When history is written, 2022 will be remembered as the year democracy teetered on the brink and women’s rights were rescinded, rather than expanded, for the first time in American history.
For American women, it was a year of highs and lows – still reeling from the stunning loss of abortion rights following the Dobbs decision, women voters showed up in record numbers in the midterm elections. They rejected nearly all of the anti-democracy election denying candidates running for office – from Arizona to Pennsylvania – giving President Biden the best midterm showing of any U.S. president in the last 50 years.
Despite the terrible setbacks for women’s rights, women also broke new ground and made history in 2022. President Biden appointed the country’s first Black female Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, and a record number of women became governors – 12 in all. Additionally, new record number of women were elected to Congress thanks to victories in the House.
As we head into 2023, it’s hard to predict what might lie ahead for women in these uncertain times but a few key women are worth watching because of the remarkable work they do and the role they will undoubtedly play in shaping the American political landscape. Pay close attention to these five women in the New Year:
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
After the midterm elections, Michigan has emerged as one of the most important states in the country for women’s political leadership. Thanks in large part to Gov. Whitmer’s leadership at the top of ticket and popularity in the state, women now dominate state government – holding the top three statewide offices and winning a record numbers of seats in the state Legislature.
Gov. Whitmer, who claims not to have presidential ambitions, has a mandate for a progressive agenda to protect abortion access and advance economic equality in the state. And given that Michigan is now one of the early Democratic primary states, watch as Whitmer becomes even more visible on the national stage.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)
She may have lost her seat in Congress, but Rep. Liz Cheney is unlikely to go quietly into the good night. After chairing the Jan 6th Commission and delivering the stunning report with criminal referrals to the Justice Department, Cheney will most certainly remain a vocal advocate for democracy even after she leaves Congress.
As the most visible and stalwart member of the never-Trump contingent, expect to see her use her considerable platform to continue to call out Trump and his allies in the lead up to the 2024 presidential election.
She is rumored to be starting a super PAC specifically focused on democracy and fighting Trump. She may even be a presidential contender herself in 2024. Regardless, Cheney’s career in American politics seems far from over.
Olivia Julianna, Gen-Z for Change
If Gen Z is emerging as a powerful political force, and they most certainly are after they turned out in droves in the 2022 midterms, then Olivia Juliana is partially why. After claiming she was body-shamed on social media by Rep. Matt Gaetz, she raised $2 million to support abortion rights.
At just 19, she’s become an organizing force in her home state of Texas and beyond. She and other Gen Z activists are demonstrating how the strategic use of social media can galvanize young people to the polls. 15 million people will turn 18 by the 2024 presidential election and activists like Julianna are ready to turn them into a political force.
Alexis McGill Johnson, CEO of Planned Parenthood
Alexis McGill Johnson has spent much of 2022 in triage mode – dealing with the epic consequences of the end of Roe v. Wade – and working to galvanize voters around the country to ensure reproductive rights candidates would be elected.
Now, in 2023 and beyond, she and abortion rights activists will take the fight to the States, working to battle unjust laws wherever they emerge and ensure funding for Planned Parenthood services across the country for the women who need it. No one is better poised to help shape the future of abortion rights activism than McGill Johnson, which makes her one of the most important women to watch.
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA)
As Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi steps down from leadership at the end of the year, a new generation of leaders rises up. Rep. Katherine Clark has emerged as one of the most important figures among them. Recently elected to the no. 2 spot in House Democratic leadership, a role held by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) for decades, she’s just the second woman ever, behind Pelosi, to serve in House leadership.
Clark has been outspoken on issues including gun reform and reproductive rights, as well as affordable childcare. She’s relatively unknown to most Americans but she wields huge power to shape the Democratic agenda in the new Congress. Look to Clark for the coordination of Democratic opposition to the Republican majority in the New Year.