Voting Power 2014

Shirley Chisholm

When Shirley Chisholm broke both racial and gender barriers to become the first Black woman elected to Congress in 1968 and later the first Black woman to run for U. S. president, she leapfrogged over more barriers to power than any woman considering a run today can even imagine.

Was she conflicted in her relationship with power? Just the opposite as the quote above indicates. How did she get that way and what can we learn from her on Election Day 2014?

My systematic research into many women’s ambivalent relationship with power began during the 2008 election season, when I wrote an article for Elle magazine about why women do—or as I came to find out, more often don’t—run for office.

Though women constituted 53% of the voters in 2012, Congress is less than 20% female and state legislatures are not much better.

At the rate women are advancing in Congress, it will be 60 years before gender leadership parity is reached. But more astounding is what I found in 2008 that stopped me short: it’s no longer external, structural barriers, though some do still exist, but internal ones that hold women back from fully embracing their political power. And there are far more similarities than differences in how this dynamic plays itself out in the seemingly divergent realms of work, politics, and personal relationships.

Image via Rutgers
Image via Rutgers

The personal is, was, and always will be, political.

I wanted to learn more: to understand what internalized values, implicit biases, assumptions, and beliefs about ourselves we as women haul around, like worthless cargo, hindering the full attainment of our potential as leaders and doers—what intricate personal and cultural constructs of power, the silent sinews that bind not only our political intentions, but our work lives and even our love lives.

vote_todayParadoxically, I’ve spent most of my adult life working for justice and power for others—African Americans, poor kids, other women. Not, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I feel blessed to have been able to make my life’s passion for social justice into my life’s work. And my path is not so different from gendered behavior regarded (and rewarded) as laudable—being nice, putting the needs of others first.

Which is the point. Fighting for others seemed worthy. Fighting for myself, or something I wanted, did not. And many younger women today tell me they experience similar reticence, even as they seek role models and mentors to teach them differently.

Yet all effective leadership is rooted in the language of power and the willingness to embrace the power one has. If women are ever to complete our staccato journey to equality, we must join the discourse and become deliberately fluent in power’s meanings and nuances.

While the men around us operate as though they own the world—because, for the most part, they do—women have to work consciously to assume that place of intentional power and agency. Women’s inner struggles parallel the pushme-pullyou history of our social and political advances.

It’s this relationship with power—almost a spiritual factor, rarely acknowledged by the metrics or even the philosophers, which I’ve witnessed in myself and countless other women—that fascinated me and propelled me to undertake writing my book, No Excuses, ultimately leading me to cofound Take The Lead. For until we redefine our relationship with power, we will stay stuck in our half-finished revolution.

And that matters for two reasons.

First, we will remain able to excuse and justify our lack of progress by pointing outward rather than owning our part of the responsibility to take the harder road of pushing forward courageously as Chisholm did.

Second, until we can stand confidently in our own power, we won’t be able to lead ourselves or others with intention. If we allow that to happen, both women and men will remain constrained within lives of limited gender stereotyped possibilities, lives that keep us all from achieving our full human potential.

The Right Honorable Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada (and the first head of that nation’s government), put it this way: “Look, power exists. Somebody is going to have it. If you would exercise it ethically, why not you? I love power. I’m power-hungry because when I have power I can make things happen, can serve my community, can influence decisions, I can accomplish things.”

Why not you, indeed? Why not any one of us?

And if a courageous woman like Shirley Chisholm could blast through seemingly impermeable barriers to run for president half a century ago, surely each and every one of us can at a minimum honor her memory by voting today and every Election Day.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

The Young Politica: Guns on Campus

If you, like me, have come to look forward to Maegan Vazquez’s “Young Politica” columns on Heartfeldt, you are going to miss her interesting take on the world through the students’ lens. During the past two semesters that she has interned for me, it has been my pleasure to see her grow and her writing develop.

Enjoy her last column here.  I told her I predict we’ll be reading her in the Washington Post in a few years.

