Op-Ed

Will 2018 be a repeat of 1992 Year of the Woman? Depends on millennials

Protesters against Judge Brett Kavanaugh held a rally in Salt Lake City.
Protesters against Judge Brett Kavanaugh held a rally in Salt Lake City. Associated Press

In 1991, when Anita Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her she faced a panel of all white men.

Last month when Christine Blasey Ford testified before the same committee that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, four committee members were the same: Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Mitch McConnell and Richard Shelby. Democrats have women and people of color on the committee, but the GOP side is still all old white men.

The optics were so bad they hired Rachel Mitchell, a female sex-crimes prosecutor to ask questions, yet they didn’t all defer time to her.

In the 1992 election following Hill’s testimony, a record number of women were elected, in what became known as the Year of the Woman. Four new female senators tripled the number in that chamber; 24 were elected to the House.

Will this moment in time, following Ford’s testimony, become another year of the woman?

Even though the Democrats have had a progressive agenda for women including equal pay, child care, health care and more, they now also have the Women’s March and #MeToo.

Baby boomer women didn’t realize they had such power in 1992 but now 10 million more women vote in presidential elections. So, do millennial women realize the power they have now?

A few facts: A HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted Sept. 17-18 found that only 10 percent of voters thought the Senate was doing a better job with Ford than it did with Hill. Calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline spiked 201 percent during the Ford/Kavanaugh hearings.

According to The New York Times, 476 women ran in this year’s primaries for Congress, and 323 races still having a woman running. Women running for the House have won the most primaries ever, with 200 female candidates headed to the General Election.

Records show that the women candidates are more politically experienced than the men running. Eighty percent of women running for Senate have previously held office, compared to 22 percent of men; 56 percent of the women running for governorships have previous experience, compared to 37 percent of men. The higher the office sought, the higher the experience gap .

Before the primaries, there were women on the ballot in almost all of the 36 states where a governorship was up for election. According to the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office, there are 79 female candidates running for state legislative seats on the Nov. 6 ballot. Fifty-one are registered Democrats and three write-ins are also Democrats.

Women of color have always been underrepresented, but in this midterm election almost 50 black women are running for Congress, and female women of color are proportionately represented, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.

Of Senate candidates, 23 percent of the candidates are women; and 20 percent of House candidates are women. And, a Muslim congressional candidate, Rashida Tlaib, won her primary in Michigan.

That brings us to the here and now. We need millennial women to vote. I keep hearing that this can be a difficult demographic to predict, but experts tend to think that millennial women are more likely to vote when they have a woman to vote for.

The millennials I know might not be representative, but I asked them if they plan to vote Nov. 6, what were their top issues, if they knew about Hill and Ford, about women and minorities and the Constitution, and if having a conservative Supreme Court would affect their lives.

I was pleasantly surprised; they are paying attention, and their answers make me supremely optimistic.

I’m hoping the “Bernie or Bust” millennials have figured out that they are now the largest voting-bloc, outnumbering baby boomers and older Americans for the first time. History moves slow, but we have to keep moving in the right direction — which is left.

Millennials matter.

Sarah Moore Katzenmaier, Lexington native, works as a consultant for IBM, and a photographer in her spare time. Email her at: skatzenmaier@gmail.com

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