Last week, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren took the floor of the U.S. Senate to speak against the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. As she attempted to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King asking Senators to vote against his confirmation to a federal judgeship in 1984 due to his history of racism, she was silenced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
He invoked an obscure and rarely-used Senate rule to silence Warren for the remainder of the Sessions debate, remarking: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
She persisted. That short phrase could easily sum up the history of the feminist movement. And it’s exactly what women elected officials across the country like Sen. Warren are doing to resist sexist, racist and bigoted policies that the new administration is trying to implement.
In addition to Sen. Sessions’ confirmation hearing, the first few weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency have been a terrifying series of attacks on our rights. From instituting the unconstitutional Muslim ban to intimidating sanctuary cities, to ending much-needed funding for women’s access to reproductive healthcare around the world, each new policy the Trump administration puts forward threatens to set our country back decades and end our transformation into a fairer, more equitable society.
Fortunately, across the country, Emerge alumnae who are elected officials are already pushing back against this toxic agenda. They are introducing legislation, championing progressive policies, and fighting on the front line of the resistance to Trump’s sinister agenda.
In New Mexico, Emerge alumna and State Rep. Patricial Roybal Cabellero proposed a bill that would ban state and local law enforcement agencies from using funds or equipment to find and arrest people who are in the country illegally. It would essentially make all cities in the state sanctuary cities.
In Colorado, State Rep. Daneya Esgar is working on a bill to ensure that state agencies do not have to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement or federal efforts to set up internment camps and religious registries. She is determined to make sure that Colorado will remain a state that protects everyone’s constitutional rights.
In California, San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen will chair the newly created Federal Select Committee, charged with strategizing the city’s defense against any threatening federal policies. The commission is especially interested in safeguarding the San Francisco’s sanctuary city status and mitigating the local damage caused by the looming repeal of Obamacare.
In Oregon, Beaverton City Councilor and Emerge alum Lacey Beaty spearheaded a unanimously-passed resolution that declared Beaverton a sanctuary city. And in Multnomah County, Commissioners Jessica Vega Pederson and Dr. Sharon Meieran pledged to stand with immigrants and continue to follow the U.S. Constitution, Oregon laws and the county’s own policies, which prohibit law enforcement officials from using local resources to arrest people whose only violation is an immigration law.
In Wisconsin, State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa called on President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan to “denounce and immediately rescind the shameful, discriminatory, careless” executive order Trump signed that severely restricts immigration from seven Muslim countries, bars all refugee admission for 120 days and bars all Syrian refugees indefinitely.
In Michigan, Emerge alumna Julia Pulver parlayed the skills and knowledge she acquired in our program and her campaign for Oakland County Commissioner into organizing women’s summits all over the state, bringing together almost 1,000 women from across Michigan.
This is what Emerge women bring to their cities, states and our country. This is what women standing up for justice, equality and fairness looks like. It’s exactly the type of leadership our country needs.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about how we can harness the energy created by the 2016 election and the Women’s March and transform it into a movement to regain political power. Is it possible to direct all this enthusiasm from women towards getting them to run for office? I believe the answer is yes—we can and we must.
At Emerge America, we’ve been recruiting, training and providing women with a powerful network for years. During that time, we’ve learned that if you invest in women—teach them how to run for office and empower them to make the leap—your time and energy will pay off in dividends. It’s just smart to bet on women.
As we move forward towards the numerous battles that we will no doubt have to fight during the next four years, Emerge will continue to invest in women and direct strong, qualified candidates into races at every level of government. They will be fierce defenders of our civil rights and what’s right. We hope others will look at the bravery and strength our alums have already shown in the face of Trump’s agenda and just imagine what our country would look like if we could double or triple the number of women like them in our governing bodies.
We should be focusing our resources on women candidates. The more we can get into office, the stronger our opposition will be. With Emerge women leading the resistance, I can sleep a little easier and hold out hope for the next four years.
Andrea Dew Steele is the Founder and President of Emerge America.