Today, airsoft rifles closely resembling AK-47s were found in the dorm room of a New York University student, according to the New York Post. The psychology student, Bernard Goal, 20, allegedly assembled and sold them for up to $500 each. collegecrime

The story may not have been at the top of my radar (nor on the radar of the New York Post a few weeks ago, but in a post-Boston Marathon and post-MIT shootout world, I have become hyperaware of all things ammunition on campus—especially when that campus is my own.

As a member of the media, it would be naive of me to cite this as a reason for stricter gun laws on campus. Even I know that when in search for stories, a journalist often writes about what is most concerning to their audience at that moment in time. Right now, almost anything guns is a-go.

Up until recent events, campus gun laws were not an issue I was concerned with; mainly because my college doesn’t have a real campus. Rather, students take classes in buildings scattered across lower-Manhattan. What I associated with mass school shootings was a closed-off, centralized area where students typically congregate. And that’s just not an element of campus life NYU can really facilitate. But when I realized that a student from my school could potentially be selling guns within student housing for months without faculty noticing, I became concerned for my safety.

I, along with 91% of Americans, agree that it is time to instate universal background checks for new gun owners. Universal background checks may not have prevented NYU’s snafu, nor would they have the power to prevent current gun owners from having their weapons taken away. But in the long run, universal background checks would have the potential to save lives being taken by those who should not have weapons in their hands.

Unlike those who want to take the second amendment in its purest form, I would be willing to make the sacrifice of a single universal background check if it meant that innocent lives were saved.

Last week, a bill to support universal background checks failed by six votes. The bill finally made the floor four months after the Sandy Hook shooting, and nine months after the Aurora movie theater and Wisconsin Sikh temple shootings. When lawmakers take this long to fail a bill that would only have the power to benefit the American public, there’s no doubt of the power that rich lobbyists, like the NRA, have over Washington.

I never imagined that gun laws on campus would be an issue in a place like NYU, in Bloomberg’s New York City, where even moderates are castigated for their supposed lack of tolerance or unfeasible economic beliefs.

When a student at a residence hall just down my street is illegally making and selling guns from his dorm room, I had to ask if no-tolerance rules were the only rules that mattered in when it came to the safety of students. Strict gun rules on college campuses are prevalent across the country, but students would reap the benefit of safety if universal background checks were put into place.

Thank you so much for following me on my journey towards political self-discovery. I’ve loved your feedback and I am so grateful to have had this unique opportunity. Many thanks to my mentor, Gloria Feldt, for assisting me with the column and for championing my growth as a writer, feminist, and activist.

If you’d like to know what I’m up to, you can find me on Twitter (@maeganvaz) or you can find me studying and working in Washington D.C., where I’ll (finally!) be “walking the walk” this fall.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Women’s Campaign Fund Won’t Settle for Less Than Half

Monday night I attended the bipartisan Women’s Campaign Fund’s  annual “Parties of Your Choice“.

Changetheplayers600

As always, they begin with a raucous reception at Christie’s for several hundred guests, after which we all scatter around town for intimate dinners in beautiful homes. At each party, there are several WCF-endorsed candidates or elected officials who tell their tales and make their pitches.

Here are a few photos I took during the evening, which was peppered with chants of “Change the players. Change the game.”

Gala guest Ilene Wells "Wearing the Shirt"
Gala guest Ilene Wells “Wearing the Shirt”

Valeria Arkoosh of PA wants to be the first female MD in Congress
Valeria Arkoosh of PA wants to be the first female MD in Congress

Sam Bennett, President of the Women's Campaign Fund, cheers on the dozens of WCF-endorsed candidates and officeholders
Sam Bennett, President of the Women’s Campaign Fund, cheers on the dozens of WCF-endorsed candidates and officeholders

MSNBC host of The Cycle, Krystal Ball, MC'd
MSNBC host of The Cycle, Krystal Ball, MC’d

Youngest NY State Assemblywoman, Nily Rozic, bucked the Queens political machine and won in a surprise upset
Youngest NY State Assemblywoman, Nily Rozic, bucked the Queens political machine and won in a surprise upset

Clarkstown councilwoman Stephanie Hausner 'liked' this picture of her that I posted on Facebook, even though I misspelled her name
Clarkstown councilwoman Stephanie Hausner ‘liked’ this picture of her that I posted on Facebook, even though I misspelled her name

 

 

 


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Women’s History Month: Why Sally Jewell as Secretary of the Interior Could be a Historic Win

Sally Jewell is a one-woman powerhouse. The REI CEO has just been approved by a bipartisan United States Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 19-3, according to the New York Times. Her next stop—a full review by the U.S. Senate.

