Analysis & Comment

Opinion | Finally, a Chance for Women to Defeat Trump

After Donald Trump was elected, the first time I felt any hope was at the Women’s March. The second was when I went to Georgia to cover the 2017 special election to fill the House seat vacated by Tom Price, who’d just become Trump’s secretary of health and human services.

Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, an affluent area once represented by Newt Gingrich, was considered safely Republican, but Democrats saw a chance to use the special election to register their fury and disgust with the new president. They poured money and resources into the campaign of a first-time candidate, Jon Ossoff.

When I arrived in the district, though, it wasn’t Ossoff who caught my attention. It was the legions of women who’d never been particularly political before, but who were shocked into activism by Trump’s victory. Many of them had previously put their energy into PTAs and homeowners associations. They had a deep, granular knowledge of their community that couldn’t be bought, and they were using it to find every one of their neighbors who might be open to voting Democratic.

The story of that race, Ossoff told me then, was “about the women in this community, Democrats, independents and Republicans, who have picked this campaign up and carried it on their shoulders.”

Neither candidate ended up winning a majority, and the race went to a runoff, which Ossoff lost by almost four points. But I followed several of the women I met as they redoubled their efforts, and in the 2018 midterms, they helped flip the seat to a Democrat, Lucy McBath. The Cook Political Report now rates her seat as “likely Democratic.”

Similar shifts are happening all over America, as abhorrence toward Trump has sparked an explosion of organizing among women. However Tuesday turns out, this mobilization has rapidly altered Georgia’s politics, helping to turn a Republican redoubt into a competitive purple state.

As I write this, FiveThirtyEight’s polling average shows Biden slightly favored to win Georgia. Ossoff is now a Senate candidate, running about even with the incumbent Republican, David Perdue. That race is expected to go to a runoff, as is the one that the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, a Democrat, is waging for the state’s other Senate seat. Georgia’s Seventh District, where Carolyn Bourdeaux is running again after a narrow loss in 2018, is now rated by Cook as “lean Democratic.”

“No matter what happens next week, Georgia has changed forever,” said Sarah Riggs Amico, who was Stacey Abrams’s running mate when Abrams ran for governor in 2018.

If Georgia does go blue, no one will deserve more credit than Abrams, who narrowly lost her race but came closer than any Democrat in years. Her New Georgia Project has reportedly registered around 450,000 people of color and young people, and she pressed the Biden campaign to take the state seriously, arguing that with the right investments, Georgia’s demographics made the state flippable.

Suburban women are only one part of the coalition that makes a Biden victory in Georgia conceivable. But they are probably the group whose politics have shifted the fastest.

“I can’t tell you the number of women I’ve met, traveling around the state of Georgia for about three years now, who maybe didn’t see themselves as particularly political before, maybe didn’t see themselves as partisan, maybe didn’t see themselves as Democrats, who are now straight-ticket Democratic voters,” said Amico, who recently founded a PAC supporting progressive women running in state and local Georgia races.

There are women like those Amico describes all over. I’ve met them in Arizona and in Pennsylvania, two states that might save this country this week. Their existence has kept me going during the last four years, especially in those low moments when rage gives way to grief. The revulsion women feel toward Trump has remade the landscape of American politics in ways that will outlast him.

Recently I’ve worried about what Covid might mean for all these newly minted activists. Many have children and have thus been conscripted into home-schooling. The meetings that were once so enlivening, that gave people whole new social worlds, are now on Zoom. But everyone I’ve talked to said engagement is as robust as ever.

I first met Katie Landsman, an Army veteran and mother of three, when she was volunteering for the Ossoff campaign in 2017. When I got back in touch with her recently, she was, somewhat to her surprise, serving as deputy campaign manager on a state House race.

“I never in a million years thought I would be this engrossed and involved in politics at 48 years old,” she said. No one Landsman knew had stepped back from politics, and new volunteers were surging in.

It may not be enough, but if Trump loses, it will be because of the women who wrung themselves out to defeat him. I asked Amico how she’s sleeping in these final days. “I’m not sleeping very much,” she said. “But when I sleep I sleep quite soundly.”

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