A’shanti Gholar, president of Emerge America, discusses how the organization working to get more women elected at all political levels. She talked about how Emerge America works, what Emerge alum are doing now, and how women all across the country can get involved.
All episodes begin and end with the 2017 single “Rise” by rock group Betty (www.hellobetty.com)
“We are training the defenders of democracy in our country.”– A’shanti Gholar (11:55)
In this episode:
What our hosts are pissed about (01:32)
What Emerge America does and a brief introduction of A’shanti Gholar (07:20)
Some of Emerge’s success stories (10:13)
How Roe v. Wade has made women stand up (12:37)
The Hosts Start by Sharing What They’re Pissed About
Betty is pissed that Georgia has decided that a fetus as a person, and that the Georgia tax code includes tax credits for fetuses. This $3,000 tax exemption for a fetus means that there will be additional ways to criminalize abortions and miscarriages, which Mini Timmajuri spoke about in episode 2. Betty also states that 10 – 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, usually before 12 weeks. Laws such as these could further devastate those who suffer miscarriages.
Sherrye surprises everyone by breaking out of her usual state of piss-dom after the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Today, she’s euphoric that Kansas voters retained the abortion rights in their state’s constitution against all odds. Not only was the ballot initiative placed on the Republican primary (when Democratic and independent voters are less likely to show up), the wording of the initiative was very confusing. However, an overwhelming number of Kansans voted No on the ballot initiative and kept the state constitution pro choice. Sherrye also shouts out our coalition partner, NARAL, for all of the work they did on the ground in Kansas. Sign up to volunteer with NARAL.
Carol is pissed about Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, getting a standing ovation for his racist, homophobic, and anti-immigrant statements at the Conservative Political Action Conference held in Dallas, Texas. It’s clear that conservative, pro-Trump politicians are gearing up for the midterm elections in November, and that makes it even more clear that we have to mobilize and get out the vote to protect our own rights.
Gloria is pissed that Michigan Congressman Peter Meyer, who voted to impeach Trump, then capitulated all of his scruples after being defeated by an election-denying pro-Trump opponent. After calling his opponent extreme (rightfully so) during their race, he then called for party unity after his loss. This sort of flip-flopping leads to lack of trust in politicians and disengages voters.
What Drives A’shanti Gholar and Emerge?
After Gloria introduces A’shanti and Emerge (where Gloria is a board member), she asks A’shanti about the mission and goals are for this election cycle.
A’shanti is driven by the belief America needs a reflective and inclusive democracy, which means women from all walks of life and backgrounds should be in politics. Emerge trains women to run for office, and they really center bringing women from the community in elected office.
Emerge celebrates 20 years of work, and they noticed that after Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016, many women were motivated to votes. In 2017, Emerge candidates flipped over a dozen House of Delegates seats. In 2018, Emerge alums went to Congress, including Congresswoman Lucy McBath, who has had success with passing firearm legislation passed in Congress, which was a huge part of her platform after her son, Jordan Davis, was killed by gun violence.
She also discusses how female mayors were largely leading the charge to protect their citizens at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In more recent weeks, San Francisco Mayor London Breed (another Emerge alum) was the first to announce that monkeypox is a public health emergency.
The Fall of Roe v. Wade Invigorated Women
A’shanti discusses how a lot of women run for office driven by a singular issue. She’s noticing that women, especially young women, are going to run for office to protect abortion. Young women today have fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers, and Emerge has seen this new generation reaching out to find out about how to run for office.
She talks about how many elected officials are critical in protecting abortion rights. While Congress and the Supreme Court certainly impact these rights, so do governors, attorneys general, and prosecutors. Women need to fill the pipeline at the state and local level by running for seats where they will be able to protect abortion.
There’s 520,000 elected offices in the United States, and most of them are at the state and local level. Those seats at the table are critically important.
The Kansas Ballot Initiative Result Didn’t Surprise A’shanti
Even though Kansas is a red state, A’shanti knew there were good women in Kansas who wanted to protect the right to abortion. It was a great first test to get pro-choice voters out to the polls. No matter your state, you shouldn’t write off the impact that you can have.
Emerge’s Requirements for Candidacy
Sherrye asks how Emerge chooses to help candidates and what stances are considered non-negotiable for Emerge politicians. A’shanti says that the only requirement for Emerge candidates is that they’re self-identified Democratic cisgender or transgender women.
However, Emerge is noticing that the women coming forward are fighting for reproductive justice. Emerge also focuses on running “the right candidate in the right district with the right message” (16:45).
Given that there are anti-choice candidates who get support from the Democratic party, A’shanti discusses a need to do a deep dive in those communities to find out what’s going on and what other issues mattered enough to those voters to elect an anti-choice Democratic candidate.
Optimism for Gender Parity in Government at the National Level
A’shanti feels that the United States will get to gender parity in Congress. In fact, the only state to not send a woman to Congress is Vermont, but that will likely change this year due to Emerge alum. Molly Gray and Becca Balint are in Vermont’s primary, which is taking place on Tuesday, Aug 9.
Emerge also doesn’t just focus on women in elected officials blooming where they’re planted. Emerge encourages their candidates to continue seeking higher office and to continue moving up through government. She also discusses that parity in government isn’t just about 50/50 men/women, but that there is also racial and ethnic parity.
Gloria shares how she learned about Emerge over a decade ago, and speaking with the Emerge candidates led her to write an article in Elle Magazine and her book “No Excuses.” One of the people at that meeting was Katie Hobbs, who has held increasingly more powerful political offices in the state of Arizona. She’s a great example of Emerge supporting women as they continue to get recognition at all levels.
A’shanti and Emerge Help Women Prepare to Run for Office
- Find your why
- Find your office
- Find your election and prepare personally, professionally, and mentally
That will continue to drive you. Once you know it, you can then choose an office that will allow you to make impacts around that issue that drives you. From there, develop a plan that involves self-care because working in politics at any level is a grind.
One of the ways Emerge helps women is that it builds community around the women who are running. Frequently, Emerge candidates who have run previously talk about the loneliness of running for office, and Emerge creates a support system for those women. Especially in seats where Democrats haven’t run for a long time, it may take a few election cycles to flip the seat, and Emerge provides help to continue grinding to win those seats.
Intersectionality at Emerge
Carol asks if there is special training around the vitriol that women of color, especially Black women, will face as they run for political office. A’shanti talks about how the confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson led to her writing the article “The Inescapable Exhausting of Being the ‘First’ Black Woman.” Emerge centers equity and justice and features it in the training programs so that they can relate to everyone in their community. They have launched a program that focuses specifically on Black women advancing in government and strategies for inserting themselves into conversations around Black women;s issues.
Emerge also partners with Higher Heights (we spoke to their CEO and cofounder Glynda Carr on our 6th Episode) and The Collective PAC to build a robust system of support for Black women, who still face many obstacles as they run for political office.
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A’shanti F. Gholar serves as the president of Emerge, the only organization dedicated to recruiting and training Democratic women to run for office. In this role, she leads the organization and steers its overall strategy and direction, overseeing a national staff as well as affiliates across the country.