“She is going to give each member of this committee her ear and her expertise that comes from having managed to pack a host of professional careers – petroleum engineer, C.E.O. and banker, to name just a few – into just one lifetime,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, told the committee.Jewell

Jewell’s diverse experience has made her a unique contender for the job. In comparison to her possible predecessor, former Senator Ken Salazar, Jewell has no government experience. However, just as Salazar made a historic impact by becoming one of the first Hispanics to earn a spot in the Senate, Jewell’s confirmation would make her the second woman to hold the Interior Secretary position.

An avid environmentalist these days, Jewell, 56, is not afraid to say that she started off as a petroleum engineer for Mobil Oil. Her range of experience provides her with a widened perspective. She has worked as a foreman for drill crews, an investment banker, and is now the CEO of a highly successful outdoor sports corporation. She’s a Jane of all trades—a banker, a boardroom member, and a mountain climber. She takes heed to both economic fronts and conservation efforts.

“She knows the link between conservation and good jobs,” President Obama said during Jewell’s nomination earlier this month. “She knows that there is no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress.”

Her duty as Interior Secretary would include management of on- and off-shore drilling, overall energy use, and overseeing 1/5th of the country’s land—which includes national parks, wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Land Management holdings. Jewell has helped lead the way for advocating the exploration of the outdoors to more women, young people, and people of color.

But can she reinvigorate the U.S.’ interest in the outdoors?

Jewell is the only woman formally nominated for Obama’s second term Cabinet. If confirmed, she might end up serving her term with as few as only two other women within the administration.

As of yet, President Obama has protected less land than any of the previous four presidents, according to the Center for American Progress. By getting Jewell, a business-savvy woman in the Interior role, the GOP may ease their previous halt on conservation initiatives. And the outdoors industry expert could be the secret to getting Congress to finally act on climate change, a key initiative Obama raised during his State of the Union Address.

 

 


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Three Reasons to Sing Happy Birthday to Alice Paul Today

alicepaul

“I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.” – Alice Paul, suffragist and author of the still-not-ratified Equal Rights Amendment.

Alice Paul had a singular mission, from which she never strayed: women’s full and unequivocal equality.

Today, on what would be her 128th birthday, I sing her praises and birthday wishes for at least three reasons.

First, She lived her principles—“wore the shirt” as in Power Tool #6. Interestingly, though today most of the opposition to women’s equality comes from the fundamentalist denominations of many major religions, Paul credits her religious upbringing for her deep convictions about the righteousness of women’s suffrage and women’s equality in general. As her biography on the Alice Paul Institute’s website says:

Raised in an area founded by her Quaker ancestors, Alice and her family remained devoted observers of the faith… As Paul noted years later, “When the Quakers were founded…one of their principles was and is equality of the sexes. So I never had any other idea…the principle was always there….

This upbringing undoubtedly accounts for the many Quaker suffragists including Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott, both whom Paul admired and considered role-models. Alice’s faith not only established the foundation for her belief in equality but also provided a rich legacy of activism and service to country.

Second, Alice Paul was a crackerjack organizer.  While the trajectory toward greater liberties for women perhaps seemed inevitable by the early part of the 20th century, Paul knew that real systemic change comes when courageous people, willing to embrace controversy and confront injustice, organize to make it happen.

While a student at the University of Pennsylvania, she joined the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA). She was quickly appointed as head of the Congressional Committee in charge of working for a federal suffrage amendment, a secondary goal to the NAWSA leadership. In 1912, Alice Paul and two friends, Lucy Burns and Crystal Eastman, headed to Washington, D.C. to organize for suffrage.

With little funding but in true Pankhurst style, Paul and Burns organized a publicity event to gain maximum national attention; an elaborate and massive parade by women to march up Pennsylvania Avenue and coincide with Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration. The parade began on March 3, 1913, with the beautiful lawyer, activist, and socialite Inez Milholland, leading the procession, dressed in Greek robes and astride a white horse.

