In January 2017, crowds showed up in Washington on one day to support the newly inaugurated president and on the next, an enormous crowd of opponents gathered for the Women’s March, with women leading the way. A year-and-a-half later, support and opposition for this president have played out in the early contests of the midterm primaries.
The allegiance the president inspires among his base, as well as the outrage he has stirred on the left—particularly among Democratic women—have been two of the dominant storylines of 2018. American women of all ages, have been galvanized to organize, run for office, give and raise money, and follow politics more closely and in greater numbers than ever before.
In 2012 we saw the last big wave of female candidates running for national office, with 298 running for the House, and 36 for the Senate. This year 172 women have entered the race for the House, and 57 women have filed or are likely to file for the Senate. The majority of female candidates in 2018 are Democrats, and they show a great deal of diversity. More women of color and more immigrants are running than in previous electoral years. There are more female veterans running, and they’re representing both sides of the aisle.
Since 2017 women have achieved several wins in elections at the local, state and national level around the country. Danica Roe became the first openly transgender person to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly when she won the general election on Nov. 7, 2017, and Vi Lyles became Charlotte’s first-ever African-American, female mayor.
Female candidates are also setting records in a number of other political realms. Forty women are running for gubernatorial races around the country, an increase from a record 34 candidates in 1994. And in Texas, a record number of women are running for office, in races for congressional or local seats.
This increased engagement of women in politics matters because research shows that when women are in public office, they are more productive than men and focus more on policy issues important to women, children, and the health of families. When more women are seen in powerful positions, social attitudes also change.
What has become clear, is that women can compete just as fiercely as men. However, it is not clear whether voters will fault them for being so competitive, but in the long run this could create opportunities to change existing structures and assumptions about what women need to do in order to win.
All elections have consequences and those in play during the 2018 midterm elections include:
The direction of policies on health care and immigration.
Which party will control the all-important investigative and intelligence committees.
The ability of the president to fill court vacancies at today’s rapid pace.
Filling additional vacancies on the Supreme Court.
The ability of this administration to continue policies affecting, education, the environment and trade
In gubernatorial contests, which party controls the governors’ mansions will decide the next round of redistricting.
More women vote than men, but their voting patterns are complex. Women don’t vote as a bloc. They vote along age, educational, professional, and racial lines. This leaves their influence on Election Day outcomes an open question. Currently only one out of every five members of Congress is a woman, and this year we have the opportunity and many compelling reasons to increase that number. In fact there are many chances to seriously consider electing women to represent us at at all levels of government. And let’s be honest: If we want change, we have to be the change makers.
—Lesley Frost, Advocacy Chair