By Bari a. Williams, Emerge California Class of 2013
January 3, 2013 saw seventy-eight women sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives and 20 women sworn into the U.S. Senate, numbers compiled and verified by The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University. This number comprises 18% of Congress’ legislators, with 75% of these elected being Democrats. While this is a significant milestone, just shy of 100 female legislators in Congress, we still have a ways to go. How can we get more Democratic women elected to take us there? Emerge is leading by example by taking a page out of the Republicans strategy playbook. Confused? Don’t be…
What is arguably the Democrats’ biggest hurdle? The biggest problem for the Democrats is the failure to cultivate a solid bench of candidates-in-waiting at the state and local levels. If you think about it, both of the major parties conduct their business similar to their views on governance; the RNC model flows from state & local government up, with the DNC model following an ironic ‘trickle down’ effect from the federal level down for the most part. The Emerge America model seeks to prepare women to run for office, with most of their cohorts seeking to run for state and local level offices, thus borrowing from the Republican model of governance. Why does this matter? Well, more women being in power in state and local government is huge when you consider, for example, that laws like the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) give states an unprecedented amount of influence/meddling ability in implementation. Who *wouldn’t* want women involved in those discussions and well represented at the table? That is especially important when considering that women are the primary decision makers concerning health care in their families, and when access to reproductive health care options are at risk.
Emerge America can best employ the aforementioned Republican strategy for maximum benefit by teaching the members of their cohorts how to eliminate the barriers to entry onto the political scene by continuing their effective training on communication and messaging, grassroots organizing, broadening one’s network, and fundraising on local levels, with state wide and national aspirations. By training these women to take hold of their communities, one board, commission, or city council seat at a time, they are preparing them for statewide and national leadership roles and equipping them with the tools to do battle in those arenas. That experience will be a stepping stone to larger, more visible leadership positions, which is where more women belong. Emerge America speaks to the browning of, and increased educational and leadership opportunities of women in America – and shouldn’t be afraid to use a worthy opponents tactics to get more women in positions of power… which will serve to benefit us all.