This is the weekly Amplify newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web or someone forwarded this e-mail newsletter to you, you can sign up for Amplify and all Globe newsletters here.
Being invested in women’s political success can often feel like being a Toronto Blue Jays fan: Most days you’re bound to be disappointed. So it’s been a thrill to watch the current U.S. election, both the presidential and Congressional races, because there’s lots of reason for joy. Yes, it was a nail-biter, but now it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief and appreciation.
You could note that white women continue to vote for Donald Trump in shockingly high numbers (according to The New York Times’s exit poll, half of white women with a college degree voted for Trump, a figure that rose to 60 per cent for those without a college degree). But that’s not the story of this election. This is not their story.
Instead, it’s the story of women of colour, particularly Black women, who voted and organized and ran, and saved America (again) from sliding into the abyss. As I write this, it looks very likely that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States, which means that his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, will be the first woman, and the first person of colour, to serve as vice-president. (Harris’s mother was from India, and her father is Jamaican.)
That’s huge. That’s historic. She will provide a model for young women who might wonder if there’s a place for them at the most powerful office in the land. I think back to Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress, who decided to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 1972. She was asked in 2002 what prompted that decision: “'Of course I knew I couldn’t win,” she said. “But they had to get used to the idea that persons other than white males could be president of this country, and should be president.”
I’m glad that moment is one step closer, even if we had to wait almost half a century for it. As a columnist and feature writer with The Globe and Mail, I’ve lived and reported in four countries, watching women make slow progress toward political power in all of them. Most recently I lived in Germany, where Angela Merkel has been chancellor for 15 years and has led her country calmly and efficiently through the pandemic crisis.
The victory in the U.S. does not begin or end at the White House. It involved the labour of countless women who ran for office and signed up voters, who watched polls and ran campaigns. One monumental effort occurred in Georgia, which, at the time of this writing, appears to have voted for a Democrat president for the first time since 1992. We can thank Stacey Abrams, former gubernatorial candidate, for that one. After Abrams lost the governor’s race in 2018 (a contest marred by allegations of voter suppression), she founded Fair Fight, an organization devoted to registering voters. More than 800,000 new voters were registered in Georgia for this race. Abrams is a current and future star of the Democratic party (and if that wasn’t cool enough, she also writes romantic suspense novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery).
As CNN’s Abby Phillip said when a Biden-Harris victory looked likely: "For Black women this has been a proving moment for their political strength. Seeing a Black woman on the cusp of this moment is something that will go down in history. Black women put Joe Biden in the White House and they put a Black woman in the White House, and that is the poetry we’ll live with for a long while.''
There was even more good news in this election for American women in public office. For the first time, three Native American women were elected to Congress: Democrats Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, and Republican Yvette Herrell. In fact, the number of women elected to Congress this year is record-breaking, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. This year, 132 women won their seats, 100 Democrats and 32 Republicans. That’s more than ever before. That’s worth celebrating. Excuse me while I go have a toast to our American sisters, and the incredibly tough fight they just won.
What else we’re thinking about:
We’re all looking for spots of good news, and if you love wolves this week brought one. In Colorado, voters approved a measure that would reintroduce grey wolves to the state, in parkland west of the continental divide. The initiative had been opposed by ranchers and hunters, but the wolves won a narrow victory. Maybe it was vengeance for their ancestors being wiped out in the state in the early 20th century. As a wolf fan, I often find myself watching the livestreams at the Wolf Conservation Center in New York State. One good howl can set you up for the day.
Inspired by something in this newsletter? If so, we hope you’ll amplify it by passing it on. And if there’s something we should know, or feedback you’d like to share, send us an e-mail at email@example.com.