In the period between the 2016 election and the 2018 midterms, Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol published a fascinating study. (A quick and dirty google search failed to find the link–if someone has it, please provide it in the comments.) She and a graduate student studied resistance groups that had emerged outside dependably blue cities and coastal areas, and found that they defied the common clichés. Most were based in suburbs or smaller cities, they weren’t particularly leftist, and most were run by middle-aged and older women who hadn’t been politically active before Trump’s victory jolted them out of complacency.
They were predominantly middle-class women’s networks, although with some men in them, and Skocpol predicted that, if the Democrats took the House in 2018, they would be a major reason.
I thought of that research when I received a lengthy email from a reader of this blog, telling me about just such a group here in red Indiana. She said that her particular story had started “on that awful day in November of 2016, when we all woke up in a fetal position…” She had quit her job of 17 years, and devoted herself full-time to bringing women in her local community in northwest Indiana together. Their initial efforts met with frustration.
In 2018, some ran for office, many ran for Precinct Committee Chair. We all ran for State Convention Delegate. We had a grand day out, demanding the Dem party establish a Women’s Caucus with voting rights on the SCC. We navigated the convoluted system with no help from the party, and got a resolution passed and included in the platform package approved by the entire delegation. Our posse was walking on air for a few weeks when we were informed by the State Chair that there would be no Women’s Caucus. The Chair took a lesson from legislative committee chairs who listen to compelling testimony on popular bills, then decide not to take a vote.
The rebuff led to the establishment of a state-wide organization: 25 Women for 2020. The invitation to participate begins as follows, and explains the purpose of the new organization:
You are cordially invited to participate in 25 Women for 2020, an Indiana-wide network of Democratic women candidates running for the Indiana House and Senate.
An Historic Opportunity
2018 was a landmark year. 45 Democratic women ran for the Indiana state legislature. Only 18 won their seats, but the other 27 gained invaluable experience and name recognition, positioning them for success in 2020.
The electoral prospects of this cohort of candidates will help and be helped by a spirited and consequential Presidential election. The Democratic candidate will need the mobilization of voters in every corner of Indiana; and women Democratic candidates will be well-served by the political optimism and enthusiasm which only a Presidential race can bring.
Participation in the 25 Women for 2020 Network will bring you the support of other women who are facing many of the same challenges as you. Each will bring their experience, knowledge, understanding, and support to make ALL members of the Network much stronger. The Network staff, Board of Directors, and Advisory Board Members will bring their experience and expertise to further support the strength of the Network and each candidate’s campaigns.
The network promises to provide “open, supportive and effective peer support” to those candidates. They have a website, and a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Politically-active Hoosiers can appreciate the multiple barriers these Democratic women face in a gerrymandered, rurally-dominated state. But even the candidates who do not prevail will motivate turnout among Democratic voters in 2020, and test the limits of Trumpification in the state.
Women’s groups like this one were key to Democratic victories in 2018, and they will be critically important in 2020. They deserve all the support we can give them.