Motherhood for Good goes to the White House
“Collective empathy builds unbreakable communities.” Guest column from Kate Duffy, founder of Motherhood for Good.
The Recombobulation Area is a ten-time Milwaukee Press Club award-winning weekly opinion column and online publication written, edited and published by longtime Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer. Learn more about it here.
Empowering moms and millennial women to get more engaged in the political process is a main focus of the work I do at Motherhood for Good.
As the founder of this new, online advocacy initiative that lives at the intersection of parenting and politics, I’ve had the opportunity to make many exciting connections with other creators around the country who have similar goals on political engagement among mothers and women. We all come from different backgrounds, but share a similar set of values and have felt a similar visceral response to what’s happening in our country, encouraging us to take action.
That work recently brought me to be invited to visit the White House. I recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C. where I had the opportunity to meet with some exciting organizations, discuss plans and priorities for the 2024 election cycle, and even attend a holiday reception at the White House.
Ever since I became more civically engaged — I started “Moms for Mandela” during the former lieutenant governor’s campaign for U.S. Senate in 2022 — I didn’t see opportunities like these in my future (especially so quickly!). But if there’s anything I’ve learned about policy and electoral work, it’s that if you’re willing to roll your sleeves up, there’s a good chance you’ll find folks at the table who are happy to pull up a chair.
Our community, while always open to anyone, is mostly women aged 25 to 45, many of whom have children and want to make their futures brighter. They care deeply about stopping the spread of gun violence, fighting to restore reproductive rights, advocating for paid leave, support for maternal health and childcare, fair wages, infrastructure and climate initiatives aimed at protecting younger generations, and equal rights in general all across the board.
Simply put, moms are the ultimate and original influencers.
Not just on social media, but in many of the key pillars of our society: healthcare, education, economic trends and purchasing power, social justice, and more. The fact that they have an enormous impact in shaping narratives that influence public policy and elections only makes sense — and key leaders across the political spectrum are taking notice.
The first meeting I attended was with deputy directors of the newly created Office of Gun Violence Prevention (OGVP), Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox. Earlier this fall, President Biden announced the first-ever White House OGVP in an effort to reduce gun violence in the U.S., which accounts for 118 deaths each day and is the No. 1 largest lethal threat to children in this country.
The majority of Americans agree that we need common-sense solutions to help keep our communities safer, but are met with inaction from far-right members of Congress. This new office within the Biden-Harris administration has the support, connections, and resources to make urgent and meaningful change while saving lives at the federal and local levels. Since the office’s creation in September, they have:
Met with 16 agencies to expedite implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to specifically help implement core provisions of the bill at a state-level like safe storage requirements and enhanced background checks.
Facilitated expanded funding allocation for mental health counselors in schools by 35%, and helped connect with local districts who can apply for these grants directly, without needing additional approval from their state legislatures.
Created a FEMA-level response plan for communities devastated by mass shootings. Not only does this help victims and their families, but also addresses the ripple effect often forgotten when tragedies like these take place, with resources like: emotional and physical therapy, partnerships with public housing, and low-interest loans for small businesses. This response was already deployed in the Lewiston, Maine community.
Launched the Safer States initiative in partnership with Vice President Kamala Harris, which will work to establish a state office of gun violence prevention and invest in evidence-informed solutions at a local level. The program kicked off last week with a gathering of over 100 state legislators and gun safety advocates from 39 states.
This administration has been the boldest in history in regards to taking action to combat gun violence and the fact that the President has created an official office within the White House to address and prioritize this public safety issue sends a clear message to Americans that it is a priority. We’re looking forward to staying connected to the OGVP and sharing updates with our community on how it’s impacting both Wisconsin and the nation.
The following day, I spoke on a panel with three other creators at the DNC’s 30th Anniversary of their Women’s Leadership Forum. The theme of our session was millennial women and moms, how they represent a large voting bloc in the U.S., which is often untapped through traditional political outreach tactics, but how we can look to trusted messengers to change that — via Instagram.
