When it comes to politics, Katie Paris is true blue. A longtime veteran of national politics, Paris has spent the last year zeroing in on the political scene a bit closer to home—right here in Ohio. In 2019, Paris founded Red Wine & Blue, a grassroots organization geared at rallying suburban women to vote and affect change.
“Coming from D.C., the chattering class in Washington was starting to write off Ohio [and its status] as a swing state,” says Paris. “But the data I uncovered told me that there absolutely is a path for progressives here, and that path goes straight through the suburbs.”
Paris is doing her best to chart that path by mobilizing women across Central, Southwest, and Northeast Ohio to join forces with Red Wine & Blue. In just a year, the movement has grown to include 20,000 newsletter subscribers andnearly 40,000 members between their two private Facebook groups, “Decanted” (specifically for Ohio women) and “Suburban Housewives Against Trump" (which is national).
“People are turned off by traditional politics right now, so we want to meet them where they are,” says Paris, who works with six regional organizers to amplify Red Wine & Blue’s efforts. “We use a lot of humor, wine puns, and other engaging content to reach beyond the choir. If you’re going to break through the noise and engage people, you have to do things differently.”
Red Wine & Blue seeks to accomplish that end in a variety of ways—from a friend-to-friend texting program to virtual “Vino the Vote” parties to wine-fueled Facebook chats with people like Connie Schultz and Reynoldsburg Ward 4 Councilwoman Meredith Lawson-Rowe. Paris and her team have also partnered with local grassroots groups around Ohio to increase their reach.
“Our approach is based on relational organizing, or tapping into people’s networks,” says Paris. “These women are not your traditional political activists; they’re your PTA moms. We need more voices like this engaged.”
Having previously worked for organizations including Shareblue Media and Media Matters, Paris relocated from Washington, D.C. to Shaker Heights (her husband’s hometown) in 2012. She says she was inspired to start Red Wine & Blue after seeing the outcome of the 2018 mid-term elections in Ohio. “Being disappointed about the election results and knowing the role Ohio would play in the 2020 election, I knew I had to be part of the solution here,” says Paris.
Currently, Paris and the women of Red Wine & Blue are riffing off President Trump’s recent Tweet about “suburban housewives” with a tongue-in-cheek social media challenge. The #HousewifeChallenge depicts women around Ohio posting photos in traditional domestic settings and/or garb like curlers and pearls alongside quotes such as, “Meet Melissa: Your typical suburban housewife. She likes her earrings big, her bourbon neat, and cleaning up the culture of corruption this November.”
For Paris, it’s the perfect way to draw attention to the ethos behind Red Wine & Blue and “push back on this silly notion of what Trump says a suburban housewife is,” explains Paris. “The way we define a suburban housewife is anyone who wants to clean house from the White House to the state house.”