By: Katie Schluth
About a month ago, I attended the Women’s March on Washington, where I was fortunate enough to hear dozens of influential women of all backgrounds, sexualities, platforms, and creeds speak out about gender inequality and sexism in the United States and offer viable solutions to help diminish these issues. Out of all the proactive measures these women urged us to take, such as calling our elected officials, donating to Planned Parenthood, and continuing to get involved in activism beyond the March, the tactic that I felt would be most effective is empowering more women to run for office themselves. While Hillary Clinton’s defeat this past fall left me reeling, the tenacity of female political leaders in this country as they refuse to accept the hand they’ve been given has inspired me to become more politically active and perhaps run for office myself one day. And while I may be too young to launch my campaign for president in 2020, with the current administration in the White House, is it ever truly “too early” to start rallying support for women who are eligible to appear on the ballot?
At the March, many of the speakers who called for women to run for office were elected officials themselves. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, to name a few, all gave dynamic speeches about their experiences as women in government and left me wondering whether they’d considered — or had already begun — launching a presidential campaign over the next four years. As a Democratic senator from New York, perhaps Gillibrand could pick right back up where Hillary left off, shattering the highest glass ceiling that Clinton left significantly cracked. While Gillibrand has not publicly expressed interest in pursuing a 2020 presidential bid, she has actively combatted the Trump administration at every turn, voting “no” on every single appointment Trump has made to his cabinet. Whether she decides to run against him in four years or not, she is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the U.S. Senate.
Kamala Harris and Tammy Duckworth are both newly elected senators, but despite their lack of experience in this realm of government, they are certainly worth watching. Harris has continually made history throughout her political journey as not only the first woman but also the first Jamaican American, Asian American, and Indian American to serve as attorney general in California. As attorney general, Harris fought for prison and foster care reform and helped mitigate the California mortgage crisis, reducing the state’s debt by nearly $26 million. This past November, she became the second black woman and first Indian American ever to be elected to the United States Senate. Duckworth, meanwhile, is an Iraq War veteran and double amputee who was the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013. She is also the first Asian-American congresswoman from Illinois and the second Asian-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate, alongside Kamala Harris. As a result of her experiences in Iraq, Duckworth was appointed Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs in 2006 and has since dedicated much of her time to helping veterans suffering from PTSD and brain injuries. While both of these women are new to the Senate, this should not deter them from being potentially successful presidential candidates. After all, Barack Obama had only served as a senator for one term when he launched his presidential campaign in 2006.
While it’s too early to tell if any of these women will run for the highest office in 2020, we should continue to support their endeavors and keep an eye on their accomplishments in the Senate and beyond over the next four years. One of the best things we can do to increase the role of women in the federal government — besides running for office ourselves, of course — is building up our fellow women who currently occupy positions of power and fighting alongside them as they work to further women’s interests in the United States and the world.