Not Going Back: Drawing a Line in the Sand to Defend Our Rights

This series is based on a full-length feature appearing in the Winter 2016 issue of Ms. Subscribe today to get a copy and become a member of the Ms. community!

The policies President-Elect Donald Trump campaigned on, and the platform the Republicans adopted at their convention last July, would turn back the clock on 50 years of progress, not only for women but also for civil rights and human rights.

But let’s be clear: These policies have no popular mandate. Although Trump won the Electoral College to become the next U.S. president, Hillary Rodham Clinton won the popular vote by 2.2 million votes and counting. To put that in context, Clinton won the popular vote by a larger margin than anyone in history who has not gone on to become the president.

Moreover, on issues such as equality, workplace opportunity for women, educational equity for girls, nondiscrimination of LGBT communities, immigration, ending gender-based violence and reversing the damage to our environment, strong majorities disagree with the president-elect. These majorities must be galvanized to fight back against an erosion of our rights.

Copyright Jenny Warburg

Republicans now have control of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the presidency—and could soon control the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court. With a current vacancy, and more vacancies possible in the next presidential term, Trump may have the opportunity to reshape the Court for generations. The Court is currently split on many of the fundamental issues of women’s equality, and Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court appointments—created with the help of the staunchly conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation—signals the creation of a Court that could likely reverse Roe v. Wade, further curtail voting rights, undermine unions and continue to weaken anti-discrimination statutes. Feminists must urge Senate Democrats to ask the tough questions of any nominee, insist on answers and use the filibuster to block reactionary Supreme Court appointments.

Immigrants and Muslim communities will be especially vulnerable during a Trump-Pence administration. Trump has warned that he will create a “deportation force” and will deport more than 2 million people in his first 100 days in office. Many of the people Trump is threatening are lawfully present in the U.S., and large-scale deportation would rip families apart, destabilize communities and create a climate of fear. The Trump-Pence team has also revealed plans to create a national registry of Muslims living in the U.S., raising serious civil liberties concerns, especially as Trump supporters cite Japanese internment camps as precedent for this kind of action.

Make no mistake: Republicans, led by Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, intend to dismantle the very policies that have allowed women and other communities that have faced discrimination to have a chance at opportunity, advancement and economic stability.

Feminists must fight back. But we must also be proactive. In particular, the outcome of this election underscores the urgent need to finally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Feminists will need every possible tool to fight against state and federal legislation and policies that discriminate on the basis of sex or perpetuate sex stereotypes. To this day, there is no prohibition on sex discrimination in the U.S. Constitution. Given the continuing attacks by right-wing lawmakers on Title IX, abortion and family planning, LGBT communities, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the ERA is needed more than ever.

In this blog series, we’ll explore some of what’s at stake in the next four years—and how we must fight back.


Gaylynn Burroughs is policy director at the Feminist Majority Foundation.