Powerful Women Turned the Tide on Tuesday

Let’s not call the historic victories of so many female candidates in the 2018 midterm elections the “pink wave.” In my mind, it suggests that the women who ran were delicate fairytale creatures who paraded around like princesses. 

No. What we saw were powerful female candidates who ran smart and strategic campaigns. What we saw were women who worked hard and outperformed their opponents. What we saw were women who came to slay at the polls.

And they won. Big.  

In the coming weeks, people will speculate if what we saw this week and in the months before was a one-time political phenomena, and they’ll debated whether women will continue to run for office in record numbers. But I believe the answer is clear: The women who ran in 2018 proved that female candidates are strong, electable forces to be reckoned with—and we are going to continue to see women run in greater numbers. 

The midterms established a pipeline for female candidates and a road map for how they can run and win; organizations such as Emily’s List and She Should Run helped train and prepare female candidates, and their efforts paid off.  Organizations such as the League of Women Voters, meanwhile, focused on civic engagement—registering more voters than ever before, hosting candidate forums across the country and reaching out to more candidates so that Americans had the information they needed to make their decisions on Election Day. 

When you combine the power of women candidates and women voters, there is nothing we can’t achieve. The 2018 midterms proved that. 

Now, it’s time to look ahead to 2020. In two short years, the League of Women Voters will celebrate our 100th anniversary, as well as the centennial of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote. While we should celebrate the progress we have made in the last century, we must also continue the work of ensuring that our elected officials are representative of this country.

America needs women of every race, ethnicity, culture, religion and economic background represented at every level in government and in the walls of every polling place. We need more women who are not only the first to campaign or win offices up and down the ballot, but the second—and the third, fourth and beyond. We need more women across the country to serve in local positions, at their statehouses and in the halls of Congress.  

We must also demonstrate that women can solve the challenges that the U.S. is facing: an opioid epidemic that is destroying communities and families; a crisis in our healthcare system in which costs are spiraling out of control; the decision facing young people every day of whether to take on tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of debt just to go to college; a crumbling infrastructure with some roads, bridges and public facilities reaching dangerous levels of disrepair; near irreversible levels of climate change; and rising anti-semitism, islamophobia, racism, xenophobia and, of course, misogyny.

The League’s value statement is simple: “We believe in the power of women to create a more perfect democracy.” And it has never been truer to me than it is today.

Women have proven in great and historic numbers that we can win elections. Now, we must prove that we can make this country better a place by being smart political leaders. I am looking forward to seeing what the newly-elected female officials serving communities nationwide will do in the coming months and years as they fulfill their campaign promises.   

Virginia Kase is the CEO of the League of Women Voters of the United States. Her career started when she co-founded a youth-led non-profit in her hometown in her twenties; now, Virginia has more than 20 years of experience working in the non-profit sector, including serving previously as COO of CASA, an organization at the forefront of the immigrant rights movement representing nearly 100,000 members, and eight years as the National Technical Assistance and Training Manager at the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.

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