Tammy Baldwin (copy)

Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin celebrates her 2018 win with an election night party Nov. 6, 2018, at Monona Terrace. Baldwin is right to remind us that “votes for women” represented “a major step forward as a nation” — a step forward that was made in 1919 and 1920 and is still being made in 2019 and 2020.

Women elected the branch of Congress that is checking and balancing President Donald Trump. In the 2018 midterm election, women formed 52 percent of the electorate that elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and women cast 59 percent of their votes for Democratic candidates.

If it had been left to the men who cast the majority of their votes for Republican candidates, nothing would have changed.

The same goes for the states where Republicans lost governorships. In Wisconsin, for instance, male voters favored reelecting reactionary Republican Gov. Scott Walker by a 52-45 margin. But women favored progressive Democratic challenger Tony Evers. Without the votes of women, Evers would not have displaced Walker and restored a measure of balance to state politics.

The same was true in other states, such as Michigan and Nevada, where Democrats grabbed governorships that had been held by Republicans.

In 2020, if Trump is swept out of office, women voters — especially women of color — will eject him. The new Hill-HarrisX poll finds that 62 percent of female registered voters are unlikely to back the president’s bid for a second term. (Fifty-one percent of men were either on board for Trump or leaning his way.)

The numbers remind us that the most radical shift in the history of American politics occurred a century ago, when women secured the right to vote. As we celebrate the leadership role that Wisconsin played in the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, is right to remind us that “votes for women” represented “a major step forward as a nation” — a step forward that was made in 1919 and 1920 and is still being made in 2019 and 2020.

“A century ago, after decades of struggle by brave women and men, our nation finally extended to women the most fundamental right in our democracy — the right to vote,” Baldwin said in a recent statement. “We still have more work to do, and more glass ceilings to break, but it is important to celebrate this monumental anniversary and all the progress that women have made in the last 100 years.”

Baldwin knows something about the breaking of glass ceilings. In 1998, she was the first woman elected to represent a Wisconsin district in the U.S. House, and she serves now as the only woman ever to represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate. And I am in the camp that says she ought to be the first woman to serve as vice president of the United States. No matter who Democrats nominate in 2020 for presidency, Baldwin would strengthen the ticket.

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It is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of electing women. Representation is enormously consequential. Yet, it is important to remember that women who never seek elected office are also enormously consequential in our politics. At the local, state and national levels, the votes cast by women to make the difference remain the deciding factor between right-wing reaction and the prospect of a progressive future.

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. jnichols@madison.com and @NicholsUprising. 

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