The second annual Women’s March generated widespread enthusiasm this weekend. Rallies, marches, and anniversary events drew an estimated one-to-two million men, women, and children in cities across the country and around the world.
With signs such as “Grab ‘em by the midterms,” and “Still here, still nasty, still voting,” thousands of women and their allies descended into the Sam Boyd Stadium here in order to kick off a national voter registration tour one year after the historic Women’s March on Washington. The major theme throughout the rally was putting the momentum from the movement for gender equality into concrete electoral wins in 2018.
Capping off a weekend in which an estimated 1.6 million across the country marched in various cities for women’s rights, (the Los Angeles march alone had an estimated 500,000 attendees), the rally, organized by the Women’s March, addressed a variety of topics concerning women and the strategy forward for systemic change.
It’s a small state, with only four U.S. representatives (and six Electoral College votes), but Nevada has contributed more than symbolism to women’s equality in recent voting cycles. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the state, and in a closely watched campaign, voters elected another Democrat, Catherine Cortez Masto, to replace retiring Sen. Harry Reid. Cortez Masto is the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate. Nevadans also re-elected Dina Titus and Jacky Rosen for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Now, Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s term is up, and he is standing for re-election. He has been a dependable Trump agenda stalwart who has failed to distance himself in any way from the president or Senate leader Mitch McConnell. Jacky Rosen is his Democratic challenger in 2018. If the heat generated Sunday at the National Rally in Las Vegas is a reliable indicator, Rosen will unseat Heller with the help of swarms of motivated, engaged women and the state’s highly unionized service sector workforce based in the southern part of the state in Las Vegas’ Clark County. Both Cortez Masto and Rosen were stuck in Washington, D.C., dealing with the GOP’s federal government shutdown, but both appeared in special video messages to the large, loud, and enthusiastic crowd of mostly women.
On the state level, Nevada ties for first place in the percentage of women in a state legislature. Its three largest cities have women mayors. Although the present governor, Brian Sandoval, is male, he will be termed out this year, and already viable women candidates are queueing up to replace him. Christina R. Giunchigliani has already announced. Nevada state Sen. Yvanna Cancela cited the current backlash against three women elected to Nevada state government, who are being subjected to vengeful, expensive recalls by the GOP in a move to invalidate the voters’ choice on election day. “When the fight is this urgent, fear is not an excuse,” she said.
Early in a lineup of speakers on an almost six-hour program, we were introduced to “Idaho’s next governor,” the twice-elected Idaho House member Paulette Jordan. Jordan is a member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe with a strong appreciation for her Native roots. Jordan does not seem to be someone who hears, “You can’t do that.” She issued “a call to all of you: It’s time for you to run,” and echoed one of the salient themes of the day: “First she marched, then she ran.” In a deep red state such as Idaho, it would be a major victory for a progressive Indigenous woman to reach the governor’s mansion.
Attending the rally from San Francisco, that city’s District 6 Supervisor, Jane Kim, announced that she is running for mayor. She would become the city’s second female mayor, after (now U.S. Senator) Dianne Feinstein. Kim pointed out that in Congress, and in most state legislatures, barely a fifth of the members are women. “Time’s up,” she said, “on waiting for our turn.”
Ashlee Marie Preston is running as the first openly trans person for the California state legislature, and says there is so much work ahead of us. “Don’t spend any more time talking about what went wrong with Bernie or Hillary,” she admonished. Focus on right now and the future. The president has already spent more of the nation’s treasure on his trips to Mar-A-Lago than on relief from Hurricane Maria. “We are strong,” she chanted, “we are brave, we are courageous, we are united, we are America.”
The rally organizers were enthusiastic to speak to their goal of registering one million people to vote by November 2018, at the same time acknowledging the severe issue of voter suppression. Since the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 with the Supreme Court decision of Shelby County v. Holder, there has been a wave of states and cities where voter discrimination laws have been enacted. These discriminatory laws have greatly affected people of color, those with disabilities, and others, and their ability to vote. A variety of speakers at the rally spoke to the impact this has made on previous elections, and how crucial it will be to combat this discrimination for the midterms and beyond.
Civil rights advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, who also spoke at the Los Angeles Women’s March the day before, said to the crowd, “The people who lost their right to vote [were] larger than the margin that determined the outcome of the last presidential election.” Crenshaw refers to the fact that in 2016, for the first time in 50 years, the presidential election occurred without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. A total of fourteen states had recently enacted voting restrictions.
The national chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, Rev. William Barber, expounded further on the issue of voter suppression and the overall threat to democracy faced with the current White House administration. Barber expressed, “Participating in voter suppression that allows extremists to cheat in order to get into office is anti-woman, anti-family, anti-American, and immoral.”
Rev. Barber pledged that the Poor People’s Campaign stands with the Women’s March in their goal to register more than one million new voters. “Truth is, my sisters, it’s movement time in America. Anytime a race-driven electoral college turns the presidency over to a narcissistic, egotistical, racist—that loses by three million votes—it’s movement time…. We can’t wait four years. We have to move extremists now out of the Congress and out of state houses,” Barber said. “Alabama doesn’t have to be an anomaly,” he said, referring to Doug Jones victory over Roy Moore. “We can win in Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina, and Texas, and Mississippi. We need a midterm election turnout like never before…. We can take a word like ‘shithole’ and turn it into fertilizer.”
Trans-women activists Yoshi Castro, Trace Lysette, and Bamby Salcedo spoke to the need for the movement for gender equality to include and champion transwomen. “Some of us are at greater risk,” Lysette said. “Time is up on transphobia and anti-trans violence. If you are considered the ‘other,’ it’s time to show them how powerful you are,” she concluded.
It was announced that the next three states on the voter registration tour will be Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. As the national Women’s March co-president Tamika D. Mallory stated, “In 2018, we must turn our work into action ahead of the midterms. This new initiative will address voter registration and voter suppression head-on.”
Bamby Salcedo summed up the spirit of the day saying, “Our movement will not advance unless we all walk together to the finish line.”
by Chauncey K. Robinson And Eric A. Gordon
Chauncey K. Robinson is the Social Media Editor for People’s World and Eric A. Gordon is the author of a biography of American composer Marc Blitzstein, and co-author of composer Earl Robinson’s autobiography. Originally published at PeoplesWorld.org.
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