Tonight I had the special opportunity to observe a political movement at what I believe to be the point just before it reaches critical mass and impacts the politics of a locality in a profound way. I attended the annual Emerge Maryland fundraiser at the home of Interim Maryland Democratic Chair Kathleen Matthews.
There were about 175 people in attendance--maybe about 30 to 40 familiar ones to Maryland politics, from elected officials and 2018 candidates such as Congressmen John Sarbanes and Jamie Raskin, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, and former Governor Parris Glendening, to several longstanding Democratic activists and supporters. But the exciting thing was the 135 to 145 new faces, including Emerge Maryland alumnae and supporters. It was especially refreshing to meet a person for the first time, and see the energy in their eyes as they shake your hand and say, "Hi, great to meet you. My name is X, I'm from Y, and I'm running for Z".
Oh, yes, there are going to be strong Democrats running for office in 2018. In fact, some are even running in 2017. And they happen to be women.
And that's the message I heard tonight during the speeches at tonight's event, as befit any other political fundraiser. To call Emerge Maryland a "women's movement" is, I think, not giving it nearly enough credit. What it is, in my opinion, is a training ground for citizens to become outstanding candidates for office. It just so happens that these citizens are women. By the same token, women in attendance this evening were white, black, Hispanic, Asian, multiracial, straight, gay, young, old, and from every corner of the state. One could not hope for a more diverse crowd, yet the crowd's diversity was not the thing. The singleness of purpose and mutual support in the crown-- those were the things.
About 25 years ago, I recall younger voters-- people my age-- feeling disenfranchised and alienated politically. Instead of becoming apathetic, we found causes and campaigns worth believing in, beginning with a Democratic candidate for President in 1992 and eventually filtering down over the next decade and a half to candidates for local and state offices, and again, eventually, back to a Democratic candidate for President.
The energy and enthusiasm and the feeling of not knowing what's next, but knowing it's going to be cool-- I haven't felt that since the early 90s often, but when I do, it feels really good and it winds up being the feeling of being part of something transformational.
That's how I felt tonight. I felt more than energy and enthusiasm. I felt like these people have purpose and training and intent and tools and that they are in the process of putting those things to the test. And I think that between this year and next, there will be dozens of these outstanding women seeking office in their local jurisdictions. Not all of them will be successful, of course. But the ones who aren't successful-- I doubt they will be easily deterred. And the ones who will be successful in their quest for office? They're going to be amazing.
Let's be careful out there.
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