This is an election year – or as some say, an off-year election, meaning that there is no Presidential race, and many of the pundits have concluded that turnout, especially of Democrats, will be down, so the Senate is likely to go Republican and Nancy Pelosi will not be the Speaker of the House. Need I tell you – elections really matter, especially for women.
So the mostly male pundits are pontificating with some gloomy projections – But I’d rather ask you, the ultimate power women of Chicagoland a simple yes or no question: Do you think we inevitably lose in November?
Absolutely not. Because midterm elections rely so heavily on turnout (that is, who actually votes) we have considerable control over the outcome. I tell my election volunteers that I have a secret strategy for winning and not to give it away. First, identify the people who, if they get to the polls will vote my way. Second, make sure they are registered to vote and third, get them to vote. That’s it. Not rocket science. We can win the 17 seats needed to take back the House – if Democrats vote.
And we can make sure that Pat Quinn is the governor of the state and all of our elected officials and candidates return.
Here’s why. The actual drop off in voters in non-Presidential years is about 3 to 5% -- not 35%, and not even 10%. 3 to 5%. A manageable number.
Second. We already proved we can do it. In Virginia, in an off-year election, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and every other Democratic Statewide candidate won in 2013. The overall turnout was in fact down, but the DEMOCRATIC turnout was the same percentage of the vote as in 2012.
So which voters can make the difference? It just so happens that women voters have and can make the difference between winning and losing -- particularly unmarried women voters.
2010 was a good year for the Tea Party and a bad year for Democrats. We lost 63 seats in the House of Representatives, and John Boehner became Speaker. I have to tell you—even though Nancy Pelosi was smiling when she handed the gavel to a crying John Boehner, I was crying but she wasn’t. She’s tough.
The loss of 63 seats is often blamed on Obamacare.
But if you look at the turnout you see another story, a more important and instructive story. There are approximately 53 million unmarried women in the United States – 1 out of 2 women. In 2010, nearly 40% of unmarried women were not registered to vote. If women had simply shown up, we could have maintained our majority. In 2012, unmarried women did vote, and they voted 67% for Obama and 31% for Romney – numbers that clearly spell victory.
I don’t have to recount the ways in which the Republicans have declared ongoing war on women’s reproductive rights, including the right to birth control.
But the war and the disrespect goes beyond reproductive and sexual politics to questions like whether women at long last can get equal pay for equal work, and whether or not they can even afford to feed their families.
Still, many women think that politicians don’t really get the reality of their lives. And if they listen to the Republicans, they are exactly right.
So the House Democratic women, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, and in partnership with women across the country, have launched a women’s economic agenda campaign called: When Women Succeed, America Succeeds. [responding to applause:] When Women Succeed, America Succeeds. Try it with me: When Women Succeed... [urging audience to complete the phrase]. Oh, better than that. When Women Succeed... [again urging audience to complete the phrase]. You got it.
This agenda addresses the concerns that women share in scores of gatherings we are holding around the country. Many of these concerns have been documented in a new study by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress. The Shriver Report revealed some very sobering findings about the state of American women today. Listen to this:
• 1 in 3 women in America is living in poverty or teetering on its brink. That’s 42 million women plus the 28 million children who depend on them.
• The average woman continues to be paid 77 cents for every dollar the average man earns. For African American women, it’s 64 cents and average Latina only 55 cents.
• Women are nearly 2/3 of minimum wage workers, and a vast majority receive no sick days. Zero. Not one.
In Washington, we heard from a school bus driver who told us she regularly stops for mothers, who, with tears in their eyes, put a sick child on the bus. She’s a good mother, because her choice is to lose a much needed day’s pay or even her job, or hope her child feels better during the day. If she wants to put food on the table, she can’t take the day off.
We Democratic Congresswomen are taking our When Women Succeed, American Succeeds agenda on the road, starting a bus tour on June 1. We’ll be talking about raising the minimum wage, now $7.25 nationally—think of it. [responding to applause] Yeah, raise the minimum wage. Give Americans a raise. Give Americans a raise. And there’s a bus tour going on right now that’s talking about that, everywhere around the country.
So it’s $7.25 nationally. It is $8.25 in Illinois and you heard from our governor that we’re going to raise it here. But I want to tell you: it’s a ridiculous $2.13 an hour for workers who rely on unreliable tips. Now, some of you, you go to a fancy restaurant, and that tip can make a real difference. But you go in the afternoon for lunch in a diner, I assure you that woman is not making up for her $2.13 an hour.
So we’re rallying support for equal pay, paid sick days and family leave, expanding Social Security and Medicare, and lifting up workers and unions. I’m a union maid, myself.
