Billy Bush Effect

Election 2017: The Pussy Grabs Back

Women were responsible for many of the Democratic victories last night—a resounding rebuke to Trump’s macho boorishness.

What is this feeling? It feels like the clammy fist clenched behind my sternum for the last 12 months is suddenly slightly less cold, slightly less clenched. I feel like I’ve just gotten off an elevator into which another passenger has farted and taken a deep breath, or that the owner finally returned to disable a car alarm that had been blasting nonstop for a year. This is what regular feels like. Regular feels great!

Democratic victories were so sweeping last night that Fox News couldn’t even find the silver lining, devoting some of its broadcast to highlights of last election night 2016 rather than dealing with reality. It’s okay, guys. Everybody needs a safe space sometimes.

Women were responsible for many of those victories. Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam beat Republican Ed Gillespie by 9 points, thanks to winning women by 22 points (Hillary Clinton took Virginia women by 17 points a year ago).

In Virginia, 15 seats flipped from Republican to Democrat. Of those 11 were endorsed by EMILY’s List, a PAC that promotes pro-choice Democratic women who run for office. One of those women, Danica Roem, will be the first trans lawmaker in Virginia’s history. She defeated a 13-term incumbent who authored a bill that would have banned trans people from using their gender-appropriate bathroom. His authorship of the bill prompted Roem to run against him.

Thirty-two-year-old New Jersey resident Ashley Bennett was similarly incensed by a male lawmaker in her state. Republican John Carman shared a meme joking about the Women’s March back in January. The joke made Bennett angry, so she ran against him and last night, she won.

Seattle just elected Jenny Durkan, the city’s first female mayor in a century. Vi Lyles was elected the first ever black female mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.

When Donald Trump’s comments about grabbing women “by the pussy” surfaced last year, I was horrified. Most people I know were horrified. Even avowed Republicans were horrified. Trump didn’t make it any better when he dismissed his comments as “locker room talk,” like men casually guffaw about sexual assault when there are no ladies present.

The weeks that followed crackled with angry female energy. Protests propelled by the deep conviction that the attendees were on the right side of history, that one day historians would look at the 2016 election, at least superficially, as the time a woman beat a vintage sexist pig, the kind we didn’t even think they made anymore. “Pussy grabs back” became both a rallying cry and a sassy tote bag slogan guaranteed to get compliments at the public library, provided its owner stayed out of the children’s book section.

And then Trump got elected.  Trump’s election despite these comments hit a lot of women particularly hard. People knew that they were voting for a person who had bragged about sexual assault. They knew, but they didn’t care.

But if Trump didn’t suffer any consequences for any of his boorish sexism then, he awoke something that might have had a slower build and a bigger, more disastrous payoff for his hangers-on. The “something” that last November woke up is larger and more resilient than they could possibly have expected.

Last night was an off-year-of-an-off-year election, and it’s foolish to try to extrapolate what voters in, say, Nevada might do next year based on what voters in Virginia did this year. But the scope of last night’s wins paint a picture that should be worrying to Trump acolytes. There are thousands of qualified, competent, and angry Danicas, Vis, Jennys, and Ashleys out there who are poised to run next year, and millions of American voters who can’t wait to vote them into office.