Feminists Have To Fight As Hard As We Can Just To Stay Even

The 1998 elections resulted in some stunning victories for feminist candidates in a year when major losses had been predicted. These elections confirmed the importance of grassroots get-out-the-vote efforts and underscored the power of women's vote. Perhaps most encouraging of all, the elections were a clear repudiation of the radical right-wing.

Candidates like Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray ran on their solid progressive records and won. Tammy Baldwin – the first open lesbian to serve in Congress and the first woman to represent Wisconsin – easily won her historic race. In the Senate anti-abortion Al D'Amato was handily defeated by Chuck Schumer. And voters in Colorado and Washington rejected the extremists' attack on reproductive freedom by defeating proposed abortion procedure bans in those states.

Despite the devastating loss of Carol Moseley-Braun, nearly 70 percent of NOW/PAC's endorsed candidates sailed to victory. Six new women, all of whom campaigned as women's rights and abortion rights supporters, were elected to the House for a net gain of two women. With the election of Blanche Lambert Lincoln, the number of women stayed even in the Senate.

While we celebrate our victories, we are dismayed that progress is so slow. At this rate, women will not achieve equal representation for more than 200 years. Congress remains nearly 90 percent white and 90 percent male in a country that is 51 percent women and approximately 30 percent people of color.

In the 106th Congress we once again will have to fight as hard as we can just to stay even. We will continue our grassroots organizing to keep pressure on Congress while we redouble our efforts to elect a Congress that looks like our country. We must pass campaign finance reform so that a silver spoon is not the most important qualification of any candidate. We must focus the debate on important issues that propel the women's vote and the gender gap that was the deciding factor in so many races this year.

Our only hope for progress is to change the faces of the people in power. We must elect real feminists to public offices at every level – from dog catcher to president. To pick-up the pace, NOW PACs' Victory 2000 campaign will continue to fill up the pipeline by electing 2000 feminists to office by the end of the century to be ready for the next post- reapportionment, redistricting election in 2002.

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