Fabiola Santiago

Women, want to make a bigger difference? Run, vote in local and state elections

Thousands of protestors overflow Miami Bayfront Park at Women's Rally of South Florida

An estimated 10,000 descended into the Bayfront Park Amphitheater Saturday for the Women’s Rally of South Florida before Miami-Dade fire marshals closed off the entrance at 2 p.m. due to overwhelming crowds.
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An estimated 10,000 descended into the Bayfront Park Amphitheater Saturday for the Women’s Rally of South Florida before Miami-Dade fire marshals closed off the entrance at 2 p.m. due to overwhelming crowds.

It was too hot in Miami for the pink knitted “pussy hats” with the cat ears created for the worldwide Women’s March as a symbol of protest against Donald Trump’s crass claim in 2005 that he grabbed women by the genitals.

But the sea of pink in many forms, framed by swaying royal palms, was something to behold at Bayfront Park and along Biscayne Boulevard, where crowds spilled when no more people safely fit into the amphitheater.

“Viva la Vulva,” said the placard of a young Latina accompanied by her family. “Replace & Repeal Trump,” said another poster held up by a woman as Dr. Sarah Stumbar detailed the devastation a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would bring on.

The Women’s March in Miami — 10,000 strong — was empowering, bold and humorous. South Florida leaders should take note. The message for President Donald Trump and every public office-holder: Don’t underestimate us.

For many, this was their first political rally, an important call of action in a state not only key to Trump’s victory, but one that has passed unprecedented legislation, effective Jan. 1, curtailing the reproductive rights of women — and without a strong show of resistance from women.

It was about time we woke up, I say.

And now, let’s move on to keeping a better watch on Tallahassee. Take down names on who votes for what — and vote in every election. Some of the legislators who voted for women to get an ultrasound before an abortion were easily re-elected in November.

Although many see President Trump’s rise as a phenomena of our reality-TV culture and part of a worldwide swing to the right — and he is that — I can see from where I sit how the weakening of the Democratic Party in Florida and major Republican wins in local and state office set the stage for Trump’s swing-state Florida win.

Better organized voters have given voice and rise to right-wing ideologues who pass for lucid-minded Republicans until they start to legislate based on personal religious conviction, NRA affiliation and political ambition. Miami-Dade’s delegation in particular seems reasonable on the campaign trail talking up voters of both parties. But once far from Democratic constituents, they collude with ultra-conservatives in North and Central Florida, often times to the detriment of Miami-Dade voters.

A Washington, D.C. official says the estimated turnout for the Women's March in the city now stands at a half a million. It is about double the amount of people who showed up to President Donald Trump's inauguration.

This alignment helped elect president a man who has no regards for us, or for the truth. So much so that he and his staff blatantly lied about a fact in plain view: the Women’s March in Washington overshadowed his poorly attended inauguration the day before. This is a man who, in one of his first acts as president, disenfranchised poor women around the world by taking away funds for contraception and education. And Trump did this surrounded by his team of men, who looked on with pleasure.

I went to the Women’s March in downtown Miami to witness, to see for myself if the women in South Florida walked the talk about denouncing and resisting a Trump presidency. I wasn’t disappointed. The coalition of women from all walks of life was impressive.

But now that energy has to translate into action — and that means paying attention, taking names.

Emboldened by Trump’s win and the role Florida Republicans played, this upcoming legislative session is, out of the gate, aflutter with dogmatic legislation on guns, school prayer and the infamous Stand Your Ground law, which isn’t deadly enough for Republicans, who seek to expand it. Are you watching? Are you calling your state representatives and senators? And are you ready to go to Tallahassee en masse and support the Helen Gordon David Fair Pay Act? We are not yet equal.

Ditto for city and county issues. Legislators often start their public lives in local office. Identify those unwilling to support women’s rights. Boot them out. Derail them early. Don’t let apathy continue the trend, especially in South Florida, where the same people perpetuate themselves in office or transmute into the higher rank.

Better yet, prepare yourselves to run for office. It’s the best way to push back on this election.

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