In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech in Sorbonne, France, titled “Citizen in a Republic.” “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.”
As OUR republic approaches the 2018 midterms, we took a little (lady) liberty with Teddy’s words… “The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena, who strives to do the deeds; who spends herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if she fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
And during this election season, we are privileged to witness thousands of women spending their selves in worthy causes… In the US House, Senate and Gubernatorial races, a total of 589 women have dared greatly and stepped into the arena. 311 of those, while they failed to win their bid, at least they failed while daring greatly. 273 of those women triumphed in their primary races, and five – from Louisiana and Mississippi, are still awaiting their primaries in early November.
And these numbers are just a fraction of the multitude of women running at the state level. According to an analysis done by Reuters, “if women candidates are as successful as they have been for the past two decades – their historic rate of victory is about 60 percent – the number of women in state legislatures could reach an all-time high of about 40 percent!!”
So, the saying goes, progress in fits and starts! But, sadly, these scores of women who are DARING greatly on behalf of progress are also RISKING greatly in today’s climate of perilous partisan descent. It is difficult enough to be an outspoken woman in the face of regressive circles. But it is downright dangerous when these women have the “audacity” to enter the political arena… and run for office. Gabrielle Bardall, a gender specialist at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, found that women are THREE TIMES as likely to experience what she calls, “psychological electoral violence,” than their male counterparts. She describes this as an “informal means of control,” ala social media harassment used to threaten women from participating in the political process.
Donning their invisible twitter cloaks and anonymous Facebook covers, internet trolls defame, degrade and disparage without personal consequence – but with great societal consequence. Look no further than the proceedings of Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh from the last several weeks. No matter whom you believe to be telling the truth, we can all agree that our democratic process and by extension our society feels a little less honorable than it did before all the mud slinging. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and her family were forced out of their home as a result of death threats.
And because trolls come in all political stripes, Judge Kavanaugh’s wife, Ashely, has been the target of multiple violent threats as well. A message sent to Ashely, obtained by CNN last week, reads… ‘F*** YOU AND YOUR RAPIST HUSBAND.” Another reads, “My condolences to you for being married to a rapist. Although you probably deserve it.” And yet another, according to the Wall Street Journal, said she should tell her husband to “put a bullet in his … skull.” And, who can forget when Sarah Palin, in an effort to unseat lawmakers in the 2010 midterm elections, posted a photo of the “crosshairs of a gun sight” over Gabby Gifford’s district, and subsequently tweeted, “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!”
No one can say for absolute certainty that Giffords’ shooter, the 22-year-old Jared Loughner, was prompted by Palin’s tweets – but it would be dangerous fallacy to suggest that online words don’t have real life consequences. Seven weeks into Run Like a Girl, and we have already talked to three candidates who each admitted that they have received death threats in the run up to the midterms.
Those numbers are in accordance with research from the Women’s Media Center. According to their WMC Speech Project Hashtag-Name-It-Change-It, – an astonishing “44% of female candidates get death, rape, beating and abduction threats. And, 61% of women politicians believe the primary objective of the harassment is to stop women from running.”
And, to drive this idea home, that which happens online, does not simply stay online. Remember the hundreds of white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers who descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia, in August of last year killing one woman and injuring nineteen? That “Unite The Right” hate spread in chat rooms and online long before it finally manifest in the real world…
On line threats… real world consequences.
On today’s episode, we are joined by Kim Weaver, a 2018 Democratic candidate who was challenging Republican incumbent Steven King to represent the 4th Congressional District of Iowa. She dropped out of the race in June 2017. We asked her what factors lead to that decision.
In our Candidate Spotlight, Helen Tai, the first woman and first person of color to represent the 178th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania.
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