Women and the 2022 midterms: A POLITICO roundtable

The pandemic turned many American women’s lives upside down. At the height of the Covid outbreak, women were more likely to be the service workers who lost their jobs and the essential workers who had to continue to show up. Millions of women dropped out of the workforce, and more than a year later nearly 2 million still haven’t returned. Many caregivers, who are disproportionately women, still don’t have reliable childcare.

As a result, it’s women who arguably stand to gain and lose the most in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. And three women who lead some of the largest progressive political organizations are trying to make sure they aren’t missing an opportunity with those voters. For a Women Rule roundtable, I recently convened Stefanie Brown James, co-founder and senior adviser at the Collective PAC, which supports Black candidates running for federal, state and local office; Maria Teresa Kumar, founder and president of Voto Latino, a group that registers Latino voters; and Jessica Floyd, president of American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC. Each of these groups is gearing up to try to keep Congress in Democratic control two years after an election showed just how much they have to fight for every seat and every demographic group they’ve come to rely on.

We talked about how women in crucial swing states seem to like President Joe Biden, but also don’t have as much time or energy to keep up with politics post-Donald Trump; the two kinds of suburban women voters we learned about in 2020; whether Democrats have improved their messaging to voters of color; and how they should support Black women running for office. All of the participants agreed that if women voters have become less politically engaged with Trump out of office, they should start paying attention again now. “What I remind people is … we have a reprieve,” said Kumar, “but we are in the eye of the storm.”

Read the full article here. Excerpts from the conversation are below.

On women being less engaged post-Trump:

Jessica Floyd, American Bridge 21st Century: Fifty-seven percent [of women] are viewing [Biden] favorably across those four states [Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona] among women voters. But we also see that about 49 percent of women that we surveyed are paying less attention to politics than they were during the Trump years. I think we all probably feel emotionally like we would like to take a step back from the chaos that was the Trump administration. But when you look at the policy, and what that means for us as communicators to those women, we need to be talking that much more, that much earlier, that much more consistently to those women to show what the Biden administration and congressional Democrats are doing for them.

On the messaging strategy needed to engage women:

Maria Teresa Kumar, Voto Latino: We’re speaking specifically to women in Arizona and Georgia around the child tax credit, because there’s just not an understanding of what that is and how that benefits them. So, we saw a lot of, “We’re not even applying for it,” [voters] thinking that they couldn’t because they may not have an existing filing with the IRS or what have you. … So, we’re taking on pieces of the work that we haven’t had to in the past, but it’s because we are seeing people tune out.

Floyd: One study showed that 44 percent of women actually started subscribing to lifestyle magazines during the pandemic, and about 70 percent of those subscribers read lifestyle magazines on their e-readers or on their phones. So, that’s a place to meet these women who are getting their information. There’s a reason why Cecile Richards, when she joined as co-chair at American Bridge, one of her first op-eds for us was in Elle magazine, because this goes back to what you’re hearing today: Let’s talk consistently, strategically and meet voters where they are.

On whether Democrats are improving their support of Black female candidates:

Stefanie Brown James, Collective PAC: I can remember back when we started the Collective in 2016, we had to have a very heart-to-heart conversation with the leaders of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee because they had their robust, robust red-to blue list. These were their priority candidates. No Black candidates on the list of 20-plus people. Now, this was in 2018. The candidates that we were shepherding and that we were really pushing forward, like Lucy McBath and Joe Neguse, who now is in Democratic leadership, for example, were not getting the support from the DCCC. … So, I think we are seeing some progress being made there, because eventually there were Black folks that were added to that list, and now they’re in Congress.

But we’re also seeing organizations like Emily’s List really increase their investments in Black women running for office. And listen, there are some gatekeeper organizations. I think Emily’s List knows that they’re one of them. If Emily’s List is backing you, OK, there are donors that are going to come in; if Collective PAC is backing you, there are donors that are going to come in. So, I appreciate that organizations are also stepping up to say, “We have to play a bigger role helping these candidates as well.”

