‘Donald Trump is the gift that keeps on giving’ for female candidates, says a politics researcher at Rutgers University
Nearly double the number of women are running for office in 2018 than in the last election cycle two years ago.
“Thus far, this year is on track to break records,” NPR said of a study by Rutgers University in New Jersey.
According to the news outlet, 431 women are set to run the for the House in the US Congress – 339 Democrats and 92 Republicans. In February 2016, that number was just 212.
At least 50 women have declared they are running for US Senate, compared to 25 at this point in 2016.
Given that many state’s deadlines are still coming up, those numbers could increase by quite a bit.
Emily’s List is an organisation that recruits and trains female Democratic candidates, focusing on helping women who support the right to legal abortions, get into office.
The organisastion’s president, Stephanie Schriock said that the phenomenon was largely a left-leaning one. US President Donald Trump actually won the white women vote in 2016.
“I think it’s really being driven on the Democratic side. I think the energy and the excitement and the determination, not just to run but also in terms of who’s going to show up to vote, right now, that’s on the side of the Democrats,” she said.
In the last election cycle, Ms Schirock said approximately 920 women had contacted the group expressing interest in getting their help to run for office.
For the 2018 election that number is closer to 30,000. She noted that not all those women would run for office this year and some may end up working on campaigns instead of running themselves.
In some districts, male Republican candidates have essentially shot themselves in the foot with behaviour women in the community and the women running against them found sexist or misogynist.
Atlantic County, New Jersey legislature member John Carman had posted a meme on Facebook the day after Mr Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 that read: “Will the women’s protest be over in time for them to cook dinner?” and wrote a caption: “Just asking?”
Millions of people all over the world had gathered to march in the streets for women’s rights that day.
Mr Carman later said at an October county meeting with citizens that posting the meme was “bad choice” but that the women in his life were “strong and confident” enough to know it was just a joke and not to be offended.
It spurred Ashley Bennet, a psychiatric emergency screener at a local hospital, to run against him as a Democrat in last year’s election.
She said she “was angry about [the Facebook meme], because elected officials shouldn’t be on social media mocking and belittling people who are expressing their concerns about their community and the nation.”
On a national level, many women seem to be inspired to run for office because of Mr Trump.
Deborah Walsh, Director of the Centre for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said that Mr Trump “is the gift that keeps on giving in terms of motivation to stay engaged and stay involved and not lose your enthusiasm”.
Mr Trump’s many tweets attacking “crooked” Hillary Clinton, bashing Oprah Winfrey, his alleged extramarital affairs, the 19 women accusing him of sexual harassment, and the now-infamous “Hollywood Insider” tape recording on which he used disparaging language to refer to women’s genitals and openly discussed sexually harassing women are just some of the incidents adding fuel to the fire.
But, this is not just a revolutionary year for Democratic women.
Twenty-one Republican women have announced a run for Senate this year, along with 92 for the House, and 31 for governorships, according to the Rutgers study.
“That’s more than in any year at this point since at least 2002,” NPR reported.
To many Republican women, the ongoing discussion regarding gender politics is something they are left out of according to Missy Shorey, the Executive Director of Maggie’s List, the Republican version of Emily’s List.
The group recruits, trains, and helps fundraise for female Republican candidates running for public office.
“We’re not invited” to many of the women’s marches and rallies, she said, adding: “In fact, we’re disinvited sometimes. That’s fine, if that’s the way the left wants [us] to be treated. But ignore us at your own peril.”
Ms Shorey’s estimation is that Republican women will not be seen as “avengers” the way Democratic female candidates will be in this election cycle.
She said that “angry” persona will just not play well in many districts around the country.
She also noted that the recent spate of sexual harassment allegations will make many voters naturally turn towards female candidates; that even male voters will vote for women because they are “sick of the way these men have been behaving.”