The scene turned ugly, however, when scores of male onlookers attacked the suffragists, first with insults and obscenities, and then with physical violence, while the police stood by and watched.

The following day, Alice’s group of suffragists made headlines across the nation and suffrage became a popular topic of discussion among politicians and the general public alike.

And third, Paul knew that even when victory is won, a viable movement must continue to be proactive, with fresh initiatives to keep expanding the progressive agenda that had propelled the suffrage movement in its early days but that had all but been lost once the 19th Amendment to the U.S. constitution giving women the right to vote was ratified in 1920.

So she wrote the original ERA, introduced in Congress in 1923 as the next step she thought the women’s equality movement should take.

Paul also started the National Women’s Party, believing that without a political organization’s clout, women’s concerns would never be taken seriously by politicians. Paul was also one of the few women’s suffrage leaders who realized that getting the right to vote was necessary but not sufficient to enable women to be equal partners in society.

“When you put your hand to the plow,” Paul said, “you can’t put it down until you get to the end of the row

Forty years ago the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) finally passed out of the U. S. Congress and was sent to the states to be ratified

And we are not at the end of the row yet.

This constitutional amendment that would–IF it had been ratified by 3/4 of the states by its ten-year deadline in 1982– have ensured equal rights could not be denied on the basis of gender is back on the front burner, thanks to Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin’s introduction of a resolution on March 8th (International Women’s Day), 2012, but it has not yet been passed. Baldwin’s resolution would have eliminated the time limit for the ERA to be voted on by state legislatures. And only three 3 more states are needed to finish the job.

Alica-Paul-March

Though Paul’s dream of an ERA didn’t pass in her lifetime–she died in 1977–and might not pass in mine, her courageous leadership to initiate this drive for full legal equality for women did foment many advances in employment via Title VII of the Civil rights Act, sports and educational opportunities via Title IX, more women running for political office, and so much more. Could Paul have envisioned Hillary Clinton’s race for president? Or that we have now had three female secretaries of state in a row?

Alice Paul’s life illustrates brilliantly that one person taking action can make an enormous difference. Her leadership legacy lives on, vibrant and bearing witness to the significance of her life. It should inspire others who struggle for social justice to risk taking the leadership for what they believe.

So let’s sing together: Happy birthday to you, dear Alice Paul, and thank you for your vision, courage, and persistence for women’s equality.

 

 


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

The Young Politica: Dissecting The Susan Rice Conundrum

Before the November elections, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had already forthrightly assumed responsibility for the Benghazi debacle that resulted in the death of four Americans including much-admired Ambassador Chris Stephens’

But neither her statements nor subsequent departures of State Department officials has quieted the echo chamber of blame.  The buck stops at the top, and an independent panel report  found plenty of buck to lay on Clinton’s desk. She must own and start to fix the problems of inadequate security at US embassies before she departs.

Still, it’s hard to see the trashing of Susan Rice and the subsequent GOP drumbeat about Hillary Clinton as anything other than blatantly intended to discredit her stellar performance on the world stage this past four years and to mortally wound her candidacy (previously declared unbeatable by Newt Gingrich should she make a second presidential run in 2016.

As Meagan Vazquez points out in her “Young Politica” column below about Susan Rice, the facts are never just the facts but rather come laden with political and cultural meaning.

And by the way, I’m thrilled to tell you that Maegan is going to continue her column into the new year! So if you are one of the many followers of this smart column from a student’s point of view, we’ll return to publishing it on Mondays in 2013. See you then!

After the initial boredom post-election, the political media immediately focused on the eminence of the fiscal cliff. Since those talks are still going nowhere, media sought a new subject to sink their teeth into: Susan Rice and the secretary of state bid. Rice, who was being vetted to take over Hilary Clinton’s role as Secretary of State, has been the subject of scrutiny by some for being the ill-informed messenger to national media after the Benghazi terrorist attacks.

