Democratic women were enraged last year when the woman they hoped would be president lost the election to a man they consider an outright sexist.
And now they’re vowing revenge.
The Democratic Party’s top leaders say they think women will be the face of a brewing electoral backlash to President Donald Trump, one that they hope will help win not only majorities in Congress but a multitude of important state and local races across the country.
Left-leaning women have already invested in this political moment: A day after Trump’s inauguration, the “women’s march” drew millions of people in a protest that galvanized liberal opposition to the new president.
But party leaders say they are now channeling that energy into a surge of new candidates up and down the ballot the likes of which they’ve never seen — all due to Trump and the Republican leaders who support him.
“They can’t stop us because this is our moment in history: Not the moment we wanted, but the moment we are called to,” said Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts and possible 2020 presidential candidate. “We will not give up and go home.”
“We’re going to shatter the glass ceiling into so many pieces that the Donald Trumps and Mitch McConnells of the world will never be able to put it back together again.”
Warren was speaking Wednesday at a gathering hosted by EMILY’s List, a well-funded political organization that helps elect female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights.
It might be poised to play a bigger role in 2018: Since Trump’s inauguration, 12,000 women have reached out to the group looking to run for office, according to Stephanie Schriock, EMILY’s List president.
The number both stunned and delighted her, she said.
“To put that in some context, last election cycle over the whole two years, we had about 920,” Schriock said. “And we actually thought we were doing pretty well. So this is an unprecedented situation, and it’s full of opportunity.”
Not all of them will ultimately run for office, but even many who opt against running for federal office will help the party field candidates for state and local office — positions that by and large have been dominated by Republicans since former President Obama election’s in 2008.
Schriock said many of the women are spurred on by Trump, including some who had never been involved in politics before.
“So many women have said, ‘Whoa, wait a second, my voice needs to be heard,” she said. “‘That means I better take some responsibility, I better run, I better go do something I never thought I was going to do before.’”
Women were a major part of Clinton’s coalition in 2016: She won 54 percent of them, according to exit polls, compared to just 41 percent of men.
But she won only 43 percent of white women, a disappointing return for the first woman to be nominated president by a major political party. Her poor performance with that voter bloc helped her lose the key Electoral College states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
EMILY’s List had a difficult election 2016. It helped elect a quartet of senators, but its main cause — the election of Hillary Clinton — ended in an unexpected and bitter defeat.
That defeat was felt often during the group’s event Wednesday in Washington, where speakers — many of them the top female leaders inside the Democratic Party — reiterated their disappointment in Clinton’s loss and worried about the future.
“I know this isn’t the celebration party that everyone was hoping for this year,” Warren said. “And I know how hard the people in this room worked last year.”
Many who attended also echoed Clinton’s own assessment, made during an interview this week, that sexism played a role in her defeat. The former senator said Tuesday that misogyny is “very much part of the landscape politically, socially, and economically.”
Clinton’s experience mirrored their own, they said.
“We know we need to start earlier and work harder than male candidates. That’s just the reality,” said Kate Brown, the Democratic governor of Oregon. “ Luckily we’re able to do that.”
Republican women flatly reject that sexism had anything to do with Clinton’s defeat, blaming instead her perceived corruption or political missteps from her campaign.
Schriock said none of the women who reached out to her group about running for office have expressed concern about sexism. But she said it remains an obstacle for female candidates.
But some Democratic strategists say they hope that the script flips in next year’s midterm elections. Midterm elections are traditionally referendums on the sitting president, and these operatives hope that the electorate actually seeks out women to balance Trump’s presence.
“It is my hope that voters are more open to women candidates, even to go so far as to seek out women to vote for to send the message that America is not represented by Donald Trump,” said Martha McKenna, a Democratic strategist. “Swing voters want checks and balances, and they’re going to say ‘If it’s possible to vote for a woman, I’m going to, because Donald Trump doesn’t represent me and I’m going to take personal action to say we need more women.’”