Thursday, April 06, 2017


Political Mayhem Thursday: Gender and Elections

If there is one thing we learned from the last election, it is this: A woman cannot count on the female vote to win a Presidential election unless she connects with a wide swath of female voters.

Hillary Clinton was very close to winning the presidency, but she failed to win the majority of white female voters. This, despite the fact that her opponent did nearly everything imaginable to drive away many women-- up to and including the promotion of sexual assault caught on tape (and yes, grabbing women by the genitals is sexual assault).

Women are not a homogeneous bloc of voters, I realize. And black women (like black men) overwhelmingly favored Clinton. Still, I haven't read much analysis-- or heard any substantive reflection by Clinton herself-- about how she lost the vote among white women. 

How did that happen? 

Russian sourced (with or without Trump campaign collusion) fake news stories that went viral; Comey's late announcements; people not seeing through Trump's misogny, racism, religous bigotry?
I'm no Trump fan, and I did not vote for him. But a fulsome account of "why Hillary lost" has to start here: she was a deeply flawed, unpopular candidate. You'd have to be a dyed-in-the-wool partisan to dispute this. And it's true for lot's of reasons that have nothing to do with sexism or Russia (using the DNC to "rig" the primary against Sanders, using Democratic operatives to effectively cheat in debates, the email scandal--which for many non-fake reasons, and setting Comey aside, is disturbing--and the campaign's handling of it, arrogantly refusing to even campaign in certain Midwestern states (that she ultimately lost), and many, many more). In the end, lot's of people--women and men alike--resolved their perceived binary choice against Clinton because of they thought she was the greater of two evils.

As for why women in particular--who theoretically had sex-based reasons to prefer Clinton (namely, the symbolic importance of a first female president and Trump's abhorrent words and actions directed at women)--did not uniformly support her, I will speculate (as a man) that it had something to do with the fact that women are less likely vote along party lines and more likely to value a subjective sense of "who a candidate is." Trump's a bigot, to be sure, but he is authentic. He allowed himself to be known, or at least left that impression. By contrast, Clinton projected elitism, secrecy (despite 30 years in public life), and artificiality. She was an enigma. Add to that the fact that Trump--as a "Republican"--managed to simultaneously promise trillions in spending and trillions in tax cuts, all while "winning" the wars (trade, drugs, ISIS, etc.) and restoring America's greatness, and you have 2016 in a nutshell.
Like it or not, the main topic of concern was abortion for white females in the South who I know. That's a major line that many women simply won't cross. And closely related to that was the idea of appointing Supreme Court justices.
I was not a Hillary supporter in the primaries; I voted with my heart and went with Bernie. I then threw my vote behind her. Yes she was flawed, very flawed, but she is brilliant by comparison to the dufus Americans elected in November. I would prefer a policy wonk to the three ring circus currently occupying the White House. All politicians are egotistic to some degree, that is what allows them to take part in the race for office. The Supreme Court, Human Rights, a woman's right to choose (not a room full of post-middle aged, blue pill popping men), and health care affordability were important issues for me. I also have enough common sense and a great bull shit meter and Trump and his CON set off flags in my brain from day one. I also know many of my traditionally Republican friends either voted for Gary Johnson or left the office of President blank. They were uncomfortable with both major party choices.
I think voters tend to fall within two general categories: those who "vote the candidate" and those who "vote the issue."

Those who "vote the candidate" were very well entrenched in their respective camps this election. You either love Clinton, or you hate her. You love Trump, or you hate him. These voters seem to care less about particular issues, but are more focused on the personal qualities of the candidates themselves, in whatever way they view them. "I'll vote for Hillary, she is a strong female candidate." "I'll never vote for Hillary, she is crooked." "Trump tells it like he sees it, he has no filter, I like that." "Trump is a sexist pig, inexperienced, and a greedy billionaire."

On the other hand, are those who "vote the issue." They may focus on one particular issue and latch on to it, even if it means ignoring the candidate's other positions. I saw this mostly among Trump supporters, but not exclusively. I know several Trump voters who are cops, and they fell into this category. They hated the sexist comments, the over the top immigration policies, and careless comments about other countries. But, they liked his seemingly pro-law enforcement views, especially when compared to Clinton who is viewed in that group as anti-cop. One issue, the most important issue to them, was enough to sway them despite the reservations over other policies, and the qualities of the man himself.

Where the predictions missed the mark, I think, is putting too many women in the "vote the candidate" camp. There was this blanket belief that women would vote for a woman. It was cocky, and ultimately unfounded. Perhaps more than expected were "vote the issue" types. Maybe immigration was a big deal for some. Perhaps restrictions on trade or a focus on manufacturing and blue collar jobs struck a cord. Maybe it was a general belief that they felt marginalized and on the downward slope of influence, and the fact a candidate ranted that things were bad and it was someone else's fault really spoke to them.

It is probably easier to say that all voters of this gender will vote this way, all of this race will vote that way, etc. Easier, and inaccurate. Its a much more difficult thing to predict what moves a person internally.
It appears that CTL bought some of the fake news regarding Clinton! It was not begun in 2016, but years earlier! And many otherwise rational people have bought into that false narrative.
@Professor: As always, your timing was prescient. Last night HRC sat down with Nicholas Kristof to give her view of why she lost. She doesn't address women as a voting demographic in great detail, but she offers clues. Here's the interview:

Cliff notes:
I said it here before the election more than once:

What was HRC's theme? What was the simple ("It's The Economy Stupid," "Make America Great Again," "No New Taxes," "I will not lie to you") slogan?

She had none. Which is a formula for losing. See Dukakis, Michael and Dole, Bob, amongst others.

She ran to "not lose." That never works.
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