Running Shoes

If we had an honorable opposition, we wouldn’t be facing this impasse—and yes, despite the imminent Democratic filibuster in the Senate against Trump’s SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch, probably the confirmation will be rammed through, anyway. But.

People who argue that Democrats should “wait and keep their powder dry” for future Trump nominations and not risk Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell exercising the “nuclear option” to change Senate rules and shut down a filibuster—well, such people miss the point. They argue that Gorsuch is more “tolerable” than an even worse nominee Trump might name, and that if the Dems use the filibuster now, it won’t be available later for another nominee if a later vacancy occurs. This too misses the point.

The point is actually four points.

First: Gorsuch is not tolerable. He’s smooth and courteous but his past judicial rulings and evasive answers about his current politics that will affect his future rulings do disqualify him. Clearly, he is already biased against any progressive judgments, and is unable to be fair regarding such issues as those in the Citizens United and Hobby Lobby cases, not to speak of Roe v Wade, voting rights and voter suppression, marriage equality, church-state separation, environmental justice, and much more.

Second: The Gorsuch nomination is illegitimate to begin with: it’s a stolen seat. [See my February 6 post, “The Hot (as in Stolen) Seat.”] McConnell denied then-sitting President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for a year, refusing to grant Judge Garland even the courtesy of a hearing, which was unprecedented. McConnell also brazenly declared that if Hillary won, he seriously intended to shut out any appointee she chose for her entire term or two terms if necessary. That’s not an honorable opposition.

Third: As we’ve now learned, the current Oval Office occupant is under FBI investigation for possibly treasonous collusion with Russia to steal the U.S. election. Under no circumstances should such a person be allowed to make a lifetime appointment to our Supreme Court.

Fourth: In politics there really is no “wait and keep your powder dry,” since everything can change in a single week. Each day now, more and more Republican senators (alarmed by citizen protests in their own constituencies) express growing dismay at Trump’s actions and the tilt of their party. Should Trump nominate someone even more extreme—either as a replacement for Gorsuch or to fill a future vacancy—it’s likely some moderates in his own party will rebel against that nominee. Remember, the GOP majority has a thin margin in the Senate, and elections are next year.

So let’s focus on the here and now. Let’s send extra emails and calls of encouragement and support to those senators who will filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination and call McConnell’s bluff.

Sure, it would be lovely if we had a majority in the Senate, and even better—be still my heart!—in the House as well, not to mention all those Republican-controlled statehouses.

Well, do not despair. Help is on the way.

At Ms. magazine, we called them “Accidental Activists,” women who never thought of themselves as being all that “political,” who found themselves catapulted by a click!—a sudden insight or a once-too-often surge of outrage—into political action. An example was the year 1992, which, in the wake of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas Senate hearings that so profoundly insulted women, was renamed by the media “the Year of the Woman” because a then-record number of women ran for political office. Hello? We never said we were settling for one year. Records are made to be broken.

Welcome to déjà vu with a vengeance.

First-time female candidates, roused to fury by Trump’s policies and those of his groupies in the GOP-controlled Congress, are lacing up their running shoes to race for local seats in yes, record numbers. Women who discovered a taste for walking at The Women’s March are now picking up speed running for everything from school boards through town councils to state legislatures.

Emily’s List, a national organization for advancing Democratic women in politics, has been contacted since Election Day last November by more than 10,000 women saying they plan to run for local and state office. In the previous two years, Emily’s List received fewer than 1000 contacts. The organization is now tripling the resources it devotes to state and local races to meet the demand. Meanwhile, Debbie Walsh, Director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers, marvels, “It’s happening all around the country. Women are looking for a way to have a voice. They’re feeling that in ways we haven’t seen the general public experience, the real understanding that elections have consequences.” Rutgers has a national, nonpartisan “Ready to Run ” program, an annual event that features training for women who are unsure how to run but want to—and attendance this year has climbed by nearly 300 percent. Furthermore, sister programs have popped up all over the country, from Chatham University in Pittsburgh to Oklahoma University to Ohio State University, and new ones have just started in Delaware, Mississippi, and Connecticut. Attendance at all of them is soaring.

This blossoming of electoral activism trends heavily Democratic and liberal, and not always where you expect it to be. In Starkville, Mississippi, more female candidates are running for municipal office than ever before—including six candidates for mayor. In reliably Republican Utah, the YWCA’s “Real Women Run” program is seeing more than 200 women turn up at each of their training sessions. Some are intelligent, sane Republicans mortified by the Trump regime; some are Lemme-at-’em Democrats; some are Whatever-it-takes Independents. All are newbies. Kathryn Allen, a doctor in Utah, hopes to unseat Congressman Jason Chaffetz. Christine Chen, a 36-year-old businesswoman from Bridgewater, New Jersey, has formed a ticket of all first-time candidates for State Assembly seats and is herself running for State Senate. These women range in age from their ticked-off twenties to their mad-as-hell mid-sixties like Lucille Lo Sapio, so inflamed by Trump’s feeling entitled to say whatever he wants (mostly lying, she adds) that she decided to finally say and do what she wants, which is to run. All these women describe having had visceral reactions of disgust at last year’s election results and what’s happened since.

That is a game changer, threefold.

1) Finally, the might of the immense U.S. Women’s Movement is aiming its full grass-roots energy toward electoral politics. Women have figured, Why not me? I don’t know how to do this but I can learn. Besides, those moronic guys in office clearly don’t know how to do it either. That realization alone is great for women and all other living things: currently, 90 percent of the 500,000 elected offices in this country are occupied by white people and 71 percent of those seats are held by men.

2) The political map of the country now blushes blood-red except for the coasts, a feat accomplished through years of stealth organizing by the ultra-Right, which infiltrated and seized control of the GOP, gerrymandered districts, passed rules to make voting harder, and perfected a slew of other tactics. It’s also lamentably true that Democrats didn’t focus as they should have on state and local races, finding insufficient glamor and pizzazz there. Women, on the other hand, are accustomed to getting the job done, glamorous or not.

3) There’s a huge danger lurking in those currently red states. It’s based on Article V of the Constitution, which provides for Constitutional amendments when a proposed change has been approved by two thirds of each chamber of Congress and is subsequently ratified by three fourths of the states. But Article V also allows an alternative method of proposing amendments that cuts out Congress entirely: two thirds of the state legislatures can call for a Constitutional Convention. The Republican Party controls 33 state legislatures—and brace yourself—now needs to gain control of just one more, to do this.

In 2016, The New York Times reported that 28 states had already adopted resolutions calling for a Constitutional Convention on the subject of a balanced budget amendment (due to a well-oiled campaign funded by the Right-wing Koch brothers). But there’s no requirement or assurance that delegates to such a convention would limit Constitutional changes to that one issue. Everything, from permanently outlawing abortion rights and marriage equality through ending birthright citizenship and universal suffrage to revising the Bill of Rights—everything—would be up for grabs.

One more statehouse, which could fall next year, is all they need.

Still, history sometimes conjures precisely the unstoppable force needed to move a supposedly immovable object. Now is the time for all good women to come to the aid of their country. Determined women—a record number—are doing just that. Run, sisters, run!