For some of us, elections are the way we measure history, like sixth grade graduations or first proms.
Growing up in Texas, my family's life was always marked by elections, mainly valiant defeats for noble causes or candidates. As progressives, my parents always backed the losing side, particularly in the days when the Democratic Party was really the only party in power in Texas, and the differences within were as vast as the Grand Canyon.
But I remember clearly the first election that I really got to work on, too young to vote but not too young to stuff envelopes. I was in junior high school so I had even graduated to alphabetizing mailing lists. There was a young woman lawyer in Austin who wanted to run for the state legislature. She had tried to buy a piece of property in her own name and was denied, being told her husband would have to sign for her. This, along with a lot of other ridiculous laws and antiquated notions of women's place in society, fueled her ambition, and there were enough women activists around Austin in those days that it seemed just possible to get her elected.
Now, this was in the days when there were basically no women in public office in Texas -- with a significant exception being Congresswoman Barbara Jordan from Houston. Anyway, my mother, who had never been allowed to manage a campaign, agreed to run this one. (Mom said women who volunteered in campaigns could measure their status by the length of their phone cord.) And this campaign consumed our household -- we quit eating at the dinner table, using it instead to plan precinct walks. The back of the station wagon was a sea of bumper stickers and yard signs. Weekends were spent leafleting chili cook-offs and Little League games.
After a bruising primary, we won. The woman lawyer was Sarah Weddington, and she went on to serve many years in the Texas legislature, doing great things. My mom went on to run her office in the Capitol, and, well, after that she was kind of hooked on the whole thing.
When my great-grandmother was a girl, Texas law stated that the only folks who couldn't vote were "idiots, imbeciles, the insane ... and women". So it was kind of nice that her granddaughter ended up being governor.
Knowing that Sarah won the Roe v. Wade case before the U.S. Supreme Court, and that she went on to lead President Carter's Interdepartmental Task Force on equality for women, and did many more amazing things, was an inspiration to me. And getting to be involved in an election where you make a difference -- well, you just never forget.
This election season we are seeing young people and women get involved in politics in a way that may transform this country and surely will change their lives. And we want to be part of it. Last week, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund announced the Million Strong Campaign. The goal is audacious but simple: to motivate and bring to the polls one million pro-choice voters next November. We know that we can and, this election, we know that we must. We are signing people up here. This just may be the year that Planned Parenthood voters change this country.