Cecile Richards is president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
This presidential campaign is unprecedented. Not only are we poised to elect the first woman president in U.S. history, but we’ve witnessed the most grotesque display of sexism ever seen in a presidential candidate.
By bragging about sexual assault, demeaning Miss Universe, female news anchors and others, joking about women’s looks and breast size, and brushing it all off as a joke, Donald Trump has not only affected how our children feel about themselves and their country, but he’s triggered memories of painful experiences for so many women.
For me, this campaign has also surfaced memories of another campaign that was all too similar.
In 1990, my mother, Ann Richards, ran for governor of Texas. She had served in public office for many years, as a local county commissioner and then as state treasurer. Her opponent was Clayton Williams, an oil tycoon with no record of public service. Like Trump, he liked to joke about sexual harassment; in fact he said rape was like the weather – if you couldn’t avoid it, you should just “relax and enjoy it.”
He even refused to shake my mother’s hand on the debate stage.
Those memories came back to me at the final debate in Las Vegas, when Trump, unable to debate Clinton with ideas, resorted to calling her a “nasty woman.”
One profile called Clayton Williams the Donald Trump of Texas – and that wasn’t a compliment. And just like Trump, Williams bragged about not paying any taxes, which for many Texans was the final straw.
Mom had to be ten times as competent and qualified as her opponent to be taken seriously – and just like Secretary Clinton, she was.
Whether on the street, in the workplace or testifying before Congress, women confront this kind of sexism every day of our lives. As Hillary said at that final debate, “I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like.”
For women, Trump’s words are personal. And when he promises to block access to care at Planned Parenthood, appoint judges to overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal, repeal historic health care reform that gave us no-copay birth control and ensured being a woman wouldn’t be a pre-existing condition, all of that is personal too. We have fought too hard and come too far to have our rights taken away by a Trump-Pence administration.
So women are fighting for Hillary Clinton. Because she has spent her entire career fighting for us. From going to Beijing to tell the world that “women’s rights are human rights,” to standing up to the FDA to make emergency contraception available over-the-counter, to that debate, where she delivered the strongest, most compassionate defense of women’s autonomy in the history of presidential debates.
“I will defend Planned Parenthood, I will defend Roe v. Wade, and I will defend women’s rights to make their own health care decisions … I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions,” she said. According to CNN’s focus group, it was the most-liked moment of the debate.
Women are the backbone of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. I have crisscrossed the country during this election, and everywhere I go I see women ages 8 to 80 working to elect her. At every phone bank, on every canvass, there are mother-daughter pairs – even grandmother-mother-daughter teams.
On Tuesday, our country has the chance to reject the misogyny, racism and xenophobia behind Donald Trump’s campaign.
On Election Day in 1990, Ann Richards defeated Clayton Williams and became the first woman governor of Texas elected in her own right.
In her inauguration speech, she laid out a vision for the future in which Williams’ attitude toward women had no place. “Today, we have a vision of a Texas where opportunity knows no race or color or gender – a glimpse of the possibilities that can be when the barriers fall and the doors of government swing open. Tomorrow, we must build that Texas,” she said.
She happened to be the 45th governor of Texas.
I can’t wait to watch history repeat itself when Hillary Clinton – and the women who support her – soundly beat Donald Trump this week.
She’ll become the 45th president of the United States.