We Made History—And Defended Democracy
Yesterday’s runoff elections in Georgia saw a mobilization of grassroots “people power” unlike anything we’ve seen before. Led by civil and voting rights organizations like Black Votes Matter, New Georgia Project, Fair Fight and many more, voting rights activists including these five women profiled by The Hill (which included the disclaimer: “This list isn’t exhaustive”), helped turn out 3 million early votes and register at least 114,000 new voters. Georgia voters rose up against the forces of voter suppression to elect Georgia’s first Black Senator, Rev. Raphael Warnock. And as of this writing, it appears that Jon Ossoff will also be the winner, which means that the U.S. Senate will have a Democratic majority, presided over by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Democracy was on the line in Georgia, but it’s just as fragile elsewhere today, from states where voter suppression is on the rise to the halls of Congress where constitutional norms like recognizing the Electoral College results are subverted in order to feed Donald Trump’s ego.
Who we elect to represent us matters, and we the people must continue to hold them accountable. We do not need officials who are more committed to their party than they are to the people whom they are committed to serve. That’s why I want to take a moment to lift up some of the elected officials who inspire me with their leadership, vision and commitment to gender equality, racial justice, economic security, affordable health care for all, reproductive rights and support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, among other priorities.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), for example, has been called “the heartbeat” of the House’s progressive wing, and as the first Black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, she has been in the spotlight since her election in 2018. She inherited the office space of her “shero,” Rep. Shirley Chisholm, and she has been an outspoken champion for women and children, and for Black Lives Matter.
Two more of my personal “sheros” are Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Katie Porter (D-CA). Sharice Davids is the first LGBTQ Native American elected to Congress, and she serves as co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. She has championed legislation to reduce the alarming rise in maternal mortality rates, to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, to pass the Equality Act and to bring down the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, among other priorities.
Katie Porter came to Congress after working as a nationally recognized consumer advocate who held Wall Street banks accountable for ripping off California consumers during the financial crisis. She quickly earned a national reputation for her white board and no-nonsense grilling of witnesses at hearings, which led to real-time shifts in policy such as CDC head Robert Redfield’s agreement to make COVID-19 testing free.
They are all feminist champions and talented lawmakers who understand that they were elected to serve the people, not campaign donors or powerful special interests. The lived experiences of these women stand in stark contrast to the pale, male and very stale previous standard for elected officials. I am proud of NOW’s role in helping them get to Congress—and succeed in office. And I’m proud of you for your commitment and steadfast support for NOW.