Rice went on five political talk shows saying that the newest information linked the Benghazi attacks to an anti-Islam video protest in Cairo. Rice was relaying the message from that day’s intelligence brief, which was the same information given to Obama that morning. By the time she was on air, however, the link had been debunked. The attacks were not linked to the events in Cairo, but rather, they were premeditated events linked to al-Qaeda.

Soon after Rice relayed the information provided to her, Senator John McCain slammed her at the Washington Ideas Forum for claims she later learned were not correct.

Complications arose after McCain said that he would join the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which  must first pass on nominations for secretary of state.

Even after Rice spoke to McCain and Linsey Graham, and admitted that her talk show statements were “partially incorrect,” Graham and McCain continued in their stance—they would not support Rice’s nomination.

In an effort to avoid any more complications, Rice withdrew her name from nomination. In a letter for the President, obtained by NBC News, Rice said:

“I didn’t want to see a confirmation process that was very prolonged, very politicized, very distracting and very disruptive because there are so many things we need to get done as a country and the first several months of a second term president’s agenda is really the opportunity to get the crucial things done.”

It seems odd that these two senators in particular would choose to attack Rice, especially since both of them have made blatantly false statements in front of a political forum. Perhaps we should remember also some of the statements by Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice, too. The magnitude of their statements is infinitesimally greater than the slip up Susan Rice soon admitted was a mistake. Yet, their careers remain unblemished.

Maybe it was her race, maybe her gender, or maybe it was just bad timing. However, as pundit Keli Goff writes for The Root, there is some irony in seeing validity in “the man who presented Sarah Palin as presidential material labeled…a Ph.D., Rhodes scholar and former assistant secretary of state—unqualified.”

Maegan Vazquez, a Texas born sophomore at New York University, brings her young woman’s lens on all things political to Heartfeldt Blog every Monday. Send news tips to maeganvaz@gmail.com

Two Generations Dissect Election 2012 and What’s Next for Women’s Rights

On election night, journalism major Maegan Vazquez joined about one hundred fellow New York University students over the beer soaked floorboards of Brad’s, a popular site for locals and college 20-somethings alike. Keenly interested in politics, she’s been writing a terrific weekly column for my Heartfeldt Blog, titled “The Young Politica.”

Across town, I chatted with a couple dozen men and women at my friend Loretta’s Upper East Side apartment. As guests slipped into spaces on the elegant couch and chairs, like the old game of Sardines, each sighed, “I’m so nervous about the outcome of this election.”

Nov. 7, 2012 – New York, USA – Young women celebrate the result of the 2012 US Presidential election at Times Square in New York, USA, 07 November 2012. Democratic President Obama defeated Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the US elections. Photo: Rainer Jensen (Credit Image: © Rainer Jensen/DPA/ZUMAPRESS.com)

The pundits had us convinced that what turned out to be a rout would be a cliffhanger.

Maegan and I e-mailed back and forth about our thoughts and feelings.

I quipped that every 20 years, whether we need it or not, we get a “Year of the Woman.”

Women were angry enough in 1992 to vote in record numbers. We’d watched Anita Hill being insulted by the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee when she claimed then U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. Twin assaults on Roe v Wade, Webster v Reproductive Health Services and Planned Parenthood v Casey had brought icy shivers of fear that the reproductive rights hard-won by second wave feminists like me were in mortal danger.

Four pro-choice women were elected to the Senate—a record!—and women won 22 of 24 open Congressional seats that year, when pro-choice Bill Clinton was elected to his first term.

Enter 2012’s Republican War on Women

Again, there were a succession of high profile insults. To name a few:

  • 30-year-old Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke was denied the chance to speak about why contraceptives should be covered by insurance, and was rewarded by being called a slut by Rush Limbaugh…
  • An all-male “expert” panel pontificated on women’s reproductive health before a Senate committee (also all-male because the women on the committee were so incensed they walked out)…
  • Bills in Texas and Virginia sought to force women seeking abortions to submit to 10″ ultrasound “shaming wands”…
  • Indiana GOP senate candidate Richard Mourdock declared he opposes abortion even after rape, because pregnancy from rape is “something that God intended to happen”…
  • Missouri GOP senate candidate Todd Akin opined about “legitimate rape” and made the loopy assertion that women’s bodies reject rape-induced pregnancy…

Were enough women, especially younger women, again sufficiently incensed to vote in the numbers needed to sweep Barack Obama into a second term and set a new record for electing pro-choice women?

