Womens Enews, July 28, 2004
CAMPAIGN 2004: Women's Groups
Energize Democratic Convention
DATELINE: BOSTON -- During prime-time, speakers
at the Democratic National Convention are selling
John Kerry as a candidate who can make America
more secure. Behind the scenes, women's leaders
are girding for political war on President
"We are launching a call to arms to the
women of America," said Ellen Malcolm,
president of EMILY's List, which raises money
to support pro-choice female Democratic candidates.
"We will unleash the power of women to
defeat George W. Bush."
Although neither Kerry nor the convention that
will nominate him for president has been drawing
significant attention to women's issues, women's
rights advocates say they will work like never
before to put their candidate in the White
"We can't figure out why on earth any woman
in America would vote for George Bush again,"
former Texas Gov. Ann Richards said Tuesday.
"We can't understand why they don't see
what we see."
Since the convention started Monday, women's
rights groups have sponsored back-to-back rallies,
strategy sessions and fundraisers with one
overriding goal: to unseat Bush.
"We know if we get the women's vote out
and get to the polls, John Kerry wins,"
declared U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York.
The numbers tell the story. In 2000, 54 percent
of the women who voted backed Democrat Al Gore,
compared to 43 percent who supported Bush.
But 40 million eligible female voters did not
go to the polls. The majority of them--22 million--are
single. This year, pollsters have determined
the latter group could very well be the key
"Those 22 million women can change the face
of the nation," House Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi told 2,000 donors at an EMILY's
List luncheon Tuesday. "But only if we
Fifty percent of women support Kerry and 43 percent
support Bush, according to a recent poll sponsored
by EMILY's List. Nearly two-thirds of undecided
voters and a majority of swing voters are women,
other pollsters have found.
Both Democrats and Republicans are going after
Why They Oppose Bush
Bush has tried to reach out to women with his
message of "compassionate conservatism."
But women's rights leaders and Democratic stalwarts
argue that the president does not have women's
best interests in mind, in part because he
has restricted abortion rights and access to
birth control, opposed efforts to raise the
minimum wage and removed information about
women's health and family planning from government
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political
arm of the Planned Parenthood Federation of
America, is reaching out to unmarried women
in eight battleground states in what president
Gloria Feldt described as an unprecedented
Focus on Young and Single Women
"It's recognizing that young women and single
women often don't vote, not because they don't
care, but because they feel they don't make
a difference," Feldt said in an interview.
"They are so busy that politics takes
Not only will volunteers identify and target
potential Kerry voters, but they will contact
them 8 to 10 times before Election Day to make
sure they turn out at the polls, Feldt said.
EMILY's List also is spending tens of millions
of dollars to mobilize female voters, said
the group's national political director, Karen
M. White. She said Kerry was right to focus
on terrorism and Iraq as he introduces himself
to a national audience.
"Once women know more about John Kerry and
how he'll protect the country and make the
country safe, then they'll move on to issues
they'll vote on," she said.
"Swing men are already in Bush's camp. The
swing women are more available to Kerry,"
White said, but added, "He'll have to
work for them."
At a convention that Kerry has deemed should
be positive, viewers are unlikely to get the
full flavor of the mood. The major networks,
which are airing little of the convention,
have shown little of the Bush bashing taking
place outside the convention hall this week.
During the EMILY's List luncheon, Richards, who
as governor of Texas was defeated by Bush,
recited a litany of administration policies
that she described as "harmful and destructive"
to women. These included rule changes that
prevented some states from offering paid family
leave to cuts in after-school care. Emily's
List Malcolm charged that the administration
has a goal "of making women subservient
and politically powerless."
On the campaign trail, Kerry has not routinely
focused on so-called women's issues, either
by boasting of his own record or vilifying
Bush's. And veteran labor leader Dolores Huerta,
who is heading the campaign's Women for Kerry
effort, said Kerry has not created a budget
to help her reach out to women.
"To really get the job done, you need to
have a paid staff to do it. I believe in more
than voter registration," she said in
"In most presidential campaigns, the women's
component has been dramatically under-funded,"
said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization
for Women. "I had hoped that that would
not be the case with this campaign, since 65
percent of undecided voters are women . . .
It is not reasonable to assume that women will
simply turn out with out being mobilized."
Gandy noted that NOW and other groups are raising
money to turn out the women's vote on November
2. But, she added, "women's groups can't
do it by ourselves."
Tory Vallely, Kerry's director of women's outreach,
said the campaign will fund Huerta's effort.
She said the campaign is crafting strategies
unique to specific states--such as a New Mexico
program in which each volunteer is to mobilize
10 women to vote--and will work with women's
groups to attract and energize female voters.
But some women's leaders would like to see the
campaign and the convention put their issues
front and center.
"I have been disappointed in the way women's
issues have been addressed at this convention,"
said Martha Burk, president of the National
Council of Women's Organizations, a Washington-based
umbrella group. "At so-called women's
events, it is great," Burk said. But most
Americans don't see that, she added.
"Once again, the issues have been ghettoized.
I think that is why the polls are showing Kerry's
not connecting . . . He has a great voting
record, and when asked he makes good statements.
But he ought not to have to be asked."
The absence of women's issues from the prime-time
speeches certainly has not dampened the enthusiasm
of women's activists determined to replace
a president they say is undoing the progress
Women's leaders such as Gandy and the Feminist
Majority's Eleanor Smeal have rushed from one
event to another for two days straight.
Plus, Kate Michelman, the well-known former head
of NARAL Pro-Choice America, has now launched
the "Campaign to Save the Court,"
a Democratic effort to demonstrate a second
Bush term would place civil rights, women's
rights and workers' rights at risk.
Hundreds of women attended a rousing rally sponsored
by Lifetime Television Tuesday featuring Senators
Hillary Clinton of New York and Barbara Mikulski
of Maryland and former Secretary of State Madeleine
"Leave this convention energized and committed,"
Clinton told women and men who responded by
beating small tambourines. "We need you
on phone banks, we need you walking door to
door. We need you e-mailing . . . You must
be part of a citizen army to make sure every
Jodi Enda, Women's eNews Washington bureau
chief, covers politics and government.
National Organization for Women: - http://www.now.org/
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