After Extensive Election Organizing, NOW Looks to the Future
By Jenny Thalheimer, Press Secretary
December 3, 2004
The NOW/PAC and National NOW Action Center spent much of the last 16 months preparing for the 2004 Elections, beginning with the launch of the Drive for Equality in July 2000. NOW Inc., the NOW Foundation and NOW/PAC, each in their own capacity, organized various projects to educate and mobilize women voters across the country to participate in the elections.
NOW Foundation engaged organizers and activists in targeted efforts such as the RENEW (Registering and Empowering New Women) Voters project, which focused on registering underrepresented women to vote, particularly single women and women of color. NOW developed the 10 for Change campaign and the 10forChange.org website to engage "armchair activists" in voter registration and educational outreach. NOW/PAC planned field-organizing activities and deployed staff from the National Action Center in Washington, DC to work in seven key battleground states.
Through the RENEW Voters project, NOW Foundation registered tens of thousands of women voters, primarily in Washington, Georgia and Illinois. Organizers reached low-income women and women of color through straightforward face-to-face communication about the importance of voting. Rather than making impersonal phone calls or sending flyers via mail, organizers went into communities and spoke with women about their daily lives - from hair salons and grocery stores where they could approach potential voters in a comfortable environment, to street corners, neighborhood hangouts, and health clinics. The message was a simple one -- voting gives women a voice in choosing politicians and policies that could enhance the quality of their life and the lives of their children. The 10 for Change e-activist program developed from the need to register and involve people who have an interest in politics and a desire for change, but who want to be involved online or in small, uncomplicated ways -- "armchair activism." The 10forChange.org website provided online tools to educate friends, family and co-workers, register them to vote and encourage them to go to the polls through ten easy steps developed by NOW's "10 team." Post-election, the site will continue to offer avenues for online "armchair activism."
During the final weeks of the campaign, the National Action Center emptied out as NOW/PAC staff members trooped into the field to help turn out the Nov. 2 vote. In the great tradition of NOW/PAC, both junior and senior staffers joined or organized field operations, along with local activists, in seven states including Oregon, Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio. All of the NOW/PAC officers pitched into the get-out-the vote effort, leaving Washington, DC to organize or campaign on behalf of NOW/PAC endorsed candidates. With the sweat equity of NOW/PAC staff, many pro-women candidates won federal and local government seats.
NOW/PAC worked tirelessly to defeat George W. Bush and expose his anti-women policies, urging all women to vote for Sen. John Kerry, whose record in the Senate was solid on women's issues. Since Kerry did not support same-sex marriage, NOW/PAC would not grant him a full endorsement, but officers and members of the NOW/PAC staff worked hard to influence the Kerry camp to speak more to women and to use women's issues in the campaign.Despite post-election reports from the right-wing that imply otherwise, Kerry did win the women's vote and maintained a 7-point gender gap, and held a strong lead among young voters, which gives hope for the future as that bloc grows.
The Bush-Cheney campaign made effective use of timid and corporate-controlled media to mislead the public on key issues, and to keep the focus on fear and insecurity. Rather than questioning Bush and Cheney's scare tactics, the media provided them with a tremendous amount of airtime to build the fear and obscure the truth.
Election Day marked the beginning of a new series of battles for the women's movement, and we are determined to protect the hard-fought gains of the women's movement.
One, possibly as many as four, Supreme Court justices will step down in the next four years, leaving Bush the opportunity to fill the court with anti-abortion, anti-woman, anti-civil rights justices-as he has already done in the lower courts. Other fights looming include the proposals to privatize social security, expand health care gag rules, banning mifepristone (RU-486), limit lawsuits for defective products, and much more.
Before long, the Federal Marriage Amendment banning same-sex marriage will rear its ugly head again. The concerted effort to replace AIDS prevention education and family-planning programs with abstinence-only sex education (and funding for those programs to right-wing allies of the administration) will continue, while the number of cases of AIDS and sexually-transmitted diseases skyrocket. And the war continues in Iraq, with a steadily rising count of killed and maimed soldiers and Iraqi noncombatants.
We are organized, mobilized and resolute. With a unified front, NOW activists are determined to stop the Bush administration from turning the clocks back on women's rights. We will fight for freedom, equality, justice and peace. The battle for the White House may be over, but a new fight has just begun. We will never give up.
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