On why suburban women are still important in 2022:

Floyd: When we think about suburban women, there are really two groups that we’re looking at. [First] is persuasion audiences — persuading people who might go back to the Republican Party. I think about the Northern Virginia suburbs that liked former Representative Barbara Comstock but didn’t like Donald Trump. We need to make sure that they understand that the Republican Party is still the party of Trump, and whether or not any of these Republicans seem as chaotic as Donald Trump or seem quite as out of step with them on policies, they actually are further and further out of step with suburban voters and particularly with women.

The second group is women who, if they vote, they’re likely to vote Democratic, but not guaranteed to. And we need to persuade them to remain engaged in a post-Trump world. … We know that both groups care deeply about getting out of the Covid crisis, both the health care crisis and in particular the economy is [issue] number one, two, three and four for women.

Good afternoon, and thanks for stopping by! What do you have planned this late-July weekend? I’ve just ordered Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frankel’s book about Facebook, and I’m very excited to dig into that. Should I watch “White Lotus”? My Twitter timeline thinks yes …

Thank you to Maya Parthasarathy, for helping me put together these links every week.

At our roundtable, I asked the participants for their career advice. Their full responses are in the piece, but Maria Teresa Kumar’s in particular has stuck with me: “I walk into a room, and people sometimes will have predisposed ideas of where I should fit in or what I should be. The best advice my mother ever gave me is that when someone treats you that way, that is their journey that they’re on, not yours.”

“AOC tangles with Sinema over $3.5 trillion spending package,” by POLITICO’s Burgess Everett: “Kyrsten Sinema will move forward on Democrats’ plans to craft a massive partisan spending bill running into the trillions, but indicated at the same time that she will seek to pare down the package’s cost, infuriating progressives in the House.

“The moderate Arizona Democrat said in a statement that she has informed Senate leaders and President Joe Biden that she will advance a budget proposal that allows a subsequent spending bill of up to $3.5 billion backed by most Senate Democrats. And though she supports ‘many of the goals in this proposal,’ she’ll want changes to the final product. …

“Sinema’s statement provoked instant outrage from progressive House Democrats. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted: ‘Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you’ll survive a 3 vote House margin.’ And Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) said ‘without a reconciliation package that meets this moment, I’m a no on this bipartisan deal’ negotiated by Sinema.”

“Simone Biles and the MAGAverse’s Fetish of Toughness,” by Charlie Sykes in POLITICO Magazine: “Describing Trump as a ‘man’s man,’ might be a stretch beyond the reaches of parody, but the attitude reflects the shift of the right from a movement ostensibly about ideas and values, to one invested in ‘owning the libs’ and enforcing racial and gender standards.

“In this brave new world of faux-toughness, Biles as an individual simply does not matter — she is merely an instrument of national greatness, with her actual humanity regarded as an inconvenient afterthought.

“That’s why her critics spend so little time dealing with the role that stress, pressure and a history of sexual abuse likely played in Biles’ decision, because that would mean having to think of her as a person, and for critics like Charlie Kirk and the others, that is utterly irrelevant.”

Read more.

The U.S. Is Girding for a New Culture War, by Anthony Halpin in Bloomberg: “A woman’s control over her body looks set to become a political dividing line in next year’s U.S. midterm elections.

“That poses a challenge to President Joe Biden’s efforts to ease America’s polarization after the conflicts of the Donald Trump administration.

“As Greg Stohr reports, 228 Republican members of Congress signed a brief sent to the Supreme Court yesterday urging the justices to uphold Mississippi’s ban on terminations after 15 weeks of pregnancy and, ‘if necessary,’ to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that guaranteed women the right to an abortion.

“The filing means virtually the entire GOP caucus is now on record as opposing the Roe decision. A dozen Republican governors in a separate brief to the court argued that ‘the authority to regulate abortion should be returned to the states.’

“That would mean near-total bans in practice in many conservative states, where opposition to abortion has long been an article of faith among Republican evangelical supporters. Trump’s appointment of three Supreme Court justices, creating a 6-3 conservative majority, makes them optimistic they may get their way this time.”

