On the Spot: Rallying Girl Power
A slightly precarious gray-haired Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam, both walking on stilts, welcomed colorfully dressed women into the Cowell Theatre in San Francisco on Tuesday night. As we trooped into the hall, we were handed items de rigueur for any progressive scene: flyers for a Green candidate, Kerry for President stickers, and most appropriately, pink Pro-Choice pins.
We were all there to "Rally the Vote," thanks to the Women's Voices, Women Vote project, an organization dedicated to making "women's voices heard through the power of their vote."
And as the rally demonstrated, these women are up to meeting the challenge -- in true girl power fashion.
The Women's Vote project collects and distributes in-depth analyses of voting behavior, meticulous state-by-state demographic statistics and policy prescriptions. Co-director Chris Desser started out the evening with a startling statistic: 67 percent of single women think the country is seriously on the wrong track. She then laid out the three main goals of the project in this election: 1) mobilize the 23 million single women who voted in 200 to vote again, 2) mobilize the 6 million single women who are registered but did not vote in 2000 and 3) to register as many as possible of the 16 million unregistered single women.
But more than their mastery of facts and figures, the participants at the rally displayed the open-armed creative power required for the true mobilization of women.
Tabling organizations preferred selling racy black undies inviting readers to "Kiss Bush...Goodbye" and handmade clay necklaces spelling VOTE to flyers stuffed with facts and figures. The new organization Thousand Flowers invited participants to a free manicure and nail file to demonstrate their campaign to reach single women voters by organizing voter registration drives in nail salons across the country. Mainstreet Moms Oppose Bush sold canvas shopping bags and vowed to meet and register moms in supermarkets. Code Pink couldn't keep up with the overwhelming demand for its cute pale pink baby tees.
The program for the evening echoed this same spirit of abundant optimism as each speaker emphasized the importance of personal connections, of shared stories and of hope. Carole Migden of the California State Board of Equalization implored the mostly female audience to make Nov. 2 a party -- to invite your friends, dress up in your fancy shoes and go to the polls as a celebration of your power, as a gift to your children, and grandparents. Joan Blades of MoveOn.org, after a rousing standing ovation, shyly read a moving passage from their new member-generated book, 50 Things You Can Do for Your Country.
She then invited a winsome 17-year-old Annelise Blum to talk about her Project Why Not, an initiative to register all the graduating seniors at Annelise' school to vote. Hallie Montoya Tanzie of the League of Pissed Off Voters told us that peer-to-peer interaction is the single most important factor that convinces young people to vote.
The last but not the least to speak was Arianna Huffington, who cheerfully and unselfconsciously adjusted her cleavage as she removed her jacket, much to the audience's amusement. She summed up the sentiment of the evening with eloquence and passion: "You see, women want to fall in love with democracy in a way, they want to feel it and experience it in their heart and soul. They want to be uplifted by its community and its shared power. That is the real American dream."
Arianna spoke of the petition she put together with Howard Dean's former campaign manager, Joe Trippi. It's being circulated by MoveOn, urging Kerry to "Go Big" with a bold new moral vision for the country. Though she was careful to note that by "moral" she means "the kind of morality that values humanity and basic kindness, not the kind of morality that motivates WalMart to remove 'indecent magazines' from their shelves yet fails to concern them with their employees who[m] they refuse to pay overtime wages."
This election's sleeper issue is idealism. The rally brought home the most important task that lies ahead for all of us: to bring heart and soul back into this election, back into politics, but most importantly back into our own lives and those we touch.
Darci Andresen is associate publisher of AlterNet.