I don’t remember ever wanting to grow up and be president, but in every election since Geraldine Ferraro became the vice-presidential candidate, I’ve wanted to vote for a female president. Then, I was new to voting and it was exciting to participate in our democracy. Fast forward – and those years went fast – I’m no longer new to voting, a little less excited perhaps, but I still want to elect a female President of the United States of America.
And world peace. I also want world peace. But a female president is within our grasp. Here’s why. Simply, it’s time. But more to the point, the recent Congressional races were historic for women candidates. One quarter of Congress is now female. We elected bright young women early in their political careers and we renewed our covenant with seasoned women to continue working on our behalf. There they are – 102 in the House of Representatives and 25 in the Senate. Jeannette Rankin, the first female elected to the House of Representatives in 1916, is turning over in her grave. Since Rankin’s election, 356 women have been elected or appointed to Congress. Slow progress to be sure.
Women are changing Congress through the legislation they write, especially for the environment, health care, education, labor and civil rights. Men tend to focus on agriculture, energy and economics, according to research by the Washington Post. As the numbers of women increase, it’s likely that traditional ‘women’s issues will get the attention they deserve and the funding to change lives. Half of the US population is female, yet a third of the members of Congress identify as female. Representation, based on the dominant definitions of gender of the voting public, has yet to be achieved. We can do more. And here’s how.
Engage – We can all engage more fully. For more than 100 years education and advocacy groups have supported female candidates. Think the League of Women Voters and the National Organization of Women.
Educate – Go to candidate’s nights. Read articles, websites, and books about up-and-coming females seeking public office. Review the past. The women’s suffrage movement sits in the pages and documents at the Library of Congress. See (https://memory.loc.gov/ammem/awhhtml/awmss5/suffrage.html)
Mobilize – Join a group. Start simple. Sign up for a newsletter, lurk and learn. When you’re ready, jump in! Send postcards, call, or visit your elected officials to let them know what you think, what you need, and remember to thank them when they do their job well.
VOTE – We are the majority. Women are 52 percent of the voting public. We need to show up and be counted. Across all demographics, only about half of eligible voters actually vote. Express yourself. Vote in every election you can. The good news is that since 1964, more female voters have cast a ballot for president than have male voters. We have the power!
The young are another rising set of power voters. Both Generation Z (born in 1997 and forward) and Millennials (born 1981-1996) – my kid and his friends – turned out in record numbers for the past midterm elections. Those years of taking him into the voting booth paid off! Like most of us, both voting groups are turned off by divisive and offensive rhetoric. We’ve seen campaigns, especially those of female candidates, present positive messages. I hold out hope that will remain true for the 2020 elections.
But there is a rub. Women believe that female leadership would help the country (46%) but men are less convinced (30%). Those who lean left (55%) believe in female leadership. Those who lean right (18%) are less convinced, according to the Pew Research Center. Understanding those attitudes puts more than a pound of pressure on today’s female public servants. Women need to help women of all political persuasions, races, religious and non-religious and across the gender spectrum to advance. All women, including those from rural areas, suburban van-driving moms, and those whose experiences come from large urban areas need to be involved.
I’m not advocating to vote exclusively for female candidates, though, when considering two equally-qualified, differing-gender candidates, you could vote female. Women are grassroots activists. We seek new solutions to problems affecting women. We’ve done it for more than 100 years and we’ll do it until there’s nothing left to do. Female candidates need our support now just as then. I want that female president in my lifetime, and I think another 52% of the voting public agrees.
Kate M. Carey lives and writes in Lexington, NC while counting the days until she can retire to the beach.