The Women's March on Virginia
On Saturday, just to the north and slightly east of the great Commonwealth of Virginia, our nation’s capital served as the epicenter of a worldwide protest asserting women’s commitment to democracy, empowerment, racial, sexual, and religious solidarity, and openly defying an incoming President who has shown every intent to dismantle the progress these women have earned over their lifetimes. Such protests are essential in a time where so many who have the most to lose from a hostile Congress and a madman President decide to stay home and let others make decisions on their behalf.
But let’s be clear: these protests are just a first step—albeit a necessary one—during a Trump presidency. Without the ensuing steps of organization, of fundraising, of encouraging our best and brightest to run for office, of making our demands clear to elected officials, and of winning elections, then these protests will have had only the smallest of ripples in the fabric of American life.
In other words, the only way these marches can lead to the substantial protection and advancement of women’s freedoms is if we win the elections that effectively serve as referendums on women’s rights. And in 2017, there is no election in the entire country more consequential to the lives of women than in Virginia.
Right now, the only thing stopping a radical agenda against the economic and social rights of women in Virginia is our current Democratic Governor, Terry McAuliffe. He has been a brick wall for women, not just by vetoing harmful legislation, but also by using the Governor’s powers to issue women-friendly regulations and appoint women-friendly officials to Virginia’s powerful boards. Without a Democrat as Governor, everything that a Trump presidency is hoping to do against the interests of women will be amplified two-fold in Virginia. There will be nothing left to protect women but the best intentions of Republican legislators. And all of them support the very President millions of women turned out to protest this past weekend.
And that's just the Governor's race. None of the above analysis mentions the Lieutenant Governor (who breaks ties in a body that's 21-19 in favor of the Republicans right now) or the Attorney General, who will be busy over the next four years defending Virginia against whatever insanity Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and the Congressional Republicans throw our way. But the real prize is the Virginia House, which has all 100 seats up for election. Right now, Republicans essentially hold a two-thirds majority at 66 seats, but 11 of those are in districts that Hillary Clinton won. If we win those and a few more, the Republicans won't have any wiggle room in trying to pass the worst of their agenda. Finding excellent candidates to run in these districts and making sure they have the resources to compete needs to happen immediately.
What does Virginia look like if we lose in 2017? Likely Republican nominee Ed Gillespie and the Republicans will attempt to criminalize abortion within an inch of the law, and will likely go further than that with a new Trump appointee to the United States Supreme Court. Workplace protections for women will be eroded. Domestic abusers will have easier access to guns. And the benefits established by Obamacare (such as not being denied insurance based on pre-existing conditions, not being able to charge women more for health insurance, and increased access to birth control and women’s health services) will have no defender at the state level. We are talking about a generation of progress for women being wiped away in the span of a year or two. Those are the stakes.
I have a great deal of faith that Virginia and the nation as a whole will follow through on the promises made at the Women’s March. Here in Virginia, women already voted down Trumpism in 2016 and gave Hillary a 5-point margin of victory. But an off-year election like the one in 2017 is precisely the kind Democrats have had trouble motivating young and diverse people (like the ones who stood up in such numbers this past Saturday) to turn out and vote in. If women young and old (and their allies) turn up in November as fired up as they were this weekend, we win. It’s that simple.
But it’s no given. Republicans may not put up much of a fight to stop you from marching in DC, but they will do everything in their power to make sure you don’t vote. They’ll try to bum you out, make it as damn near impossible for anyone other than their allies to get registered and to the polls, and try to confuse and obfuscate the real danger their agenda poses to women, to young people, and to the most vulnerable among us. And they are very good at all of those.
But we are the real power holders. They cannot stop us when we are as determined as we were this past weekend. If Virginians and allies across the nation simply stand up, Trumpism will stall out in Virginia. And after Virginia, we can take it to every House of Representatives seat in 2018. And when we’ve thrown Trump’s enablers out, we in 2020 can take him or Mike Pence or whoever’s husk remains in the White House and toss them out.
It all starts here in Virginia in 2017. Let’s continue the march south.