Don't look now, America, but a new wave of women in politics is here. Since last year's presidential election, which saw the far-right campaign of Donald Trump be rewarded with a relatively narrow electoral college victory (and a decisive popular vote loss), American women have reportedly been entering the political process in a big way, and not only through activism or advocacy. Women are running for office in the Trump era in staggering numbers.
This is definitely a watershed moment — we’ve never seen anything like this.
It's not altogether difficult to see why so many women on the progressive and Democratic left would feel motivated to jump into the political fray, given the events of the presidential campaign last year, and what's happened throughout the first 10 months or so of the Trump administration. There's the Republican Party's ongoing attacks on reproductive rights at both the state and federal level, and the appointment of a Supreme Court justice who's likely hostile to those rights. There's the GOP's months-long effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and replace it with a bill that would leave approximately 20 million fewer people insured. There's the current push to pass tax cuts that would reportedly disproportionately benefit the super-
And of course, there's the fact that Trump himself has been accused of sexually predatory behavior by more than a dozen women, and was caught on tape before last year's election bragging about precisely the kind of behavior he's been accused of. Trump has repeatedly denied all the allegations, and publicly called his accusers "horrible liars."
Whatever the reasons, however, the effect of Trump and the GOP's ascendance to full control of the federal government is undeniable. According to Emily's List, the number of women who've asked about running for office since last November is more than 20,000, compared to just 900 over the course of the 2015/2016 election season, an increase of more than 2,100 percent.
Emily's List president Stephanie Schriock tells Bustle that this is an unprecedented moment for women in American politics, noting the seismic jump in the number of calls her organization has received from women wanting to run for elected office.
"This is definitely a watershed moment — we’ve never seen anything like this," Schriock says. "Even if we looked at last election cycle, where we actually did talk to more women and run more women for office than we have in the past during the whole ‘15/’16 cycle, we were pretty excited about that."
Schriock explains that Emily's List talked to 920 women last year. "Not all of them ran, but that’s how many of them we talked to, and we were excited about that," she adds. "This year since election day, over 20,000 women have reached out to us saying they’re interested in running for office. It’s mind-blowing, it’s just fantastic."
Although it isn't a numerical comparison to this new wave of women entering politics, Schriock recalls the 1992 Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas ― and the treatment Professor Anita Hill received when she accused Thomas of sexual misconduct ― as a sort of parallel moment in American history. (Thomas firmly denied the accusations.)
"The year of the woman, in 1992. You had a moment where women were so angry across the country, mostly related to the Anita Hill hearings,” Schriock says. “And women across the country were watching those Senate confirmation hearings, and literally saying 'well, why aren’t there any women senators there?'"
"That moment resulted in a surge of women that we had not seen before," Schriock adds. "That year, 24 first-term women were elected to seats in the House of Representatives."
As far as what's motivated this recent surge, Schriock believes it's been brought about by two factors: who lost the presidential election last year, and the guy she lost it to.
In Schriock's view, Clinton's loss and Trump's victory ― which occurred amid a slew of allegations of sexually predatory behavior against him ― formed a one-two punch that helped trigger the current tidal wave of women running for office. "That one-two punch is what I believe has angered and motivated women across this country to get engaged politically," she says.
Of course, it remains to be seen how many of the women who've contacted Emily's List, among other organizations, will actually follow through with running for office, and how many will be victorious and launch their political careers. But this much seems clear: there's more intensity and clamor for women to run now than at any other time in recent memory, and that's a positive sign for progressives and the Democratic left.