Marching to the Polls

The Women’s Marches of 2017 were born out of rage, to protest the new president and to send a message to him and his supporters in Congress: Women weren’t going back. Our spirits were lifted as millions poured into the streets and we saw for the first time the possibilities to build a massive resistance and witnessed our collective power to fight back against Trump’s regressive agenda.

What followed was a year of powerful protests and organizing. Women led the fight to save the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), beating back repeal efforts in Congress not once, not twice, but four times. People from the Women’s Marches joined demonstrations at airports around the country to protest the president’s Muslim ban. Congress members’ town halls were standing-room-only events, even after they were moved to larger and larger venues. When elected officials refused to hold town halls, their constituents organized their own and, even then, drew packed crowds. Historic numbers of women stepped forward to run for local, state and federal office. Women voters—especially women of color—were decisive in Democrats’ 2017 state and local election victories.

Then came the #MeToo explosion, the momentum of which has yet to slow, as new leaders and new organizations emerge across industries to demand and force through the long-overdue changes needed for workplace equality.

All across the country, the 2018 Women’s Marches were focused on our next collective step: marching to the polls to elect candidates who will fight for women’s rights—and to defeat those who would turn back the clock. Marchers carried signs like “Grab ’em by the midterms,” “Vaginas brought you into this world and vaginas will vote you out!” and “I am 2018.” And armies of volunteers worked to register voters and sign up marchers to help in campaigns.

The organizers of last year’s Women’s March on Washington, D.C., spearheaded a Power to the Polls rally in Las Vegas. Nevada is a swing state for control of the Senate, with Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) running for the seat currently held by Sen. Dean Heller (R). “When we think about our influence and how many millions of people marched yesterday and last year, we know we are capable of grabbing Congress by the midterms and making sure our values are prioritized,” said Women’s March treasurer Carmen Perez. More Power to the Polls rallies are being scheduled for the next few months in other crucial states. In Arizona, another swing state that could potentially determine control of the Senate, more than 20,000 marched in Phoenix. Imelda Ojeda, one of the local march organizers, told, “We know that the power of the women’s vote and the minority [Latino] vote is going to make a big change, especially in Arizona during a controversial election year.”

A new political organization arising from the 2017 marches, March On, launched its Operation Marching Orders to engage marchers across the country in the midterm elections. “We have a huge groundswell of energy from the ‘marchroots’ in this country,” says executive director Vanessa Wruble, “and…[we have] a concrete target for that enthusiasm: elections.”

With a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll predicting that women’s and independents’ votes will play a decisive role in November, perhaps determining the outcome of congressional elections, and with a record number of women candidates on the ballot, the rallying cry heard at the marches—“We March. We Run. We Vote. We Win.”—may turn out to be the most memorable of 2018.

This piece is excerpted from a feature in the Spring 2018 issue of Ms. Become a Ms. member today to read the rest and get a copy before it hits newsstands.




Katherine Spillar is the executive director of Feminist Majority Foundation and executive editor of Ms., where she oversees editorial content and the Ms. in the Classroom program.