As the 2020 primary and general election season heats up, we speak with former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards about Supermajority, the new political action group she helped launch that aims to train a new generation of women activists to take on grassroots campaigns and electoral politics. “Women are the majority of voters … the volunteers, we’re increasingly the donors, increasingly the candidates, and it’s time for political equity,” says Richards. “We want to build a multi-racial, intergenerational movement to increase women’s power.” Supermajority was co-founded by Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza and Ai-jen Poo, the executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Richards says since their launch a week ago, more than 80,000 people have signed up, and adds: “There’s a real need and interest in the country.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. As the 2020 election season heats up, we turn now to the launch of a new political action group by three prominent women’s rights activists. It’s called Supermajority. Its goal is to train a new generation of women activists to take on grassroots campaigns and electoral politics.
PERSON: Women are the majority of Americans.
PERSON: We are the majority of voters.
PERSON: We are the majority of grassroots volunteers and donors.
PERSON: Our government should look like this.
PERSON: [translated] Our government should look like us.
PERSON: [translated] Our leaders should fight for us.
PERSON: The only way we can make that happen is by standing shoulder-to-shoulder—
PERSON: —with women who believe this, too.
CECILE RICHARDS: Maybe you have fought for change for decades.
ALICIA GARZA: Demanding equality in your home, in your workplace, from your government.
PERSON: Maybe you’re just getting started.
PERSON: Let’s work together.
PERSON: Supermajority is a new organization for women who want to build our collective power and use it to change this country for good.
PERSON: Because one of us can be dismissed.
PERSON: Two of us can be ignored. But together—
PERSON: We aren’t just the majority.
ALICIA GARZA: We are a supermajority. And we are unstoppable. Let’s make sure the entire country knows it.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s the promotional video for Supermajority. The new political action group was founded by Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza; Ai-jen Poo, the executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance; and former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, who joins us now in our studio. Cecile, welcome back to Democracy Now!. First time in this position, as one of the heads of Supermajority.
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, one of the founders. I think there’s so many women now that are coming out of the woodwork to do this work.
AMY GOODMAN: So explain what you’re doing.
CECILE RICHARDS: I spent 12 years at Planned Parenthood organizing women around a certain set of issues, particularly reproductive health and healthcare access. My
colleagues, Alicia and Ai-jen, have been doing the same work with different groups of women. And we realized that actually there are even millions more women that we haven’t organized and that, particularly since this election, have been raising their hand and saying, “I want to do more. I’ve never been civically engaged. I’ve never been politically involved.”
And so we’ve spent the last few months actually traveling across the country listening to women about what they need and want. And what they want is they want to be activists. And as you saw in the video, I think there is a sense that women are—we’re the majority of voters. Fifty-Four percent of voters last election were women. We are the volunteers. We are increasingly the donors, increasingly the candidates, and it is time for political equity. So that’s the idea behind Supermajority. We want to build a multiracial, intergenerational movement to increase women’s power, political power and civil engagement.
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve talked about a New Deal for Women.
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, that’s what I think. And I think Alicia and Ai-jen would say the same, which is, women again do most of the work around political campaigns and candidates, and yet the issues that women talk to us about on the road—the lack of affordable child care in the United States, the fact that maternal mortality rates are at epidemic levels, the fact that equal pay gets a lot of lip service but we never actually make progress— these are issues that we believe need to be front and center of any political campaign. And although I’m so grateful that there are so many women running for president raising these issues, they need to be raised by anybody who wants to be president of the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you come up with the title Supermajority?
CECILE RICHARDS: I guess it’s just that women, I think, aren’t just the majority; I think women have superpowers, and they’ve been expressing that and showing that. And I think actually I think it has kind of caught on. In fact, just—we launched I guess a week ago, and we’ve now had more than 80,000 folks sign up, and that’s before we really even begin to get on the road. So I feel like there’s a real need and interest in the country, particularly among women who want to become better activists, more effective activists. They want to know what other women are doing and how they can support them as well.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Alicia Garza. Alicia is away, so we were not able to bring her on with you today. Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter. In 2017, she spoke on Democracy Now! about how women of color must be included in political organizing, especially against sexual assault and harassment.
