By Linda Finarelli
ABINGTON >> They may have come for different reasons, but the women who showed up for the Montgomery County Women’s Roundtable discussion at Dino’s Backstage July 20 seemed to all be on the same page.
State Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-153, and Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, co-hosts of the event, were joined onstage by Debra Messing, former star of “Will and Grace,” to share their opinions and answer questions in an apparent effort to get the 50 or so women in the audience to help get out the vote for Hillary Clinton.
Abington Township Commissioner Lori Schreiber, a Clinton supporter, said she thought “seeing Debra Messing might be interesting” and she also wanted to see the new supper club that opened at 287 N. Keswick Ave. in June.
Kelley Warner, who works in Abington and knows Dean, said she was there to find out something about Trump’s vice presidential selection, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and his views on women’s issues.
Robin Vann Lynch, president of the Lower Merion School Board and a member of the Montgomery County Commission for Women and Families, said she was “an advocate for women’s health care across the board.”
“We talk about these issues all the time,” she said of the women’s health, equal pay and other women’s rights issues Clinton advocates. Noting she has a son and two daughters, Vann Lynch added those issues are “critical at this time.”
The purpose of the roundtable, Dean said, was to have “a conversation about the election and the excitement of electing the first woman president,” and “talk about the issues and what the opposition represents.”
“It’s an incredibly important conversation,” Messing said. “There’s never been a more important election in history.”
Referring to Trump’s choice of vice president, Dean described Pence as representing “a lack of care for women, the poor and the LGBT community.”
Referring to abortion and women’s health rights, a woman from Bala Cynwyd asked how to reach “millennials who won’t vote — how to frame the issue to reach them?”
Messing, noting she has heard from a lot of millennials and “understands their disappointment” that Bernie Sanders is not getting the nomination, said Sanders “brought important issues to the fore” and many of them have been incorporated in the Democratic platform, such as the $15 minimum wage. Those issues take time, she said.
“Millennials don’t understand how catastrophic it could be if Hillary doesn’t win,” she said. “If they stay home, progress made in the last 50 years could be eviscerated.”
People need to think about equal pay for women, health care, the environment, inclusion, clean water — “if you care about those you need to make your voice heard. The alternative will be the opposite,” she said.
“The issue of women making their own health care decisions is incredibly important,” Arkoosh said. “The Trump/Pence team could not be more extreme on this.”
Pence signed legislation that would abolish the right to an abortion even in the case of rape, incest or fetal unsustainability, she said. “There is no legislation telling men what they can do with their bodies.
“The differences are dramatic and extreme when you look at the big picture issues.”
“We’ve watched Trump insult women over the past year … Pence codifies that anti-woman stake,” Dean said, noting he voted against Planned Parenthood funding, low-income housing for the poor and signed “one of the worst anti-abortion bills in the land.”
Messing said Clinton would fight the NRA and support legislation to close the gun safety loophole.
“Trump is reckless and divisive,” and “according to him, never wrong,” she said. “Hillary acknowledges mistakes and makes different choices. Trump is not trustworthy; he’s scary.”
Asked why the poll numbers are so close, Arkoosh said a lot of people don’t really know what Clinton stands for and what she has accomplished, while Trump has tapped into a lot of below-the-surface anger. The economic recovery is steady, “but not fast enough.”
Republicans have attacked Clinton for 30 years, Messing said, and “the accusations have smeared her. It’s important to shine a light on what she’s accomplished.”
“The contrast is what’s so startling” Dean said. “Trump would repeal Obamacare, he would take us back.”
Dean urged the women to convince others by telling their own stories, to say how Trump’s policies would hurt them and Clinton’s help them.
“Speak from your heart,” Arkoosh said. “The one thing that will impact you and your family, that’s what persuades people.”
Dean said Pennsylvania may well be a “Keystone state” in the election.
“The polls are watching us. This campaign is like no other. Pennsylvania’s role will be pivotal.”