last 2019 episode, I evaluated, and we discussed, the systemic barriers faced by women in politics and the importance of unceasingly working to dismantle them.
Among these barriers is the systemic discrimination evident in mainstream, male-owned and male-run media. In 2019, Americans observed this first-hand, particularly vividly in the coverage of the campaigns of the Democratic women POTUS candidates. Podcast Episode Four provided perspective on this challenge. (In Episode Two, you can listen to the stories of women POTUS candidates back-in-the day, and what they overcame!)
- Every issue is a “women’s issue,” but some are of paramount importance when evaluating candidates.
Not surprisingly, this matter arose during the podcast: what is a “women’s issue”? Or: is every issue a “women’s issue”?
While I think this characterization is specious because every issue is of concern to women because every woman is a human; at the same time, some issues are uniquely important to women. In this context, I reference the matters of women’s reproductive rights and justice, equal pay, and freedom from sexual violence.
However, for as long as women remain the primary homemakers and caregivers−notwithstanding their class, race, religion, or ethnicity−other policy issues related to this status are particularly women’s concern, too.
Women candidates ignore this truth at their peril, which we discussed in podcast Episode Three. In it, we also noted that 1972 presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm famously said that she had experienced more discrimination as a woman than as an African American, giving the lie to the notion that women can’t unite across differing backgrounds or disparate experience. (Don’t ever let this disparate experience cause disruption and separate you from your sisters.)
- Will the women who place or win in the 2020 POTUS primaries face the same political challenges as women candidates in down-ballot races do?
As I share this review with you, we don’t yet know the answer to this question. However, in podcast Episode Six, we discussed a unique circumstance that sheds light on this question: the campaign of two African-American women, Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot, (the latter was the winner), for mayor of the nation’s third largest city, Chicago (such a race has never happened before!). Since running for mayor of a big city is a race so akin to running for the presidency, these Chicago lessons−both positive and negative−matter. (Like it, or not, women must run hard against each other, if they expect to win. But good can still prevail.)
While I was trained as an historian and community organizer, and held public office for many years, at heart and mind, I am an unceasing women’s advocate. And, based on decades of the sisterhood’s advocacy, I have seen revolutionary change for the better in women’s circumstances. I have realized this truth: Yes.She.Can.
Yes.You.Can. Each of us has the power to play a unique and important role as advocate; then, as organizer, messenger, and leader of change that benefits women. Never doubt this truth. (Meanwhile, for ideas about how to realize this truth for yourself, join us at the #VoteHerIn podcast, and study Vote Her In for the stories of the women who will motivate you and the strategies you can lead.)
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