Arizona, a state known for its conservatism, has experienced great surges in female activism since the start of Trump administration.
Many women, since the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, has become increasingly politically active in seeking gender equality and security of their rights, including Melinda Merkel Iyer, who was a stay-at-home mother with almost zero previous political knowledge or experience, and who is now advocating actively with the alliance of educators and parents named Save Our Schools, pushing for a referendum on the ballot with the pressure of over 100,000 signaled collected in the past few months.
Ms. Iyer stated proudly that “We’re not going to sit back anymore and let policies go through in the middle of the night. I never thought I’d be in a place where I’d know the Koch brothers lobbyists by sight – and they’d know me.”
This sentiment of political action and initiative is reciprocated by many other women, and especially women in Arizona, witnessing a huge rise in female activists and candidates in the state. This shifting scene of the political horizon is funny but fitting in the way that Arizona, notorious for its conservatism, is not rewriting its future with the lead of women in politics, hoping to change policies and campaigns. In fact, the state currently has two Democrats and two Republicans that are all women and has the highest proportion of women in legislatures in the nation, reaching a tie with Vermont at 40 percent.
The Democrats have long been focusing on Arizona and hoping to flip its House Seats. In the 2016 presidential election, President Trump won the state over Hillary Clinton by over three percentage points and the state has been under the leadership of extremely conservative politicians and governors. However, the bipartisan involvement and activism of female in the legislature reminds us that women are not all associated with Democrats.
This trend is observed not only in Arizona but across the nation. Many women on the left have already risen to increasing involvement and political action to fight for their rights and this has been seen as a huge opportunity by the Democrats, who are counting on a growing female and Hispanic electorate.
The movement of #MeToo has also added turbulence in the existing hierarchy and stability of men in power. Representative Trent Franks has recently resigned due to a sexual harassment allegation and there will be a special election coming up to fill his position. This election will be a competition mainly between Debbie Lesko, a former state senator who has beat many male candidates in the past, and Hiral Tipirneni, who worked with Emerge America, which is an organization deeply invested in recruiting women to run for office for the Democrats.
Despite the fact that Arizona has not had a Democrat senator since 1995, the changes in its political scene observed so far is quite remarkable. However, there has also been increasing tension between the women on the right and those at the center, who have experienced conflicts of interests in organizations like Planned Parenthood.
A volunteer coordinator for Planned Parenthood commented that “People are angry. But to translate that into activists who will be here in November – that’s the challenge.” Indeed, women in Arizona has been angered by the administration and has rallied politically to take action and assert their rights.
This movement in Arizona is a precious one, especially in the current political context. As Ms. Iyer remarks powerfully, “They know when we sit in their office txt there are thousands more like us.”
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