Building Political Power for Children and Youth
If we ever needed a reminder of why voting is essential, this week came with several. The police shooting in Philadelphia of Walter Wallace, Jr on Monday refocuses our country’s work toward ending racism and violence in our communities. We need to do much better. All of us at PCCY offer our condolences to the Wallace family, especially his children who will forever be changed by this tragedy.
This was also the week that the U.S. Senate pushed through the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. (The Senate rushed her nomination through but can’t seem to find the time to pass a federal relief package that would save PA families.) Republican senators and anti-abortion groups repeatedly used Barrett’s record of advocacy against reproductive health care to justify her speedy ascension to the Supreme Court.
For decades, the anti-choice movement has been building their political power from the ground up, starting with school board candidates, moving onto state legislatures, and then onto federal office. President Trump and Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett are the result of their long-term strategy. It’s long overdue that we start the work for the long game, using the same tactics and build a new movement to meet the real needs of children.
That’s why we’re so glad that Children Matter Action Fund launched this year, so it could recruit pro-child voters who build a real pro-child bloc of lawmakers. While the noise at the top of the ticket would make any issue-organizing complicated, many down ballot races offered the Action Fund a ripe opportunity to kick off this work.
For the most part, the majority of Pennsylvania House and Senate races will be an easy win for the candidates, but 24 House and six Senate races are neck and neck. In these communities, Children Matter Action Fund mobilized concerned citizens to press candidates to run as champions for young children. And it worked!
Twenty nine of these candidates (from both sides of the aisle) signed the Pledge to Be an Early Childhood Champion and completed a detailed survey to assess the depth of their commitment. Thirty seven “hot race” candidates participated in candidate conversations, hosted by local leaders in 12 counties and watched by hundreds of local voters eager to find out where their candidates stand.
In those contested races, kids issues really matter because there are at least 300,000 young female voters who are highly motivated to support candidates that speak to these issues. Not to be outdone by the real fake news, the Action Fund deployed powerful Facebook ads that generated nine million views! Voters in these races now know who the real pro-child candidates are.
This first ambitious foray into the election process takes a page from the playbook of those who orchestrated the historic Barrett appointment. It starts local, educating voters on children’s issues and motivating them to vote for legislative candidates who stand for those issues. Those candidates in turn will build a political foundation to create a better future for children as they grow up in the Commonwealth. May Walter Wallace’s children be among them.