It was the Night of the Woman in the Year of the Woman. It was women who paraded a million strong the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated and never let up. For two years they woke up to the sickening feeling that democracy was dying and the conviction they were the ones to save it.
They did it from the grass roots on up, with the instruments at hand — postcards, door-knocking, phone-banking, and fundraising. Women set new records for donations according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Tammy Baldwin getting more money from women than men. Women voters made history in the midterms, giving Democrats their vote by 19 points, according to CNN’s exit polls.
It’s fitting that the repudiation of Trump came at the hands of women, whom he boasted he could grope and kiss whenever he felt like it because when “you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Women’s victories aren’t an antidote to Trumpism, but they’re a start. Undergirding the novices at the kitchen table was the rise of #MeToo, which showed what women were up against as a matter of course: that women had to fight back against an appalling man like Trump, who crudely demeans any woman who doesn’t behave like his oldest daughter, third wife, or Kellyanne Conway. Rather than hide their stories of abuse, women went public with them, like Florida Democrat Mary Barzee Flores, who made the boss who assaulted her part of her campaign bio.
Thanks to women, we will have a House of Representatives that is more representative of America. Four women will join the all-male band of the Pennsylvania delegation, and Ayanna Pressley will be the first woman of color in Massachusetts' congressional delegation. Jahana Hayer, a former Teacher of the Year, becomes the first black woman to represent Connecticut. Deb Haaland in New Mexico and Sharice David in Kansas will be the first Native American women, Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia the first female Latinas to be elected in Texas. Remarkably, two Muslim women will join the body: Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar.
And attention must be paid to Kentucky’s Amy McGrath and Texas Democrat M. J. Hegar, who lost in blood-red districts but who provide an answer to the perpetual question: whether women who are tough as nails can nail that elusive likeability factor men whom other men want to have a beer with are assumed to have.
Before election 2018 recedes, watch Hegar’s viral, Emmy-worthy video “Doors” showing her family starting over after her abusive father threw her mother through a glass door but which also shows the former combat surgeon pilot with tattoos having dinner with her husband and three children, a bullet-scarred helicopter door hanging on the dining room wall from the day she was shot down in Afghanistan. She ran because of all the doors slammed in her face because she was a woman after she returned. The door she did open was to hundreds of women allowed to fly missions. For a glimpse of what the future looks like, it’s worth your time.
One of the more inspirational rookies to win is Lucy McBath, an African American candidate in Georgia who was apolitical until her 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was shot dead at a Florida gas station by a white man complaining about loud music. Last night she beat Republican incumbent Rep. Karen Handel who herself famously beat Democrat Jon Ossoff in a special election last year, the most expensive House race ever. That race is no longer notable for two women running against each other, which will soon be no more notable than two men.
In state houses, what a sweet victory that Laura Kelly beat the king of voter-suppression Kris Kobach in Kansas. How beautiful that Janet Mills will replace Maine’s uber-Trumper racist Paul LePage, who told an audience that drug dealers invade his state from New York and “half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave.”
And how heartening that in Georgia Stacey Abrams is within run-off range of Brian Kemp, that other vote-suppressing Secretary of State who’s under multiple court orders to cease and desist. Allowing him not to recuse himself is like the NFL allowing the New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft to referee the Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons. If Abrams loses, there’s no way to undo the unfairness. The massively long lines in minority precincts should be enough to decertify the whole thing.
Amid the losses of Sen. Claire McCaskill and Heidi Heitkamp, who should get a profile in courage award for voting against Brett Kavanaugh knowing it would end her career, are three new female senators: In Arizona, either Krysten Sinema or Martha McSally; in Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen over Sen. Dean Heller, who cast his lot with Trump, and in Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who chastised anyone who dared to notice she was female and call her “congresswoman,” is the first female to win statewide.
Some women will always prefer to be one of the boys.
These 110 victories are a reply to the questions only women get asked: yes, mothers have the time and attention span to govern. A hole in your resume if you took time off is not disqualifying. There are boxes to check for relevant experience other than ones at a bank, a law firm, or the C-suite. Yes, women can handle “feminine” issues like education, health care, guns, and reproductive rights but they’re also perfectly capable on national security and defense. How many men in the Trump administration are veterans? Four of the newcomers who took Republican seats are: Chrissy Houlahan in Pennsylvania, Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey, Virginia’s Elaine Luria, and Abigail Spanberger (who beat Dave Brat, known himself for his surprise victory over Eric Cantor).
Despite the sweet smell of success, male Democrats are busy grasping defeat from the jaws of victory because some of theirs lost. What’s with the sad face over the Senate races lost versus the blue wave women rode to the House? Why let Rep. Beto O’Rourke losing to incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in a still very red Texas cloud the day? Unlike women who lose like Hillary Clinton, we don’t demand that a man who loses disappear. Be sure of it and be grateful, O’Rourke will be back.
Which goes to prove again the old saw about what Ginger Rogers had to do to be equal to Fred Astaire: do everything he did only backwards and in high heels. So men, stop with the loser vibe. Quit raining on our parade, which started on January 21, 2016 and continues. We won. Hear us roar.
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for the Daily Beast. She was formerly the first woman columnist at Time magazine, a columnist at Bloomberg View, a weekly panelist on CNN’s "Capital Gang" and managing editor at the New Republic. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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