Okay, sisters. You wore your pink pussyhats, and you gave the Red Hen five-star reviews. You mocked the Second Civil War that was supposed to break out at all the SoulCycle studios and raw juice bars this week.
That felt good.
But there’s a problem. The one place where women have the undisputed power to make real change — at the polls — has been a little lonely around some parts.
Voter turnout for this past string of primaries was pathetic in a number of states.
“If you didn’t knock on doors this cycle, if you didn’t help a candidate, you didn’t do enough,” said Wanika Fisher, 30, who is Maryland’s version of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old who took out 10-term incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley in last month’s Democratic primary in New York.
The Second Civil War is actually more than a funny Twitter meme. We are a deeply divided nation, our founding principles are under attack, and we’re about to cast ballots in what may be the most consequential midterm elections of our lifetime.
The first battle of the Second Civil War is Nov. 6, Election Day. And there is a lot of work to be done before that date.
Let’s be real here. White women gave President Trump the White House. The majority of white women without a college degree voted for him — 61 percent. They joined the 44 percent of white women with a college degree who voted for him.
“A lot of this election was turned by white, college-educated women who now would like to forget about this election and go back to watching HGTV,” actress Tina Fey said in 2017 at a Facebook Live fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union. “You can’t look away. Because it doesn’t affect you this minute, but it’s going to affect you eventually.”
She was right.
Our sisters of color showed us how it’s done when they shut down an accused sexual predator running for office in Alabama last year. Ninety-eight percent of black women voted against Republican Roy Moore and ushered Democrat Doug Jones into the U.S. Senate.
In Maryland’s Democratic primary last week, Fisher defeated an incumbent state delegate, Carlo Sanchez, in Prince George’s County. She didn’t run for office because she wants to be president someday.
“It’s kind of corny, I know,” Fisher said. “But I just want to improve my community. I look around, and I see how things can be better.”
Getting out to vote is Step One. But Fisher argues that women need to take ownership of the election process, too.
“It’s not just enough to vote anymore,” she said. “It’s time to get out there, get others to vote, to take back the country.”
But turnout was low in her district of about 40,000 residents. Only about 2,000 showed up to vote, according to state voter records.
Yes, America, despite all our political passions and vitriol, we have a voting problem. Most people don’t bother, including most women.
Among the world’s highly developed, democratic countries, the United States ranks among the lowest when it comes to voter turnout.
In Sweden — I know, it’s always Sweden that gets it right — voter turnout is steadily around 82 percent of those old enough to vote, according to the Pew Research Center. Our low 50s puts us in the company of Estonia and Slovenia.
But wait again. How is it that I’m calling out women when we have consistently cast more ballots than men in every presidential election since 1964, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University?
Those numbers hold true in nonpresidential elections and in voter registrations, too.
Just like in school, at work and on the presidential ballot, ladies, we are doing better than most men. But it’s still not good enough.
Let’s come back to Maryland to see why this is so frustrating for true representation for women.
A record number of women put themselves out there by putting themselves on the ballot in Maryland — 190 women running for office in last week’s primaries.
How did voters return that boldness?
Two percentage points. That was the increase in voter turnout in this grab-’em-by-the-p---y, #MeToo era. A quarter of registered voters showed up at the polls.
Yup. All that marching and petitioning, Facebook arguing and knitting, and the needle hardly moved when it came to the one right that so many have fought for.
This is a state that now — with the retirement of superwoman Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) — has zero women in Congress. The home of Harriet Tubman, Billie Holiday and Clara Barton, the place where Verda Freeman Welcome became the nation’s first black female state senator, has also never had a female governor.
So to change that, Diane Fink and the women at Emerge Maryland are helping women get on the ballot. Their candidate training program has 102 graduates. Forty-six of them were on primary ballots, and 74 percent of them won.
But now Nov. 6 is coming, and primary victories aren’t going to be enough. The soul of our nation is at stake again, and women need to make their voices heard where it counts: the polls.