At the DNC, women seize their moment
PHILADELPHIA — Watching Hillary Clinton become the first woman to be nominated for president has inspired women at the Democratic National Convention to celebrate this singular moment.
They put on temporary tattoos that said "Run like a girl" and "Pantsuit Up" and mugged for photos. They slapped stickers on their chests that read "A woman's place is in the White House" and "Women Can Stop Trump." They wore T-shirts featuring a donkey wearing red pumps and the words "It's time."
It is time. In the soaring atrium of Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Emily's List, the Democratic group that backs women for office, held a champagne reception Wednesday afternoon with the theme "This is Our Moment."
"The day has come!" Nancy Pelosi, who 10 years ago became the first woman to be speaker of the House, told the crowd. "We have nominated a woman for president of the United States."
Pelosi savored the moment to contemplate history. "I want to think about what our Suffragette mothers would have been thinking," she said, "all those years ago when, with great courage, they set out to get women the right to vote."
It has been 168 years since Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her peers met in Seneca Falls, N.Y., 44 years since Shirley Chisholm ran for president and 32 years since Geraldine Ferraro was nominated to be vice president. If those women were alive today, they would see not only a woman as a major-party presidential nominee and a woman as the party's top legislator in the House, but also the Democrats' hopes of controlling the Senate resting on nine female candidates.
They would also see women serving as the convention chair, the convention chief executive and the convention secretary, and they would see that the just-ousted chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee has been replaced by another woman.
"The Democratic Party is officially a feminist party," Nancy Cohen, a historian and author of "Breakthrough: The Making of America's First Woman President," told me Wednesday.
The gender gap has grown in value to Democrats as women vote in higher percentages, particularly in presidential years. Women cast about 10 million more ballots than men in 2012 and 2008.
This moment of women's prominence — dominance, arguably — could become permanent in the party. As more women gain power, they tend to create a virtuous cycle, Cohen argues: They promote policies — equal pay, reproductive rights, crackdowns on domestic violence, paid family leave — that in turn accelerate gains made by women, thereby elevating more women to power.
Not all feel comfortable with the changes. Vermont Democrats, citing "strong-arm" tactics, complained to the DNC that rules requiring gender-balance among delegates forced the removal of two male delegates.
Affirmative action for women, adopted by the DNC in 1980, is almost certainly unnecessary now. According to Fusion, 2,887 of the 4,766 delegates are women — and women have dominated the program.
Michelle Obama stole the show on Monday night, when the number of male and female speakers was roughly equal. Tuesday night, almost twice as many women as men spoke; there was a segment for women in Congress and another for "Mothers of the Movement" — moms whose children were killed under questionable circumstances. Bill Clinton was the top draw that night, but his speech was entirely in the service of his wife. "Bill Clinton Pours on the Estrogen," was the headline on Maureen Dowd's post in the New York Times.
Wednesday night featured President Obama, Joe Biden and vice-presidential nominee Timothy M. Kaine but also included former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, abortion rights leader Ilyse Hogue, and Stephanie Schriock, from Emily's List.
"Hillary Clinton will be the first woman president, but she won't be the last," Schriock told the convention. "Once that barrier falls it will never, ever, ever be put back up."
Celebrations were so thick Wednesday in Philadelphia that they collided: The Emily's List party was at the same time as a Politico event titled "Women Rule at the DNC."
In the performing arts center, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the incoming leader of the Senate Democrats and the token man on the speaking program, played the woman card, too. "Women make better candidates than men," he said, predicting a majority of Senate Democrats could be women after 2018.
A distaff majority in the Senate, and a woman in the Oval Office? "I know about power," Pelosi told the crowd. "When Hillary Clinton becomes president of the United States ... she will be the leader of the free world, the most important person in the world."
When the speeches ended, women running for Congress took the stage, and over the loudspeakers came Beyoncé's Run the World:
"Girls, we run this mother. Girls!
Who runs the world? Girls!"
— Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.