To back up for a minute, Motherhood for Good held a meet and greet with Sen. Tammy Baldwin this past August to allow our community members an opportunity to chat with the Senator about their concerns and hear directly from her about her priorities. There was a reporter at the event from The 19th News who was intrigued. She acknowledged how much coverage far-right mom groups like Moms for Liberty have been getting, and had been wondering if there were similar mobilization efforts to counteract that. She chatted with us for about an hour after the event ended and recently published a piece with a headline that asks, “Is 2024 the year of the Instagram moms?” We certainly think so.
We took much of this perspective as we spoke to a couple hundred attendees at the Women’s Leadership Forum. The panel was anchored by Emily Amick, who is an attorney in D.C. and former counsel to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. She runs the viral Instagram account @emilyinyourphone, where she breaks down policy news and offers simple action items through the lens of a friend, albeit a very intelligent friend that has a nuanced understanding of law and government affairs and the unique expertise to provide context and priorities.
Alongside Emily, Kat from Texas (@howdypolitics) and Liz from Illinois (@lizaminnella), we reviewed trends we’re seeing in the social space within key demographics, how traditional “influencer content” and political content can and do overlap, and how personalities — not institutions — have a unique ability and opportunity to reach politically disengaged women.
This is digital infrastructure that conservatives have been building out for a decade now and it shows. Turning Point USA, the digital ambassador program led by conservative personality Charlie Kirk has amassed billions of impressions in recent years, operates with a budget of over $7.2 million, and has onboarded and trained over 400 creators.
I’m excited to see leaders on the other side of the aisle prioritize not only the social space, but build relationships with creators who have been working hard to build trusted communities online and in person. There is real value in the organic coalitions that are forming around the country (especially within key battleground states–ahem, Wisconsin) and tapping into them in a strategic way to help disseminate relevant, factual, information ahead of–yet another–-make or break election. Over the course of the conference, we heard from other presenters including historian and author, leaders from organizations such as Emerge and Emily’s List, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, several key women of the House, and leaders for the Biden-Harris reelection campaign who all agreed: 1) Wisconsin will be key; and 2) When women show up, our society grows towards the light.
To round out a truly energizing and inspiring trip, I was lucky enough to attend a holiday reception at the White House. Although I had been to D.C., I had never actually been in the White House and to have that opportunity felt surreal. Walking through a building that holds so much history and significance in our nation is something I hope everyone can experience at some point. The First Lady had worked with artists from all over the country to create the theme: The “Magic, Wonder, and Joy” of the Holidays.
From the hallway leading you into the general reception area acting as a tunnel of colorful candy and light, to the countless trees adorned with a galaxy’s worth of white, sparkly lights and children’s homemade ornaments, to members of the Marine Corps band around every corner playing majestic renditions of holiday music from all different cultures and walks of life, the entire atmosphere was idyllic.
Back home with my feet on the ground again, I feel the need to acknowledge that I realize this time of year can be hard for so many people for a multitude of reasons. Add that to the heartbreaking news cycle, seemingly endless political division, and the looming cloud of another high-stakes election year and all that comes with it being right around the corner, and I understand the instinct to tune out. There are plenty of things to validate our collective fear and exhaustion, but my longing is that we don’t sit for too long with despair.
I’m coming away from this experience with a renewed sense of hope and a stronger confidence in the countless people that work incredibly hard to make this nation a better and brighter place.
One of the main lightbulb moments I’ve taken away from this work is that collective empathy builds unbreakable communities. I hope you’re able to take time to reflect and recharge with (or without!) your loved ones over the holidays, and that you connect with a community in the new year–to make change, and friends. We’re in for a wild ride but if we all show up to share the load, we’ll get through it together.
Kate Duffy is Milwaukee-area mom who works in digital marketing by day and creates content online for a political community by night. She runs the organization Motherhood for Good where she uses Instagram (@motherhoodforgood) to breakdown issues-based political topics through a parental lens and encourages civic engagement at an accessible level. Motherhood for Good has built a strong statewide coalition of women that was instrumental in mobilizing a key demographic to GOTV in both the 2022 midterms and most recently, the Wisconsin Supreme Court election. They also focus on and advocate for awareness and passage of critical legislation at both the state and federal levels.
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