Christina Hale: Participation, not party, in the age of Trump
Thursday, January 05, 2017 10:11 AM
INDIANAPOLIS – I just have to thank Donald Trump from the bottom of my heart.
When winning presidential candidates talk about “bleeding from the whatever,” and grabbing p*****s, women sit up and take notice. They listen, too, when that same candidate’s empowered daughter talks about increasing access for parents to quality daycare options.
Understandably pundits and the public continue to gape, agog and astounded by this past election, glued to the continuous news cycle that is our incoming president. For me, I am grateful for one very important thing. Donald Trump accomplished what our first female candidate for president from a major party could not. He inspired women from both sides of the aisle to engage in the political process.
During the election cycle, I regret that we invested so much attention in the fact of Hillary Clinton’s gender rather than to issues that truly resonate with women. We shouldn’t be in the position of breaking glass ceilings in 2016, or 2017 for that matter. That should have happened long ago, nationally and down ballot as well.
Indiana politics are clearly dominated by men. Only one in five members of the General Assembly today are women. Here in Indiana we have never had a female House speaker, Senate president pro-tem, or governor. Most of our mayors are men. Yes, of course positional leadership does matter, yet most people who vote are men as well.
What we lost this past election cycle was the opportunity to engage women on the issues that matter most, in a way that resonates with them, or in a way that inspired action. Or in a way that inspired votes. And by that, I don’t mean from the people who showed up and made a choice on their ballots. I mean by the people, the women, who just stayed home.
The good news is Donald Trump rang the alarm, and women here are responding. It wasn’t compelling enough to vote for the first woman president. Women are engaging now on issues rather than personalities. That is a good thing.
And yes, shame on us for waiting too long to wake up. It is my hope that when we have more people in office who have balanced work and childcare commitments, people who know the juggle of getting to work on time, getting to aftercare, hustling to the grocery store and getting it all done in time to get to the polls by 6 p.m., we might have more generous polling hours. And certainly more empowered positional leaders with a practical feel for what Hoosiers need and don’t need from government.
We need women to engage in the issues, we need women to vote, and we need women to run for office.
All over the state, women are gathering and getting organized. Just after the election, a small group of women tried to host a post-election meeting in Zionsville to talk about what implications a Trump presidency might bring. More and more women expressed interest, and soon they heard from over 100 women who wanted to attend. The meeting had to be moved to accommodate the crowd, and the buzz continued.
In fact, the word got out and in just a few days, much to the group’s surprise, over 500 women turned up, standing room only, with over 500 more hopeful women had to be turned away. People who had driven from all over the state. It was hot and crowded and may have challenged the fire code, and it was amazing.
In a short time, this non-partisan group has gone viral with thousands of members statewide. But they are not alone, others all forming over the state.
They are not alone. People all over the state are concerned about the dignity and safety of all women, especially in regard to sexual assault, health, and equal rights, as well as empowering women to achieve greater political leadership at local, state and federal levels.
These people are getting organized, and more importantly, engaged. Fear is an effective motivator. Let’s make the most of it.
Hale was the 2016 Democratic lieutenant governor nominee and a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives. She is a regularly HPI columnist.