Says Maegan, “For my generation—the up-and-coming movers and shakers, the wide-eyed, and the ambitious—this election was a pinnacle moment in many of our personal histories. It is an era that shifts towards tolerance and equality of women, same-sex couples, and ethnic minorities. Yet, as we saw in the early stages of election night, it can just as easily be taken away.”

The mood at Loretta’s lightened when the Connecticut senate race broke for Democrat Chris Murphy against World Wrestling Association former CEO, right wing Republican bazillionaire Linda McMahon. Proving once again that women can’t be fooled by lipstick and a pink suit.

Cheers erupted for Maggie Hassan, who will become the only female prochoice Democratic governor in the country.

Bigger cheers when Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren was declared victorious over Republican Scott Brown.

Biggest cheers were reserved for Mourdock’s defeat, and in rapid succession, Missouri Democratic Senate incumbent Claire McCaskill wiped the floor with Todd Akin.

This War on Women had clearly been won—by women.

Maegan’s take: “Reproductive rights and women’s health remain behind the times, but we are getting somewhere. With women like pro-choice Claire McCaskill in office, instead of her women’s rights antithesis Todd Akin, the country can continue to trudge toward women’s rights reform.”

Maine and Maryland pass ballot measures approving same sex marriage. More cheers for that watershed.

And then the news comes that Obama is over the top—Ohio has once again been the pivotal state that makes him president. On East 77th, a toast, and a sigh of relief.

Maegan describes the scene at Brad’s bar downtown: “Suddenly, the chatty crowd erupts in a roar. The sight I saw on election night was similar to what many of my friends saw in other parts of the country—young people celebrating after their POTUS was reelected.”

Young people made up 19% of voters, an even higher percentage than in 2008. Maegan predicted students should soon be seeing legislation to reform student loans and Obamacare will continue to stream into effect. These are high priority items for her.

The numbers for women across age brackets were even more stunning.

Women as a whole made up 54% of the electorate. They voted for Obama by 55% – 44%. Unmarried women voted for Obama by a whopping 68% to 30%:

Twenty female senators will serve in the 113th Congress, the largest number in US history. Every Democratic female incumbent was reelected.

Journalist Irin Carmon’s salon.com piece taunted, “Still Want to Fight a War on Women?”

What does it all mean? The answer is in our hands.

It means the fight goes on. And any generation that forgets this lesson of history is doomed to repeat it, just as women did after 1992.

In 1994, the right came back with a tsunami known as the Gingrich Revolution and his infamous Contract with America. Many of the women and progressive men elected in 1992 were swept back out of office.

This happened not because women changed their minds but because they failed to vote in the same numbers as they had when they were agitated in 1992. Today, opportunity knocks anew.

After the nasty political acrimony of the last two decades, I believe there is a deep hunger for the leadership qualities women bring, a desire to fix the broken political system and change dysfunctional cultural paradigms. Women are more likely to work across the aisle to find solutions rather than merely engage in adolescent power plays.

But to achieve that goal and get the country moving forward—Obama’s campaign slogan–women must first claim their own power to lead themselves with intention. To take this precious moment in history and make the gains sustainable by advancing a bold agenda, and never withdrawing from the process again.

Too much has already been lost. It will take an enormous amount of work just to repair the damage of the last few years of assaults.

There are positive signs. Almost immediately, I received an e-mail from the Center for Reproductive Rights urging me to sign their Bill of Reproductive Rights.

I am gratified that this language now being heard everywhere—women’s reproductive rights are human rights. The contraceptive coverage movement I created at the national level in 1996 must continue to flourish and become truly universal until Sandra Fluke is recognized as hero, and no one would dare call her a slut. That recognition of women’s full humanity requires a culture shift bigger than we have never had before.

It’s time for the Freedom of Choice Act to guarantee women the right to make their own childbearing choices. Time to repeal the Hyde Amendment and its spawn. Time to insist the president fill the too-many empty seats on the Federal bench expeditiously, with people who respect women’s rights.