“Many people suffer pregnancy loss, then immediately get back to work. A new bill wants to change that,” by Julianna McShane in The Lily: “Workers often have to return to work following a pregnancy loss, or rely on their employers to grant them time off to grieve. If they don’t have paid sick or vacation time saved up, that time could be uncompensated: The Family and Medical Leave Act grants eligible workers who experience miscarriages and other ‘serious health conditions’ up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, according to A Better Balance, a national workers’ advocacy organization. But it only applies to people working at companies with at least 50 employees and who have been there for at least a year.

“A new bill introduced in Congress last week seeks to change that: The Support Through Loss Act, introduced by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), would mandate at least three days of paid leave for people who experience pregnancy loss (in the legislation, this includes unsuccessful fertility treatments and failed adoption or surrogacy arrangements). Paid time off would also apply to partners of pregnant people.”

“Simone Biles Didn’t Quit—She’s Fighting for Fellow Survivors,” by Danielle Campoamor in The Cut: “By choosing to withdraw from the overall team-final competition and the individual all-around gymnastics final to focus on her mental health and prioritize her well-being, Biles reminded the nearly one in five women and one in 75 men who are victims of sexual assault that our stories, our bodies, and our minds do not need to be sacrificed at the altar of social justice. That it’s okay if we know deep in our bones that we can’t do what is required of us; that pushing through would cause us harm; that the pain, physical or not, simply is not worth it.”

“Wharton Is First Elite M.B.A. Program to Enroll More Women Than Men,” by Patrick Thomas in the Wall Street Journal: “The business school, one of the most highly ranked in the U.S., said that 52% of its new fall cohort will be female, marking the highest percentage of women enrolled in its 140-year history.

“The milestone makes Wharton the first of the so-called ‘M7’ M.B.A. programs to admit more women than men. In addition to Wharton, those seven elite schools include Harvard Business School, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Columbia Business School, MIT Sloan School of Management, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.”

HISTORY DEPT. — “She Changed Astronomy Forever. He Won the Nobel Prize For It,” via The New York Times … “Behind The Lens, These Women Created Photographs That Leap Over Decades,” via NPR … “Senators Aim To Add More Notable Women To Capitol’s Sculpture Collection,” via NPR.

From “Simone Biles and the New Black Power of ‘No.’” Read more.

LISTEN: Have you been listening to the “70 Over 70” podcast with Max Linsky? I highly recommend a recent episode he did with the poet Nikki Giovanni. She talks about how easy it was for her to decide an MFA program at Columbia was not for her; how her understanding of love has changed over the years; and how she’d rather go naked in public than own a gun (the either/or makes a bit more sense in context). I teared up a few times and loved hearing about her regular champagne habit.

READ: I went out and got a copy of An Ugly Truth, as I mentioned earlier, after I read this Q&A between Julia Ioffe and Sheera Frankel, a co-author of the book. My favorite part from the interview is from Frankel: “He’s obsessed with the Roman Empire, specifically with Caesar Augustus. … Mark Zuckerberg choosing him, of all the emperors, is endlessly fascinating to me. This is a person who crafted the modern Roman Empire in his image. And by all accounts, he did so quite ruthlessly.”

The League of Women Voters is announcing a new leadership structure and executive team today: CEO Virginia Kase Solomón, chief strategy officer Ayo Atterberry, chief development officer Cecilia Calvo, chief comms officer Sarah Courtney, COO Ellen Hobby, chief of staff Kelly McFarland Stratman, and chief counsel/senior director of advocacy and litigation Celina Stewart. (h/t Playbook). …

Penny Lee will be the first CEO of the Financial Technology Association. She most recently headed the public affairs practice group at Invariant. … Nicole Lewis will be senior editor of Slate’s Juris section. She is currently a staff writer at the Marshall Project. …

Rachel Vogelstein will be senior adviser to the White House Gender Policy Council, heading its global portfolio. She currently is a senior fellow and director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Yael Lempert will join the State Department’s Middle East bureau as principal deputy assistant secretary. She is currently serving as the chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in London. … Jennifer Gavito, who also holds a top diplomatic post in London, will become deputy assistant secretary for Iran and Iraq at the bureau. (h/t Playbook)

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