President Trump typically puts up a huge fuss when a Congresswoman of color expresses an opinion that is critical of his administration or is contrary to the mythical idea that America can do wrong. His ensuing attacks on Congresswomen of color attempt to cast them as non-threatening, as having low IQs, as being the downfall of the Democratic Party, of not being American enough, of holding laughable political positions… the list goes on and on.
But considering how much time and energy he puts into attempting to diminish their value and contributions to the country, it’s clear that these ladies have the power to make him feel insecure AF — and that’s one instinct (just one!) that he’s right about. After all, women of color, in “the squad” and beyond, are currently perhaps the most powerful politicians and constituents in America today.
Stacey Abrams, a Case Study in Power
Take Stacey Abrams for instance, who, as the country’s first potential black, female governor nearly beat out current Governor Brian Kemp in Georgia’s last gubernatorial election — despite the fact that Georgia hasn’t had a Democrat in office since 2003, nor ever a woman or person of color for that matter. It became one of the most consequential races to watch in the 2018 midterms, launching Abrams to the front of the Democratic Party. “She’s an incredible leader. She has led the charge for voting rights, which is at the root of just about everything else,” Sen. Chuck Schumer gushed to the New York Times, explaining the party’s decision to have Abrams deliver the response to Trump’s State of the Union this past winter. By the way, Abrams still refuses to concede the Georgia gubernatorial race, insisting that doing so would be an acknowledgement that the election was fair. News flash: It wasn’t.
In any case, her near miss has given her the fire to turn that experience into an opportunity to protect the sanctity of free and democratic elections in the years to come, a mission that she has decided to pursue as an organizer despite lots of early buzz over whether she herself would run for president in 2020. In starting initiatives like her non-profit Fair Fight and Fair Fight 2020, Abrams is amplifying her power and experience as a woman of color by ensuring that every vote counts in future elections, even when those votes are cast by some of our country’s most marginalized citizens.
What the Civic Data Says about Our Fired Up Women of Color
Abrams’ upward trajectory at the individual, community, and national level is just one single instance in which a woman of color is tapping into her formidable political power. The New York Times recently cited a report from the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund called “Ahead of the Majority: Foregrounding Women of Color” that highlights the growing influence of women of color in the electoral process. The authors concluded, “Women of color are poised to play a pivotal role in the 2020 elections, shaping policy through a variety of civic engagement activities.”
These activities can range from simply casting a ballot to acting as community organizers to register new voters. The report found that turnout among women of color was up by nearly 40 percent in the 2018 midterms; Latina turnout increased by a whopping 51 percent. Additionally, while at least two-thirds of women in any racial-ethnic demographic purportedly encouraged friends and family to vote in 2018 — yes, even white women — 84 percent of black women had reported talking to their peers about voting. The upwelling of engagement is clearly a reaction to Trump’s relentless attacks on communities of color and on women, which have underscored how important it is for us to make sure we’re making our voices heard through all possible means.
What is perhaps the most interesting development is the way that women of color are influencing the people around them. While Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t working as an organizer, per se, she has consistently used her platform of social media to engage with users and potential voters over politics in a way that is even more powerful than the traditional media, according to an analysis by Axios. Yes, part of this is because she’s more comfortable with technology than some of her peers, but you also have to acknowledge that her followers feel seen through what they know about her life experience as a smart, Bronx-born Puerto Rican trying to make a living in the era of the gig economy.
What this phenomenon suggests is that, If voters of color are going to be a deciding force in the 2020 elections, bringing more women of color in as figureheads or as candidates is a surefire way to actually invite and inspire marginalized groups to join into the political conversation. Taeku Lee, the principal researcher of the report, explained generally in an op-ed that women of color have been such effective community organizers because they are representative of the communities that they are working to organize. “These independent community groups see women as the original influencers in the family and designed culturally informed programs for them,” she wrote. “Those programs drew from the knowledge of existing networks and were used to help develop homegrown talent instead of simply relying on outside strategists who parachute into communities to extract surgical campaign victories.”
Keep in mind that community organizers can be working at the professional level to register voters statewide — people like Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez — or they can work at the domestic level, encouraging family members, friends, and neighbors to vote by simply engaging the topic as part of everyday, non-partisan conversation. Also consider that this success comes despite the fact that women of color working as organizers tend to be carrying out this work with limited resources.
Women of Color and Their Role in the 2020 Election
Ultimately, Trump’s insecurity in the face of women of color hinges upon his fear that they are the key to ousting him from office — and this is something that liberal-minded folks ought to sit with for a minute. Consider how unwilling or unable some in the center and on the left are to believe that a candidate other than Joe Biden could oust Trump from the White House following the 2020 election, insisting that while they might appreciate other candidates in the running, only an older, white man who fits the profile of a traditional candidate is electable.
Only recently do the numbers indicate that Sen. Elizabeth Warren is gaining momentum in her presidential bid, with Sen. Kamala Harris falling way behind compared to the same poll from the summer. Warren is, of course, not a woman of color — but the point is that this coalition of Biden supporters fear women, let alone women of color, not for their strength but for the belief that voting for anyone but a white guy puts the Democrats in a position of weakness or risk. Cynics (and, granted, voters who are still reeling from the 2016 election and the relentlessly sexist campaigns against Hilary Clinton) have long been arguing that the safest and surest way forward is by putting forth a member of the old guard to ensure that President Trump only gets to serve a single term as our nation’s leader.
When you actually sit down to look over all of the relevant numbers — not just the ones that describe who’s polling higher — it’s clear that women of color are a serious threat to the Trump presidency, and that he has every right to be concerned.
It’s time that the rest of us realize that we have every right to be excited about what women of color mean for the future of our country.