February 13, 2017; Associated Press (NewsOn6, Tulsa, OK)
President Trump’s campaign and subsequent election has produced little positivity, but one encouraging consequence is the increased number of women—and women of color, which is of particular importance—who are equipping themselves with the tools necessary to run for local, state, and federal office.
Since November’s election results, women across the country have begun to discover their own political ambitions at an elevated and intensified degree that our nation has not witnessed before. Organizations like VoteRunLead, a nonprofit that supports women in their pursuit of political office, has seen enrollment in its educational webinars like “From Protestor to Politician” soar from about 50 to 100 participants to more than 1,000. The group’s director, Erin Vilardi, reports that women of color represent approximately half of the increased registration totals.
Similarly, She Should Run, a D.C.-based nonprofit that works to expand the “talent pool of future elected female leaders” has experienced since November a nearly 3,000 percent increase in online inquiries from women who are interested in participating in their public service-oriented educational programs and resources.
President Trump’s historic campaign, the subsequent assembly of his controversial administration, and the series of questionable proposed and implemented policies during just the last month have sparked a newfound interest in political discourse among Americans. But it’s women and women of color in particular who are going beyond dinnertime conversations and taking real action. From gathering signatures to attending fundraising and public speaking classes, women are already beginning to envision their names on ballots during future election cycles. And because of the nationwide shock that reverberated throughout the country after Trump’s election, women from all parties, many of whom have no previous political experience, rightfully believe that their aspirations aren’t all that farfetched.
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According to registered Republican Aly Higgins, a millennial who is now toying with the idea of running for political office, this presidential election was a game-changer. “People are realizing that if they want to make a change, they have to step up and start seeking it,” Higgins told Marie Claire magazine. “[Trump’s win] showed you that anyone can do this.”
And women of color are perhaps more justified in their pursuit of office than any other hopeful candidate. This past election saw the widest gender gap 44 years, with a 24-point difference between the number of men and women who voted for Trump versus Clinton. But alas, let us not forget that 53 percent of white women chose Trump as the 45th president. Just eight percent of African-American women and 26 percent of Latina voters gave their vote to Trump.
With threats to an assortment of rights, like access to safe healthcare, quality and equitable education for their children, and equal pay and opportunity in the workplace, women of color especially recognize the need for their voice and representation in public office. Although last year’s election helped create the most diverse Congress in history, thanks to the swearing in of a record number of minority women (that record number a whopping four), there is still a long way to go until our political leadership positions are not overwhelmingly held by white men.
As women of color, as well as trans women and other marginalized populations, continue to live in boundaries led by political leaders who hardly reflect the very constituents they were elected to serve, grassroots efforts to prepare a diverse and representative ballot of qualified candidates simultaneously takes shape. As Marion Johnston, a black woman and aspiring future Durham City Council member put it, past election cycles have rarely provided citizens with candidates they can relate to. “I felt like in so many ways I’m voting for someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to be me. And then I realized that the only person who understands that is me, and so I should run for office.”—Lindsay Walker