Over the past year, Wendy Davis has become an iconic political figure, but she ultimately lost the keys to the Governor's mansion on Tuesday night. Her opponent, Texas attorney General Greg Abbott, managed to keep a strong Republican foothold in a state that hasn't elected a Democratic governor in more than two decades. Many progressives hoped Texas would turn blue, but as Tim Murphy at Mother Jones notes, the "Lone Star just got even redder."
Although Davis rose to fame after her infamous 11-hour filibuster over the anti-choice bill SB5, she didn't manage to win even the majority of the female vote in Texas (although she did extremely well with black and latina voters). Apparently, the women who showed up at the polls prefer to be governed by a man who is against all forms of abortion, even for victims of rape and incest.
But despite this disappointing loss, Wendy Davis has profoundly changed politics.
Davis stood up for women's right to reproductive control unlike anyone else and made this a central plank of her campaign. Although no major news network even bothered to air her filibuster back in 2013, it was her unflinching devotion to the issue that made it a national story that no one could ignore. Davis didn't just prove that women's lives are worth caring about, she showed that reproductive justice could no longer be treated as a fringe issue.
Davis took her commitment to reproductive justice one step further when she came forward with her own experience with abortion. Although she was heavily criticized by the right for admitting to having had two abortions over the course of her life, and disgustingly nicknamed "Abortion Barbie" by her rivals, she fearlessly spoke about her decision in the hopes of reducing the stigma around the procedure for other women. Although she wasn't the first female politician to admit to an abortion (Jackie Speier courageously did so in 2010 on the floor of the House of Representatives), her willingness to share her decision so openly is unique.
Wendy Davis revolutionized what it means to be a female candidate. She pioneered the art of running as a woman, unapologetically. She wore pink glasses to work, pink running shoes for her filibuster and spoke openly about being a single mother. She never fit the mold, but she never tried either. That's what made her so threatening to the status quo.
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During her concession speech, Davis referenced a Teddy Roosevelt quote that embodies the unique spirit she brought to the world of politics.
"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error or shortcoming," she told a cheering crowd.
As a fervent defender of the right to abortion in one of the nation's most conservative states, Davis faced an uphill battle, but she never gave up on her commitment.
Davis may not have won the battle, but she is winning the bigger war. When she wakes up Wednesday, she may be the woman who lost to Greg Abbott, but she will also be the politician who gave conservatives something to worry about. Her long term effect on politics will be felt beyond the midterm election. No matter how many years it takes to elect another woman in Texas, Davis opened up doors for women that can never be closed.
Texas women may be stuck with Greg Abbott, but Republicans are stuck with Wendy Davis' powerful legacy.