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New Group Focuses On Mobilizing Women Toward Political Activism


After the 2018 midterms, Democrats celebrated the record number of women they had elected to Congress. And then attention promptly shifted to the presidential race. As NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben reports, a group that launched this week is trying to make sure women's voices in politics continue to get louder.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: When you're starting a new political organization, your agenda matters. Your experience matters. Your funding matters. But having a snappy intro video doesn't hurt.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Because one of us can be dismissed.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Two of us can be ignored. But together...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: We aren't just the majority.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: We are a super-majority. And we are unstoppable.

KURTZLEBEN: And the leaders of Supermajority, a new group that focuses on mobilizing women, aren't new to the organizing game. The co-founders include Cecile Richards, who led Planned Parenthood for more than a decade, Ai-jen Poo , director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. Garza spoke to NPR via Skype.

ALICIA GARZA: We will be traveling across the country, talking to women about what their priorities are and what are the issues that they want to fight around. And that information will be turned into an agenda for women, which you can think of simply as a women's new deal.

KURTZLEBEN: While Supermajority isn't specifically partisan, it's leadership and the issues they have highlighted, like the gender pay gap, are more associated with progressives. The group will focus on issues but also on helping women be more effective advocates.

GARZA: We'll be training women on activism skills, everything from phone banking to bird-dogging to running and winning campaigns.

KURTZLEBEN: The birth of a new political group isn't necessarily a major development. Lots of left-leaning groups sprouted up or saw renewed energy after Donald Trump's election. But the birth of a new women-specific group led by huge names does raise the question of what Democratic women view as their next step.

DEBBIE WALSH: I think this is indicative of what a lot of the groups and a lot of women around the country are trying to figure out, which is how do we keep the momentum going?

KURTZLEBEN: Debbie Walsh is director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. She points out that women still only account for under 1 in 4 members of Congress. And so left-leaning women's groups are emphasizing that they have more to do. Christina Reynolds is vice president for communications at Emily's List.

CHRISTINA REYNOLDS: I think we are always worried that people think, OK, we're done. And this is why we reject the idea of just a year of the woman or just a pink wave. I go back to the last Year of the Woman, or so-called Year of the Woman, in 1992. I think it was Barbara Mikulski who rejected that title and said, that's like the year of the aardvark.

KURTZLEBEN: Actually, Senator Mikulski's exact words were both year of the caribou and year of the asparagus. But the point is the same. There's a fear that 2018's wave made electing women seem like a mere fad. Supermajority joins a large constellation of other women-focused groups, like Emily's List, as well as Emerge and She The People, to name just a few. Walsh lists the concerns that arise when different organizations have overlapping goals.

WALSH: How these different organizations work together, how not to step on each other's toes and give each other the space to do the work that they're doing.

KURTZLEBEN: That may be a logical concern. But Reynolds at Emily's List said that for now, more groups just equals more getting done because there's so much to do. And as Garza adds, there's still plenty of enthusiasm.

GARZA: Women are on fire. And Supermajority is really positioned to add oxygen to that fire so that it spreads all over the country.

KURTZLEBEN: It's a fire that Donald Trump helped set ablaze. And his spot at the top of the ticket next year will likely add even more fuel. Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.