It’s time for the Paycheck Fairness Act and other economic policies that ensure all women and men get a fair shake.

For as Maegan e-mails me, “The President can do what he wants without the hesitation he faced during his past four years in office. If the POTUS will be remembered for anything after his presidency by swing voters, it will be his failure or success of stabilizing the U.S. economy.”

As a millennial, a woman, and a Hispanic, she lives at the sweet spot of where the voting demographics are going.

Her advice is exactly right: “We must fight for what we believe in, and continue striving towards our political desires through our votes and our grass roots movements and our voices. We cannot sit still waiting for a promised change. We must insist on change when politicians do not follow through. We must demand it.”

This post originally appeared on BlogHer.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

In Which I Answer POLITICO Arena’s Election Day Question: What were the campaigns’ biggest mistakes?

A friend posted a photo on Facebook of a long line at her polling place this morning with the comment that “it’s a good sign when voters are treating an election like Black Friday at Walmart.” Now we have to wait all day to learn which of the candidates brought forth this outpouring of interest: do voters think Obama or Romney is the better bargain?

Both campaigns have made mistakes galore, balancing each other out in about the same horserace numbers as the daily polls have recently shown the race to be. Romney’s worst was hoisting himself on his own petard of Etch-a-Sketch positions, thus eroding voter trust, then nailing his coffin with the deliberately false Jeep ad.

Obama’s worst mistake was four years in the making. He failed to run, as Harry Truman successfully did, against the “do nothing Congress” that is more at fault for the lack of economic progress than the president who at least put forward some ideas. He had to re-energize many discouraged 2008 supporters as a result. But thanks to the Republican War on Women which Romney could not separate himself from, Obama was able to seize a set of issues that resonate with progressive women who make up almost 60% of the Democratic base.

Romney’s mistakes were mistakes of character and likability; Obama’s were mistakes of leadership style.

I’ve walked many precincts knocking on doors and weathered many elections. In the end voters usually go with the person whose character and persona they find more appealing. Those scales weigh in Obama’s favor today. We’ll find out tonight whether that is enough of a bargain to carry the election.

Meanwhile, here’s what I’m posting on social media today:

The ballot box is where we win the #waronwomen. #Vote #Election2112 

I’d appreciate your shares and tweets of that sentiment.

This was originally posted in response to a question in Politico Arena. Find the Arena response here.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

The Young Politica: How to Vote During Hurricane

We Lower-Manhattanites are a scrappy bunch of people. We are starving artists, college students, writers, and Wall Street bankers. This past week, after Hurricane Sandy hit, all of lower Manhattan was out of power for days.

I am writing this after being evacuated from my dorm and living out of NYU’s Kimmel Center for days—a building that offered food, shelter, and power to students. For those not seeking refuge outside of their ‘South of Power’ apartments, I’ve heard stories of raw ramen for dinner and pilgrimages north for cell phone service. Luckily, power resumed for much of my neighborhood recently, so I have a bed to sleep in again.

Rather than thinking about where I would be relocated after the storm on Monday, my concerns shifted to how Sandy would affect the upcoming election. Perhaps my priorities need adjusting.

First on my list of concerns: my vote. Along with local businesses and city parks, the postal service was out of operation in my area for a few days. It wasn’t good news for an absentee voter, like myself.  However, Uptown mail services were functioning as usual. That’s where I headed to get my ballot sent. As of Wednesday, USPS is up and running.

Another slew of worries deals with voter turnout. The eastern seaboard states affected by Sandy were mostly blue states. Many of the people who will not make it to the polls because of the storm will be similar to those who are also shut out of the system that attempts to instill Voter ID Laws—citizens who need transportation to get to their voting site like the poor and the elderly; and mail-in voters who cannot make it to the polls like those with illness. Even voters who can drive to their polling sites may not be able to get there because of the gasoline shortage.

Some experts are even reasoning that the election might be swayed by way of the president’s approval rating post-Sandy. Even though the situation down here was quite the opposite of the negative national event that was Katrina, a natural disaster like Sandy during any administration’s reign can be a game changer.

