A Midterm Season for Everyone

There were a lot of labels I wore pre-2016 election — designer, artist, entrepreneur. Political activist, however, wasn’t an identity that I claimed. I would not have called myself a movement leader. But in November 2016, infuriated by Donald Trump’s election, I co-founded the Women’s March and helped to lead and organize the largest mass protest in U.S. history.

If there is anything my story can teach, it’s that no one will grant you permission to organize for change. You have to issue your own invitation. You have to trust that your voice is needed, that your voice has value. The American political system has been set up, historically, to give the impression of exclusion, the illusion of barriers and walls. If no one seems to be opening the door, sometimes you have to just hop the fence, march inside, and demand to be heard.

This midterm season, I am inspired to see hundreds of women running for office, many of them called to serve their communities regardless of prior political experience. Half of this summer’s Democratic primaries were won by women. The number of female election victories is even higher if you exclude incumbents, with women winning 65% of open primaries. Many of the women who have won Democratic primaries aren’t career politicians. They were inspired to run because of their stories and personal experiences. Rather than devoting their careers to back-deal bargaining or courting monied institutions, they’ve been immersed in service, advocacy, and grassroots community-building.

Take Lucy McBath, who had a 30-year career with Delta Airlines before deciding to run for Congress. Lucy isn’t interested in the title, or proximity to power. What moved her to run was the death of her son. She is the mother of Jordan Davis, who was shot and killed at a gas station in 2012 by a man objecting to the music Davis was playing from his car. Michael Dunn, who shot 17-year-old Davis, was not convicted in his first trial. In the wake of her son’s death, McBath said she found herself called to take on political work. “I wanted to be speaking about violence prevention. I wanted to be challenging our legislators and our civil leaders.” She knew that she could not afford to wait or question her qualifications – her voice was needed, urgently.

In New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Alessandra Biaggi, Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar are fighting tirelessly to represent their communities. They’re advocating to abolish ICE, establish universal healthcare, create affordable housing, and more. They are not running on the basis of perfectly coiffed political resumes; they’re running on their basis of their commitment to a progressive, inclusive political agenda.

What we’re seeing now is the start of an entirely new political era. From the emergence of the Me Too movement holding influential men to account for their toxic and abusive behavior, to the rapid expansion of youth organizing against gun violence through March For Our Lives, we are in the midst of a complete transformation of what power looks like in this moment. Power is no longer hierarchical and tightly controlled — it’s networked, emergent, and channeled through each one of us knocking doors, making calls, and taking to the polls. For years, we’ve had a government and political system that doesn’t reflect the demographics of this country. As of 2017, Congress was 81% white and 80% male. It’s no wonder they’ve consistently failed to legislate in a way that accounts for the experiences, needs, and rights of communities of color, women, and the economically vulnerable. They haven’t represented us because they haven’t included us — and that isn’t acceptable for a so-called representative democracy.

In this new political moment, it is especially challenging, but especially important for women to issue their own invitations to step forward and get involved. Women are socialized to believe that we aren’t adequate. This starts at a young age — even with my own daughters, I see the subliminal messages we send that tell young women they aren’t enough and their voices aren’t worth sharing.

All of us have voices that merit inclusion in government. We have ideas and experiences that our representatives need to hear. This is true whether or not we identify as wonks, political experts, or movement leaders. Lucy McBath, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Alessandra Biaggi, Ilhan Omar, and so many others are demonstrating decisively that prior political experience isn’t what makes a good leader; it’s passion, decency and commitment.

In recent weeks, I’ve put my body on the line and gotten arrested 3 times protesting Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for the United States Supreme Court. The senate hearings for Kavanaugh further testify to the importance of electing powerful, unapologetic female leaders to our government. Throughout the hearings, we’ve seen GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Trump administration discount Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations of sexual abuse against Kavanaugh. We’ve seen male senators display an egregious lack of understanding around female reproductive needs and rights. In these upcoming midterms, we have the opportunity to keep changing our congressional demographics. We can elect a Congress more attuned to women’s voices- Senators and Representatives who are resolutely committed to ending violence against women and keeping abusers off of our nation’s highest court.

Political and social justice movements aren’t cliques, or tightly-woven circles — they’re open. They thrive when they are most inclusive. They thrive when every individual feels compelled to stand up and be counted, without any prerequisites for participation. And fortunately, there are many outlets for our political participation beyond running for office. We can use the most fundamental channel for active citizenship and engagement — the ballot. 

This midterm season it’s more important than ever that we go beyond just voting. Find a local campaign and knock on doors, make calls or donate our money to the candidates who represent not just your own values, but of those vulnerable communities that have been most targeted by the Trump administration.

For more information on how you can mobilize, get out the vote, and help take back our country this November, visit

Bob Bland is the co-founder and co-president of the Women's March.

Bob Bland is the co-founder and co-president of the Women's March.

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