More than pinky promises — the five steps we need to take to elect a woman president
Don’t get me wrong, I love all the pinky promises that Senator Elizabeth Warren gave little girls during the campaign. As the mother of two daughters, it warmed my heart to hear her saying that she was running for president because “that is what girls do.”
Since Senator Warren — the last credible woman candidate in what had been a historically diverse field — exited the race for president, women and men across the country have wrung our hands and decried sexism in our politics. In both 2016 and 2020, we saw some of the most qualified women in the United States running for the presidency, but both times we came up short.
So, what is it going to take to finally get a woman president? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is going to take a lot more than pinky promises. It is going to take an investment in building a powerful ecosystem that supports women candidates and women in office. We need to make electing women at every level a movement — not a moment — and there are five steps we need to take to build this movement.
We have to:
1) Start young.
2) Recruit like crazy.
3) Train women how to run for office.
4) Provide women with the nuts and bolts of campaigns — volunteers and donations — when they decide to run.
5) Support women in office!
Young women are less likely than young men to be encouraged by anyone to run for office, so starting with young women is essential. To one day elect a woman president, we must have a bench of powerful woman leaders. Let’s start early by encouraging young women to consider running for office, and let’s invest in organizations that focus on developing political ambition in young women, like Ignite and Running Start.
We cannot allow ourselves to shut women out of our politics. Even if women are interested in running for office, they are far less likely to be recruited to do so. There are 520,000 elected offices in the United States, and we need having women in positions of power at all levels to become the new normal. Close the Gap, for example, is a targeted recruitment organization that specifically recruits progressive women to run for key seats in the California Legislature. This work should be replicated in all 50 states.
Training women to run for office means not only that we prepare them for the daily experience of campaigning, but also introducing them to like-minded women who are interested in running for office and working in government. The work of governing depends on relationships as much as anything else, so we must provide women with the networks to be effective in office. That means supporting organizations like Emerge which not only gives Democratic women the nuts and bolts of running for office, but also has a permanent on the ground presence in states that lasts beyond one election cycle. The New American Leaders Project is also training and building a connected movement of first and second generation Americans — many of them women — who are running for office.
Obviously, it is not enough to encourage and recruit women to run — we need to help women win. Strong campaigns depend on two resources: volunteers and donations. When possible, we ourselves must volunteer and donate. And to make sure candidates outside our own backyards have the tools to earn these resources, let’s also support and expand upon the work of incredible organizations like Emily’s List, Higher Heights, Vote Mama and Sister District. Winning the presidency starts by building a robust pipeline of talented women. We must help women run for and win everything from their local city council to Congress.
And once those brave women actually make it into office, let’s not forget about them — let’s continue to support them and their work so they can become leaders in their communities, in their states, and across the country. Let’s help them think about their next steps and build the political power they will need along the way.
As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi likes to say, “Don’t agonize, organize.” If you want to see a woman president in your lifetime, invest in this ecosystem. Commit to supporting this movement. Give up five lattes a month and donate to five great organizations. Set aside five hours every election cycle and make calls in support of five women candidates.
Let’s help make good on those pinky promises so that we can turn the tide and make it the new normal to have women winning at every level — even the presidency.