Why you should care

Because it’s the Sandberg-Clinton age.

She’s a good Midwestern girl from the mining town of Butte, Montana, and she’s as comfortable in front of rooms full of cheering crowds as behind the scenes at campaign HQ. She seems like an ideal candidate for electoral office, but instead, 42-year-old Stephanie Schriock spends her time pumping your correspondent’s ears full of glorious songs about other people. As president of one of the country’s most powerful political action committees — EMILY’s List — Schriock is arguably the electoral muscle of fourth-wave feminism. EMILY’s List, which stands for “early money is like yeast” (yeah, we thought it was weird too), picks pro-choice, Democratic female candidates to throw its considerable (nearly $14 million raised this year) dollars behind.

Schriock chatted with OZY fresh off a trip to the Bay Area, where she heard, unsurprisingly, no shortage of “intense conversations” about women’s leadership. We talked 2016, begged for a sound bite on the hypothetical Hillary-less 2016 (which we didn’t get) and begged for a sound bite on Trump (which wasn’t hard to get).

This interview has been edited for clarity.

OZY: 2016 for a group trying to get pro-choice, Democratic women elected must feel like the Big One. But going beyond Hillary, whom don’t we know about that we should?

Stephanie Schriock: 2016 is absolutely going to be a record year for women up and down the ballots. And we are incredibly excited about those opportunities, from electing the first woman president to seeing momentum for women’s leadership across all of our political opportunities.… There are four really talented women of color running for Senate:

  • Kamala Harris, the incredible attorney general in California whom we are planning on making the next senator.
  • Donna Edwards, current member of Congress in Maryland who will be the state’s first African-American senator.
  • Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who survived a rocket-propelled grenade that hit the helicopter she was co-piloting and is now running for Senate — she’s a champion for veterans.
  • We’re about to have our first Latina ever in the U.S. Senate, which is great — but it’s terrible that it has taken us till 2016 to do so: Catherine Cortez Masto.

OZY: We know where your heart lies, but let’s pretend it weren’t with Hillary.…

S.S.: We firmly believe that Hillary Clinton will be the first female nominee of a political party for the presidency. I get chills thinking about it.… And while we’re waiting for Vice President Biden to make his decision, we kind of know who’s running for president.

OZY: OK, you’re not giving us that one. How about this: Could Trump be the best thing that ever happened to EMILY’s List?

S.S.: I’m not even sure what to think of what’s going on with Donald Trump. Look at what [he] is standing for, and it’s the same thing as Jeb Bush and Scott Walker and a whole gang of folks who are running. There is no difference between these candidates. They are backward-looking, and they are shortsighted, and they really do not have any agenda that is going to be helpful for women and families in this country. They are all Donald Trump.

OZY: What have you noticed from watching and teaching female up-and-coming candidates breaking into the game?

S.S.: Well, it’s similar to asking for a raise or a startup company asking for venture capital. They’re like little startup companies who have to walk in — even walk into EMILY’s List — and make a case. We’re like a venture capital firm, and we have to decide if we’re ready to invest in their small company. It’s not dissimilar, this stepping back and thinking about “Why am I doing this?”

OZY: Whom will this generation canonize as the next wave of feminist thought leaders?

S.S.: There’s Jessica Valenti, who I just think the world of, leading this conversation among her generation. But there’s so much going on with feminist writing, it’s like a night-and-day difference [over the past five years]. In 2008, when Hillary was running the first time … how many reporters were there that really focused on gender equality? There were hardly any. There’s now one at every bureau, every outlet. That is a sea change, and a testament to all of the women bloggers who have pushed these issues, up to folks like Sheryl Sandberg, who has thrown out her piece of this story. I think what’s going on with women leading in Black Lives Matter is important not just for Black Lives Matter but for feminism. We’re going to look back on this era as an incredible time for change for women in a very positive way. Which is why we’re going to continue to see Republicans trying to roll it back.

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