Editor’s Note: Cecile Richards is the co-founder of Supermajority, a women’s organization dedicated to achieving gender equality, and the former President of Planned Parenthood. Amanda Brown Lierman is the managing director of politics and organizing at Supermajority. The views expressed in this commentary are their own. View more opinion on CNN.
After Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ended her presidential campaign – in spite of a smart and substantive run, commanding debate wins, and a powerful role in shaping the issues and narrative of this election – countless people are outraged and disheartened. A journey that began with the most diverse slate of candidates in history quickly became a masterclass in the impossible standards women, especially women of color, must meet to succeed.
While most women candidates have dropped out, women voters cannot be ignored. Every Democratic candidate serious about winning in November should do the right thing – and the smart thing – and commit to choosing a woman as a running mate.
Having six women run for President this election has underscored that it’s more important than ever to have a woman on the Democratic ticket. Women make up more than half the population of this country. We’re the majority of college, law, and medical students. We make up more than half of the labor force, and nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers.
For more than 200 years, we’ve had no representation among the many Presidents and Vice Presidents of this country. Now, more than ever, the US needs a government that focuses less on dividing us and more on delivering results. Women in Congress have brought to office their unique experiences of the issues that are on the minds of all Americans regardless of gender, from getting paid fairly to balancing work and family, to affording quality health care.
Over the last four years, women have emerged as the most powerful political force in this country. Tens of thousands of women told the political action committee Emily’s List they considered running for office since 2016, and record numbers of women and women of color were elected in 2018. Women lawyers have helped lead the charge on immigration and refugees at the border, calling out the inhumanity of family separation. Women athletes are standing up for equal pay, and young women like Greta Thunberg, Emma Gonzalez, and Naomi Wadler are speaking up on climate change and gun violence.
And presidential candidates like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren have inspired more women and girls than we may ever know.
At Supermajority – an organization of women of all backgrounds, races and ages committed to gender equality – there is no doubt that somewhere in the rising wave of elected officials and activists is the first woman President.
Everywhere we look, we’re surrounded by reminders that the 2020 election will be enormously consequential for women. Right now, the Supreme Court is deliberating the first major abortion case since Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined the bench. Sexual harassment and assault remain in the headlines as brave women continue to come forward. Meanwhile, a photo from a recent meeting of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce in the Situation Room is circulating online. It shows the group without a single woman at the table. Witnessing an election cycle shaped by sexism, racism, and a blatant double standard is a painful reminder of why the United States still ranks 76th in the world when it comes to gender equity in government. We’ll never have a representative government until women are serving at every level.
Like generations of women before us, nevertheless, we persist. Women voters are proving to be some of the most energized. In Iowa, women made up 58% of caucus-goers. In New Hampshire, they were 57% of primary voters. Women were 54% of caucus-goers in Nevada, and 59% of voters in South Carolina. All of this is happening despite rampant voter suppression.
On Super Tuesday, a plurality of women voted for the winner in each of the 12 states where exit or entrance polls were conducted. In states where former Vice President Joe Biden won sizable victories, nearly all were bolstered by strong support among women, especially in the South. Not only that, women have held leadership positions on the campaigns of all of the Democratic frontrunners and make up a significant number of Democratic campaign volunteers and donors. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ showing has been strengthened by endorsements from a diverse slate of women elected officials. The bottom line is this: Women voters will determine the next President, and we deserve to be on the ticket, too.
Rutgers Professor Brittney Cooper summed it up perfectly: “We should ask why a revolution for women is never urgent enough to be a priority.” We’ve spent four years fighting an administration that’s hellbent on stripping away our rights, dignity, and fundamental humanity. Now, it’s time to prioritize our own revolution, and to fight for what we want: a country where our lives are safe, our bodies are respected, our work is valued, our families are supported, and our government represents us.
The takeaway is clear: There is only one path to victory in 2020, and it’s through women. We may not elect a woman President this year, but we absolutely can elect a woman Vice President. Dozens of qualified, experienced, and inspiring leaders are up to the task. We have power in this election. Let’s use it to demand a woman on the ticket.