ALICIA GARZA: The reality is, women of color, immigrant women, black women who are low-wage workers are extremely vulnerable to this kind of abuse and violence. And frankly, because of the lack of protections that exist, or to be honest, the marginalization that these communities already experience in our society, in our economy and in our democracy, there really is not only not conversation about the prevalence in which this is happening to women of color and immigrant women in the service industry, but there is also not a lot of conversation about what do the solutions look like outside of criminalizing the perpetrators or the survivors themselves. And so it was very important—
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, who is one of the co-founders of this new organization, with Cecile Richards and Ai-jen Poo, called Supermajority. So how do you organize this multiracial coalition? I mean, when it came to voting in 2016, wasn’t it something like 62% of white women voted for President Trump?
CECILE RICHARDS: I don’t think that is the number, but definitely a plurality of white women voted for President Trump. Look, I think that this is work that women want to do, not only to learn how to be better activists, to work across issues, but also to work across race lines. Because I think there is a real recognition among a lot of white women that we cannot continue to rely on women of color to sort of save this country or save us from ourselves, and it is important that we do this work as well and intentionally and in a multiracial way.
I’ve been an organizer my whole life, Amy, and so this is to me a very important and exciting moment where I’m seeing women across the country—in Midwestern states, in Southwestern states—come into rooms with women they’ve never met before and say, “This is the most exciting thing I’ve ever been able to do, is actually meet with women who also care passionately about the same issues I do, and we need to do this work together.” I’m so glad you had the clip from Alicia. I think she is one of the most phenomenal leaders in this country. And Ai-jen as well. But there are thousands and thousands more, and that is really what we’re seeking to do, is to make sure that these women’s voices are being lifted up, that they are feeling empowered and supported and that they can be active in getting other women involved.
AMY GOODMAN: What will be the role of unions? Supermajority Education Fund’s leadership committee includes Mary Kay Henry—
CECILE RICHARDS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —the international president of SEIU. How will you reach into unions?
CECILE RICHARDS: Of course, I came out of the labor movement, so I have enormous respect for the work that not only the labor movement is doing particularly, and the teachers’ movement. As we know, there have been wildcat strikes by teachers, overwhelmingly who are women, across the country.
AMY GOODMAN: Oregon teachers are striking today.
CECILE RICHARDS: It shouldn’t be on the public school teachers of this country to save the public education system, but this is where we see, over and over again, women basically taking action where government is failing them. So absolutely the teachers, the labor unions. They also, the majority of these organizations are women, and they want to work across issue lines as well. And I am really grateful to Mary Kay for being an important leader in not only the labor movement but in understanding that we can build the power of women across this country.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about a comment of the new head of the NRA, Carolyn Meadows. She is there because Oliver North was just ousted. She apologized after coming under fire for attacking fellow Georgian, Democratic freshman Congressmember Lucy McBath, who lost her son to gun violence a few years ago—Jordan Davis, in Florida. He was a teenager who was shot dead when he was sitting in a car in a gas station parking lot. Meadows said, “The reason Lucy McBath won was not because she was anti-gun, but because she was a minority female.” Your thoughts?
CECILE RICHARDS: Well of course that was one of the worst—there are so many things about this—obviously—let me go back. Lucy McBath is a national hero. The fact that a woman who went through what she did, lost her child and then committed herself to addressing the criminal justice system in this country is phenomenal. And the fact that she is in Congress is so fantastic. Of course, she was elected in a majority Anglo district. She was not elected because she was a woman of color, but frankly despite the fact that she was a woman of color. And I think it is an enormous testament to her, to her candidacy, to her leadership. And it’s also a testimony to the important role that Stacey Abrams is playing and has played in the state of Georgia to increase participation of all people, but particularly people of color.
Because you opened the topic of Georgia—which I hope we will talk about in a minute, because of this outrageous bill that has been now signed by the governor—I spent time in Georgia with Stacey. Obviously, if every person in that state had been allowed to vote and if their vote had been counted, Stacey Abrams would be governor today and would be serving as well is having Lucy McBath in Congress.