No matter who wins, I just hope it’s a fair fight; not one skewed by a tragic event such as this. If we can survive without power for almost a week, we can walk to polling stations to cast our ballot. I hiked up 45 blocks to get my ballot sent, for Pete’s sake. No matter where you are, please vote.

Maegan Vazquez, a Texas born sophomore at New York University, brings her young woman’s lens on all things political to Heartfeldt Blog every Monday. Send news tips to maeganvaz@gmail.com

If Obama Wins Ohio, Fair Voting and Jennifer Brunner Get Credit

My grandparents were all immigrants from tyrant-ruled Eastern Europe during the early decades of the 20th century. They treasured their voting rights as only new citizens can, and they instilled in me their almost sappy love of the American ideals of liberty, justice, and fairness.

Having struggled to get to their promised land, they considered voting their sacred duty. Every election, no matter what. They weren’t naïve about politics, nor did they expect their favored candidates to win every time. They just wanted their votes counted honestly and their voices heard fairly.

They would have loved Jennifer Brunner, Ohio’s first female Secretary of State who served from 2007-2011. She’s a true American hero for cleaning up the state’s election system after its 2004 debacle, one that is remembered as one of the most sordid chapters in our nation’s history.

Ohio is a perennial battleground state. It has been pivotal to the outcome of every presidential election in recent history.  And since 1944, as Ohio has gone, so has the nation with only one exception, when voters chose Nixon over Kennedy in 1960.

Most elections are won or lost with a mere 2 percent swing. So the consequences of even a scintilla of voter suppression or a few malfunctioning voting machines can turn an entire election and change the course of history.  That’s why fair and honest elections are so incredibly important to American democracy.

In Brunner’s forthright memoir, Cupcakes and Courage, for which I was honored to write the foreword, you see firsthand the qualitative difference between a mere politician determined to stay in office even if it means jiggering the electoral system and an elected official who is first and foremost a public servant.

Brunner tells an inspiring story, full of juicy anecdotes that illustrate the power of the individual to make a difference. But unlike the single frosted cupcake on its cover, Cupcakes is not an individualistic story—far from it. Deeply rooted in values of family and social responsibility, she took those communitarian values into public service and audaciously trudged through bi-partisan criticism to protect the rights of the individual voter.

Brunner’s unwavering focus on fairness and transparency brought major changes to Ohio’s 2008 electoral processes, which in turn helped to restore voter confidence.  Her unflinching description of what she did and why after the 2004 presidential election turned on the shifting sands of Cuyahoga County’s voting irregularities deserves to be a political science class staple.

“Many have questioned the efficacy of our [2004] presidential election in Ohio,” says Brunner. “I simply questioned its fairness of process.”

Voting rights—yes, even in my grandparents’ rosy view of America—can be as fragile and as fleeting as they are in non-democratic nations around the globe. As a girl growing up in Texas, I heard the rumors of Lyndon Johnson stuffing ballot boxes in Jim Wells County with ballots of dead people. We might think those poll taxes, literacy tests, and other Jim Crow laws instituted in the South after the Civil War, and lasting well into the mid-20th Century, are well behind us.

But history is repeating itself this year in the wave of voter suppression initiatives sweeping the country. Just as a house that has been cleaned can become a mess again in record time, so the Ohio voting process that Brunner cleaned up—or any state that falls prey to divisive, partisan abuse of power—can, and in many battleground states, is faced with the risk of corruption and the contortion of the voice and will of its people.

As it has ever been historically, minorities often receive the short end of the voting rights stick. How tragic, considering that this country is the product of minorities, like my patriotic grandparents, at its core.

Since leaving office, Brunner started Fair Elections Ohio, a group that successfully fought back harmful Ohio voter suppression legislation, keeping 2008 voting rules in place for 2012.

In 2004, “Cuyahoga County” became a household term, and thus entered the political junkie’s lexicon as a metaphor for voter suppression.  If President Obama wins Ohio, it’s likely that he will win a second term as president. If so, he will have Brunner to thank—not for manipulating voting mechanism to favor him, but simply to allow the people to speak through their votes, the franchise of a free nation.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.