Americans support this agenda, men as well as women for obvious reasons. Closing the wage gap between men and women would cut the poverty rate in half for working-women and their families and would add nearly half a trillion dollars to the national economy. When President Obama said in his State of the Union Address—and he did—“When women succeed, America succeeds”, the dial testing went off the charts.
Let’s try it again: When Women Succeed… [motions for audience to complete phrase].
Turns out we’re not alone. Last year, I said that this is the century of the woman and now there’s a new book that documents that idea. It’s called “The Athena Doctrine: How women (and the men who think like them) will rule the future.” The two male authors surveyed 64,000 people, men and women, chosen to mirror the populations of 13 diverse countries – Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, S. Korea, England and the United States.
When the data came back, they found that across age, gender and culture, people around the world, by large majorities, feel that feminine traits correlate more strongly with making the world a better place. I challenge anyone in this room to disagree.
They said, “We believe that the essence of the modern leader is feminine. The people we surveyed challenge the incumbency of masculine structure and the ways of men in restoring trust and solving the most intractable problems we face today. More than ever before, leadership is about being expressive and empathetic.”
I want to emphasize the title of the book: the men who think like them. And we do have those men in this room, too.
What they found was that the definition of winning is changing and becoming a more inclusive construct, rather than a zero-sum game. And we’ve all been in those situations—usually with men but not always—where if I win, you lose. Masculine traits like aggression and control are considered less effective than the feminine values of collaboration and sharing credit.
They even found that in 2009, Hedge Fund Research reported that funds run by women had for 9 years straight significantly outperformed those run by men. Yeah! Listen to this: a 2012 study by Credit Suisse revealed over a 6-year period, shares of large companies with women board members outperformed comparable companies with all male boards by 26%. So, get on the board!
65% of people around the world believe that more female leadership in government would prompt a rise in trust and fairness and a decline in wars and scandal.
So here’s how the authors concluded their book: “We live in a world that’s increasingly social, interdependent, and transparent. And in this world, feminine values are ascendant. Powered by cooperation, communication, nurturing, and inclusiveness, …institutions, businesses and individuals are breaking from old masculine structures and mind-sets to become more flexible, collaborative, and caring. Our data show that this change is deemed necessary, and is welcomed by strong majorities in every country we surveyed…As a result of our experiences, we contend that feminine values are the operating system of twenty-first century progress.” You love it? Feminine values the operating system of twenty-first century progress, and men, you can share in that as well.
Contrast this with John McCain accusing John Kerry of speaking loudly and carrying a small stick – “I would say a twig,” said McCain. Seriously? He’s talking Big stick vs twig!? I mean think about it. Could it be more of a masculine insult? And because Diane Feinstein, during the Bush administration, wants to put out a factual report on torture, she was accused of being “too emotional.” I say: Boys, boys, boys.
In this election we need to help women and men, including the men in this room like Governor Quinn, our Congressional Democrats, and the others I mentioned, the men who support equality and justice for women. All of our candidates and all our elected officials need only two things from you: your time and your money. That’s it!
If we don’t fully engage, the pundits will be right. They will report that, just as expected in 2014, an off-year election, the Democrats lost ground. In states all over the country, Republicans are trying to help this along with voter suppression laws, like in Michigan, Wisconsin and Texas where Mark Schauer, Mary Burke and Wendy Davis need to be Governor.
You already know the downside of losing: continuing a rigged economy that makes the rich richer, the poor poorer and the middle class disappear. You live the war on women and workers every day. The Republicans will keep trying to repeal or roll back Obamacare, Multi-Millionaires and Billionaires will expand their control of our political system, buying influence and buying elections just like we are seeing right now in Illinois with Bruce Rauner.
What I want you to consider for a moment is the upside of winning. We could start fixing a rigged economy that has created the greatest inequality in the industrialized world; in rebuilding a crumbling in infrastructure and our public schools, creating good jobs, raising the minimum wage, renewing unemployment insurance, passing comprehensive immigration reform, improving health care, building a clean energy economy, supporting unions and pensions, guaranteeing retirement security, giving women equal pay and affordable child care, universal pre-school, passing sensible gun safety laws, passing marriage equality federally, expanding the right to vote, ending oppressive college debt, and reversing the role of big money in politics. The last two years of the Obama Administration could be amazing.
This is not a pipedream. We can decide to make it so. Victory is in our hands, your hands, in the hands of people who decide to get off the sidelines, patriots who believe the best of America is yet to come.
We can do it. Remember my sisters and like-minded brothers: When women succeed, America succeeds!
Neither the Catt Center nor Iowa State University is affiliated with any individual in the Archives or any political party. Inclusion in the Archives is not an endorsement by the center or the university.