American women aren’t waiting around until this fall’s elections to make their voices heard.
Consider some of the main events of just this past week:
• In West Virginia, teachers stayed off the job for more than a week and won a five-percent raise. Seventy-five percent of them were women. And they appear to have set off a national movement.
• Indeed, their success is inspiring teachers in both Oklahoma — where the schools are so underfunded, teachers are among the worst-paid in the United States — and in Kentucky. In both states, a number of teachers and organizers are contemplating a similar job action.
• In Tuesday’s primaries in Texas, women won big. Of the nearly 50 women who ran in primaries for Congressional seats in the state, more than half either won or will take part in June runoffs. In those runoffs, three will feature women facing one another — in other words, all-woman contests.
What makes this all more remarkable is that, to get these results, women are often bucking people in leadership positions. Instead of listening to people who are telling them what they should do, they are doing what they think is best to get the results they believe are in their best interests.
It is all part of a larger trend in our politics — one that derives its energy from the woman-led resistance to Trump.
The truth about this resistance is explained in a recent study in the journal Democracy. The authors and researchers, Lara Putnam and Theda Skocpol, found that the Democratic Party establishment is often not particularly knowledgeable about the situation on the ground, and sometimes acts almost hostile to the women attempting to organize for Democratic candidates and causes. No matter. As Putnam and Skocpol conclude:
For those wondering who is going to rebuild the foundations of U.S. democracy — assuming the national guardrails survive — the answer across much of the U.S. heartland seems clear. The foundation rebuilders in many communities across most states are newly mobilized and interconnected grassroots groups, led for the most part by Middle America’s mothers and grandmothers. They see the work to be done and are well into accomplishing it.
We saw this play out in West Virginia, where the teachers’ union urged its members to get off the picket lines and back in the classrooms after a deal was reached early last week on the 5-percent raise. But the union’s members refused to heed their leaders, arguing that they would wait until both houses of the state legislature approved the deal. This was almost certainly a good call. When the issue went to a vote in the legislature, the House approved the deal, but the Senate initially approved a 4-percent raise, and only signed off on the 5-percent raise because of teacher intransigence.
Teachers are always asked to give — and let me remind you that most of them are female.
In the United States, they earn on average less than half as much as people working in other similarly-credentialed professions. State budgets constrained by tax cuts for the wealthy result not just in lagging salaries, but shortfalls in educational and other classroom supplies. And don’t forget that House Republicans attempted to eliminate the $250 deduction teachers can claim on their federal taxes for personal spending on school supplies as part of last year’s tax-cut package, and retreated only in the face of a fierce outcry.
Back to Texas. In the state’s 29th congressional district, Sylvia Garcia won the Democratic primary with more than 60 percent of the vote, and is almost certain to become one of the first Latinas to represent Texas in Congress. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) Chuck Schumer had backed wealthy businessman Tahir Javed, while his fellow New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand — one of the most effective and forward thinking Democratic senators in the age of President Trump — supported Garcia.
And in Texas’ 7th congressional district, a ham-handed attack from national Democrats on progressive Laura Moser didn’t go as planned, resulting in a surge of national publicity and propelling her to a second-place finish. Since none of the seven primary candidates received a majority, Moser will face Houston attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher in a runoff, ensuring that a woman will face incumbent Rep. John Abney Culberson (R) in November.
Even Stormy Daniels is getting back in on the action. She filed suit on Tuesday that claimed that a 2016 non-disclosure agreement she signed — in which she agreed to not discuss her relations with Donald Trump — is invalid because Trump never signed it. A publicity stunt? Perhaps. But also one that’s in keeping with the female demands of this week.
The political and economic world of the United States has, for a long time, been predicated on the idea that women — or sectors of the economy dominated by women — will simply go along with whatever those in charge decide is best. But on that idea, as women are saying in Hollywood, “Time’s Up.”