Holtzman: The Women’s March should be more than a once-a-year commitment

Rachel Holtzman, Op-Ed Contributor

According to recent estimates, more than 1 million people in Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago alone attended the second annual Women’s March this Saturday, with hundreds of thousands more rallying in cities around the globe. The momentum that led to this moment, from the election of Donald Trump in 2016 to the #MeToo movement that picked up last fall, has only continued to grow, with polls suggesting that women may comprise a major blue wave this coming November. According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, women favor Democrats 57-31 percent for elections this year.

No one is arguing that the Women’s March is perfect. We’re still having painful, necessary conversations about the intersections of gender with race, transgender identity, disability, class and religion. However, it serves as a central point and a rallying cry for change. Last year, the first Women’s March stood against the promises Donald Trump made on the campaign trail. This year, protesters loudly opposed measures such as suggested abortion term limits, the Muslim ban, a lack of protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and the Children’s Health Insurance Program funding expiration.

At the end of the day, however, none of this matters without a specific effort to register new voters, get people to the polls and reach out to local communities. The Women’s March followed up on their Saturday March with the kickoff of “Power to the Polls” in Las Vegas on Sunday. Comprising a national registration tour in swing states and a grassroots outreach program, the initiative acknowledges the challenges of voter suppression and engagement and will help to mobilize more Americans.

The crowds that came together Saturday demonstrated a commitment to a crucial philosophy: Demand that your representatives make the system better, and if (and when) they don’t, fix it yourself. At its core, the Women’s March spurs us to take action and to gear up for the long haul of being citizens: holding Congress accountable, voting, organizing, running (or helping others run) for office and, yes, prioritizing our values over Saturday brunch.

So, after rallying, what comes next? Many women are already holding their members of Congress accountable. Over the course of 2017, constituents flooded the Washington phone lines, leaving message upon message about their positions on healthcare, women’s rights, consumer protections, gun control and the creation of a strings-free bill to protect DACA recipients. According to the app Daily Action, approximately 86 percent of these phone calls were made by women, suggesting that women are increasingly taking action in small ways. Students, office workers, stay-at-home moms and activists alike are making sure their elected officials know their actions will have consequences in November.

More women than ever are running for public office and giving each other the tools to get there. According to The Cut, as of January 2018, 390 women have registered to run for seats in the House of Representatives. Women are running locally, too: EMILY’s List, a group training and fundraising for pro-choice Democratic women candidates, said more than 25,000 women have reached out to them expressing the desire to run for office. And there are many organizations willing to help them. Early last year, Amanda Litman (Weinberg ’12), a 2016 Clinton campaign alum, and Ross Morales Rocketto co-founded Run for Something, which provides resources to people under 35, especially women and people of color, for building progressive benches in their state legislatures.

Last November, candidates supported by grassroots organizations like Run for Something became part of blue waves in the New Jersey and Virginia state governments. Many more, like Skokie resident, DePaul sophomore and Cook County Board candidate Bushra Amiwala, will work to drive another march to the polls in 2018.

For those who can’t see themselves running for office at all, there are plenty of opportunities to help, from canvassing to providing pro-bono marketing and data work to candidates. Candidates need more than your presence at a march once a year. They need money, they need active callers, they need skilled help and they need people with the drive to make things better.

The change we want to see in our political system starts with us at the polls and in the registry offices. It starts with women, transgender people and non-binary folks. And if it comes from the desire to help all women — not just some — our chances of riding that blue wave at all levels of government in November becomes much stronger.

Rachel Holtzman is a Medill senior. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.