Women disappointed in 2016 election results get 'Ready to Run'

ASHINGTON — Rabiya Kader never considered making a run for political office. It’s an “ugly business,” she said, and she hates asking people for money.

Then Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton to win the presidency, and Kader’s thinking changed. Trump’s potential Supreme Court picks, alone, could yield a lifetime of policy positions that run counter to her core beliefs, said the 42-year-old patent attorney and Democrat from Princeton, N.J.

She learned on social media about a Rutgers University program that teaches women how to run for public office and registered early for the March session, telling her friends “we should actually do something and run.”

“I thought, now’s the time to participate and not just vote, be an active voice,” she said.

Before the election, conventional wisdom said Hillary Clinton could inspire more women to run for office by becoming the first woman president. But if interest in campaign training is any indication, Clinton’s loss — and more specifically, Trump’s victory — may be having a similar effect.

The non-partisan “Ready to Run” program at Rutgers typically gets only a handful of registrations, at most, this time of year. But in the week after the election, 35 paid registrations poured in for the March session along with at least 10 requests for partial scholarships or information, according to organizers.

“The interest is intense,” said Jean Sinzdak, associate director of the university’s Center for American Women and Politics, which runs the program.

Leaders of partnering programs in Pennsylvania and Iowa have also been surprised by the level of interest in the workshops immediately following the election. At Iowa State University, “Ready to Run Iowa” organizers are discussing whether they need to expand the class size, adjust the curriculum for more people or get a bigger room.

“This is the earliest interest we’ve received in our spring campaign training,” said Dianne Bystrom, director of the university’s Center for Women and Politics. “What started out as disappointment now seems to be a call to action for women to be involved in politics.  It wasn’t something I was thinking about or expecting.”

The early interest also surprised Debbie Walsh, director of Rutgers' Center for American Women and Politics, who said, "I was concerned that the tone and tenor (of the election) was so negative, that it would turn good people off."

The training programs, offered by partners in 18 states, cover the fundamentals of running a campaign, from fundraising to media training and mobilizing voters. They represent yet another way that women are getting involved in response to an election that has spurred protests and other organized efforts, such as the upcoming “Women’s March on Washington” on Jan. 21.

Exit polls show 53% of white women voted for Trump. But overall, a majority of women — 54% — supported Clinton, according to Edison Research.

Disappointment and concern about the stances Trump could take on issues such as access to reproductive health care, pay equity or paid parental leave seems to be driving some women’s interest in having a greater political voice, workshop leaders say.

“There’s substantive policy issues driving this,” said Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University.

During a post-election interview, Trump’s daughter Ivanka pledged on 60 Minutes to fight for wage equality, child care and “more opportunities for women.” But Trump during the same interview vowed to appoint “pro-life” judges and said women would have to “go to another state” for an abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned, returning jurisdiction to states.

“This last election really illustrated the fact that we’ve basically asked other women to step up for us and we’re not stepping up ourselves,” said Amelia Lobo, 39, of Des Moines. Lobo, a program director at a community economic development agency, plans to attend “Ready to Run Iowa” and is considering running for local office.

She worries that the country will take a “step back in time” on human rights, women’s rights, the environment, economy and the minimum wage.  When an Access Hollywood tape revealed Trump bragging about groping women, “we were reminded very strongly that we are second class citizens,” she said.

For Kader, who is Muslim and originally from India, Trump’s rhetoric played a big role in her decision to get involved in some way.

She was alarmed by his statements last year on banning Muslims from entering the country, and said she has been forced to answer “disturbing” questions from her young children as a result. Women’s rights are also important to her and she’s “heartsick” about talk of ending regulations to curb climate change.

She hopes the Rutgers class will guide her decisions and help expand her network. If she doesn’t run for office, she said she’d be happy to support someone with similar views.

“I’m very hopeful,” she said. “We’re all mobilizing. If any good can come of this, I think people will be a lot more aware and a lot more active.”

Follow @ngaudiano on Twitter.


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