Is it Hillary Clinton or the whole women’s and feminist movement at the top of the Democrats’ ticket on Tuesday?
A rally in Orlando Saturday – part of a statewide bus tour full of women’s movement and feminist leaders – offered the suggestion that there are such stark differences in attitudes, rhetoric, histories, and policy positions between Clinton and Donald Trump and the Republicans that this is very much a gender-critical election.
The gender gap in voting has never been clearer than polls show in the Clinton-Trump contest for president. But this bus group – including state and national heads of Planned Parenthood, the National Organization For Women and Feminist Majority, along with iconic women elected leaders – is counting on the increasingly defined “women’s bloc” creating skirt-tails to help down-ballot candidates like Orlando congressional candidates Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy.
And Demings and Murphy, Democrats running in Florida’s 10th and 7th Congressional Districts, along with House District 48 Democratic candidate Amy Mercado and House District 49 Democratic candidate Carlos Guillermo Smith, made it clear Saturday that women’s issues driving the gender gap in the presidential race are their issues too.
“We may ask the question, what’s at stake? Well, everything is at stake,” said Demings, who’s opponent in CD 10, Republican nominee Thuy Lowe, is also a woman. “My future, and your future is at stake. The future of our daughters, and our granddaughters and our nieces, and every woman and every person that we love is at stake. A woman’s ability to have equal pay for equal work is at stake. A woman’s right to choose is at stake. Hillary Clinton has had our backs for a long time. My question for you today is, will we have her back?”
Murphy’s campaign and campaigns run on her behalf by national Democratic groups have repeatedly attacked her opponent, Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. John Mica for his votes on women’s issues, such as his no vote on the Violence Against Women Act, and tried to tie him to Trump.
“I am a proud, nasty woman,” Murphy said.
“My opponent and I could not differ more than we do on women’s issues,” she said. “I am somebody who is a working mom, and I believe in equal pay for equal work. This is the 21st century. We shouldn’t even be debating this. I am somebody who believes in family leave, because you shouldn’t have to decide between taking care of your family member or your job. We heard a lot about the Violence Against Women Act. The fact that he votes against that he voted against says more about him than anything else.”
The leaders of NOW, the Feminist Movement and Planned Parenthood, along with other speakers such as U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, a Democrat from Wisconsin, and former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, pressed broader women’s issues they saw at stake in the election.
They also spoke, afterward, of what they believe would be a permanent shift of huge numbers of women voters from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party following the election. They spoke of Trump and Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence as representing everything that is chasing many women, particularly college-educated women in the suburbs, away from the GOP.
No one spoke of Bill Clinton, or the list of allegations against him.
“The gender gap we saw in the primaries was the largest gender gap I’ve ever seen. Huge… This gender gap we’re seeing now is bigger,” said Terry O’Neill, president of NOW. “She has a good chance, really, of doing another major thing, realigning the women’s vote that the Republicans have been depending upon in the suburbs, to the Democrats.”
“Donald Trump has already said that women must be punished for seeking abortions. Mike Pence, his running mate, has already imprisoned two women under Indiana’s so-called feticide law,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority. “Mike Pence represents a tiny slice if ideological people in this country. He does not represent the vast majority of Republicans, and he certainly does not represent the vast majority of Republican women … the Republicans have gotten into bed with the most extreme anti-women, and racist and xenophobic ideologues in the country.”