This column is part of “The State of America,” an msnbc.com series leading up to President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address on Tuesday, Jan. 20. This is the state of the issues you care about, as told by organizations promoting social change and other policy experts.
At EMILY’s List, our union is strong and growing. In the past 30 years, our community of over 3 million has raised more than $400 million to support pro-choice Democratic women candidates. We have trained more than 9,000 women to run, and helped elect hundreds to offices up and down the ballot. I am so proud of what our community has accomplished.
But we have to keep that momentum going. We have to keep that momentum going because elections have real consequences. When Republicans won in November, Democrats — including Democratic women — lost their Senate chairmanships. Seven women had to hand over their gavels. That means Republican men are in charge — men who won’t fight for the policies that give women and families a fair shot, men who will balance the budget on the backs of the elderly and those already in economic jeopardy.
Those aren’t the policies Americans are looking for. Every hardworking American woman deserves an economy that works as hard as she does. She deserves equal pay for equal work – a policy that women voters (both Democrat and Republican) stand behind. She shouldn’t have to choose between keeping her job and taking care of sick child. She deserves a livable minimum wage for herself and her family. Because these policies aren’t just abstract ideas, they would make real improvements to her life. These policies would help her put food on the table and send her kids to good quality schools, giving them a chance at a bright future.
We are working to make sure those are the consequences of the next election. We are heading into the 2016 election cycle — an election that could provide us the chance to smash the highest glass ceiling by putting a woman in the Oval Office, and one that includes a Senate map full of opportunities to take back seats and regain a Democratic majority.
We are ready to capitalize on those opportunities. The state of Democratic women’s leadership in America is stronger than it’s ever been.
Congress saw the swearing in of its 100th woman in Alma Adams this past November. There are more women in the halls of power than ever before. And those women are more diverse and more representative of more communities than ever. We are getting closer to a government that looks like the people it works for — a true democracy.
EMILY’s List saw the election of Rhode Island’s first-ever woman governor in Gina Raimondo, as well as the nation’s first-ever openly gay attorney general in Massachusetts’ Maura Healey. We sent nine new women to Congress. We saw 170 women elected to state and local offices across the country.
And it’s not just their elections that are victories. Having them in office acting as voices for women and families, voices for commonsense solutions, is the greatest victory of all. And they are necessary victories — the Republican-controlled House has made it clear they will waste no time advancing their anti-woman agenda, and we need Democratic women there to stand up for our rights.
We have seen what women’s leadership is capable of. It was Democratic women who passed the Farm Bill and the budget. It was women who made sure that the Violence Against Women Act was renewed and extended protections to more Americans than ever. It was women who ended the government shutdown.
It was women who reached across the aisle. Women who were the adults in the room. Something we need now more than ever as Democrats in the minority look to fight for the policies American families need.
And in 30 years, EMILY’s List has made big steps towards having more of those women in the room. Steps towards having a more representative Democracy. In 1985, when Ellen Malcolm created EMILY’s List, no Democratic woman had ever been elected to the United States Senate in her own right. There were only two women in the Senate and 25 women in Congress as a whole. Today there are 20 women in the Senate and 84 women in the House.
There is a deeper bench of Democratic women talent than our country has ever seen. But we still have so far to go — for the women in office and for the women in our nation.
We can make strides in the next two years for women – we must. Women across the country deserve policies that give them a fair shot at a better future, access to good jobs, and workplace policies that work for their lives. Congress and the president can help make that vision a reality.
Even a divided Congress should be able to meet those goals – they are commonsense policies that make lives better for hardworking American families. Those should be the priorities in Washington. EMILY’s List – and voters – will be watching, and holding Republicans accountable.
Stephanie Schriock is the President of EMILY’s List.