National NOW Times >> Spring, 2001 >> Article
Taking Back the Senate Starts
by Linda Berg
While feminists now have
unparalleled representation in the Senate, the cause has not been
significantly advanced in the House of Representatives as a result of the
2000 elections. As for George W. Bush’s presidency, any illusion of
moderation was extinguished with the cabinet nominations of John Ashcroft,
Tommy Thompson and Gail Norton. Lest feminists celebrate gains in the
Senate too enthusiastically, it must be noted that that body was not able
to muster the requisite political backbone to deny confirmation to
undeniably radical right-wing cabinet nominations.
rights supporters have licked our wounds long enough! It’s time to roll up
our sleeves and get to work on the 2002 elections.
If history is any
guide, the first election following reapportionment offers women the best
opportunity for gains. By taking advantage of the multitude of open seats
that reapportionment presented, women’s political outrage over Anita
Hill’s appalling mistreatment and the lack of women on the Senate
Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas nomination battle, NOW PAC
helped elect so many women in 1992 that the phrase “the year of the woman”
was coined to describe it. Imagine the power of harnessing the anger over
this year’s presidential election chicanery and the nominations of
Ashcroft, Norton and Thompson, not to mention Linda Chavez. There is not
one faction of the progressive community which is not inflamed. NOW PAC
must turn that collective outrage to electoral advancement.
has always been committed to taking every opportunity to elect feminists
to all levels of political office. In 2000, NOW PAC’s Political Institute
was created for the express purpose of offering skills-building workshops
to NOW’s grassroots members and increasing the number of trained political
organizers available to work in campaigns across the country. During the
2000 elections, NOW PAC Political Institute attendees worked on virtually
every federal race where women’s rights were crucial. New feminist
Senators Hillary Clinton, Debbie Stabenow, Jon Corzine and Maria Cantwell
have expressed deep appreciation for the work of NOW activists in their
The first Political Institute for the 2002 election was
held in January in Nevada, since that state will gain another
congressional district through reapportionment in 2002, and the
semi-annual NOW state presidents’ caucus and Nevada NOW conference were
being held in Mesquite. Linda Berg, NOW’s Political Director presented an
analysis of the 2000 election and conducted a half-day workshop. The
workshop focused on candidate recruitment, one of the first steps in
filling the political pipeline with feminists, and identifying seats which
can be filled by good candidates.
Nevada activists were
particularly enthused since they already have elected one Las Vegas NOW
activist, Shelley Berkley, to Congress and are looking forward to the
opportunity and challenge of electing another.
understand that everything we care about is in dire jeopardy, the powers
that be will attempt to obliterate every gain we made. Our only recourse
is to go back to the trenches,” stated former Nevada NOW President and
national board member Harriett Trudell. A veteran of earlier NOW PAC
recruitment projects in Louisiana and Tennessee, Trudell now serves as the
political director for the Nevada State Democratic Party which will play
an integral role in determining which candidate receives strong support
for the new district.
Although candidate recruitment was this
workshop’s focus, all aspects of grassroots political organizing are
discussed in NOW PAC’s Organizing Manual, distributed at Political
Institute briefings. “The Political Organizing Manual has everything you
need to know about political campaigns,” commented Kate Hill, New Mexico
The Political Institute will be back by popular
demand in Philadelphia at the National Conference this summer. “This
training has never been more timely or important” stated Connie Hannah,
Virginia NOW President.
In addition to the Political Institute,
NOW PAC last year launched its first PAC sustainer support committee.
Through regular monthly donations, NOW members guaranteed a steady income
for NOW PAC which enabled it to give substantial early contributions to
feminist women candidates and allowed the flexibility to respond instantly
when more resources were needed.
Given the challenges that lie
ahead, NOW PAC is asking all NOW members to consider supporting their
political action committee with a monthly contribution. Only $15 a month
adds up to a contribution of nearly $700 to elect feminists by next
inauguration day. What power NOW members could generate for feminist
candidates throughout the country!