By David Crisp/Last Best News
The election of President Trump has sparked an outpouring of interest by women in running for political office, a sociology professor said here last week.
Speaking in the final lecture in the Frontiers of Democracy series at Montana State University Billings, Joy Honea said that enrollment in the “Getting Ready to Run” training offered by Emily’s List has increased 300 percent since the election. Emily’s List, which encourages pro-choice Democratic women to run for office, has had 10,000 calls since the election from women interested in running for office.
An estimated 86 percent of members of Daily Action are women. The group, founded in December, logs some 10,000 calls a day to members of Congress seeking progressive change. The Indivisible Movement, founded to resist the Trump agenda, has nearly 6,000 local groups across the country.
Big Sky Rising, a Montana group of volunteers that arose after the election, has attracted more than 7,000 members, said Honea, who has a doctorate from Colorado State University. A post-inauguration women’s rally in Helena, one of 673 organized rallies across the world, drew 10,000 people.
“This is the first time that the marginalized position of women felt extremely personal,” Honea said.
Honea was speaking on “Nasty Women: The Political Becomes Personal,” a title drawn from a remark by Trump during his campaign when he was asked a question about his income taxes. Despite Trump’s “misogynist, bigoted rhetoric,” Honea said, he was able to win a majority of the votes of white women and 62 percent of the votes of white women who did not attend college.
The results point to a growing gap between presidential preferences of men and women, Honea said. Women and men split their votes about equally in 1976, but men have not voted for a Democratic candidate since then. More women have voted for Democrats for president in every election since 1996, she said. Fifty-four percent of women identify as Democrats, she said, while only 42 percent of men do.
In general, women tend to hold more liberal political positions than men in terms of support for government programs, abortion rights and social justice, Honea said. Women also are slightly more likely than men to vote, she said, but they face substantial obstacles to running for office.
Women historically have been less engaged in politics, they are less likely to think of themselves as qualified to run, they are more likely to be judged negatively for running, and they typically have less political and financial support than male candidates. She pointed to negative reactions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign such as slogans like “Life’s a bitch, don’t vote for one” and “Hillary sucks but not like Monica.”
Still, she said, women are making slow progress in holding elective office. Congress now has 104 women members, including 21 senators, and women hold 24 percent of statewide elected executive offices. At the current rate of increase, Honea said, women would make up half of Congress by 2117.
“It’s still progress,” Honea said, “but it’s slow and uneven.”
The Montana Legislature ranks 17th among the states in gender equality, Honea said, with 14 women senators and 29 House members. Thirty-three of those 43 legislators are Democrats, Honea said.
Wyoming, which gave women the right to vote when it was still a territory, ranked dead last among the states, with only 10 women legislators, six of them Republicans.
David Crisp is a longtime Billings journalist and contributor to Last Best News.