You can attribute Donald Trump‘s 2016 victory to any number of things, given the small margins, but no doubt white women played an important role. That was the case this year, too, despite Trump’s losing campaign.
But some of those lifelong Republican women who supported Trump the first time couldn’t do it this year, and they’re now hoping they can find space within the Democratic party.
Before you write them off, consider this: The women we’re talking about backed Trump in 2016 because they supported conservative principles and thought backing the Republican candidate would advance that agenda. Now, they’ve seen the spinelessness of the party, caving to every Trump whim over the past few years, putting his ego ahead of the country, and they’re desperate to find a political community that actually cares about the country in action and not just words.
In an article for The Atlantic, Elaine Godfrey interviewed a handful of women in Maricopa County, Arizona, the state’s largest county and one which narrowly went for Biden:
For Democratic women, Trump’s presidency has been a catalyst for political activism, triggering a renaissance of American civic engagement. But for some Republican women, the past four years have prompted a different kind of reckoning: They’ve watched as the conservative lawmakers they’ve long admired have betrayed principles once held dear. And they’ve been forced to rethink their hardwired partisan allegiances. “There is a political realignment occurring with [these] voters in the suburbs, where low taxes aren’t enough to keep them in the Republican Party,” Sarah Longwell, a Republican strategist who studies suburban women, told me. Even in a post-Trump era, it will be difficult — maybe even impossible — for the GOP to regain their trust. But Joe Biden’s presidency will offer another test too: Is there enough room for these women in the Democratic tent?
The women — all white, all from the greater Phoenix area — had been repelled by Trump in 2016. None of them voted for Hillary Clinton. But over the past four years, as they watched their party fall to Trumpism, their disgust sent them all in the same direction: the Democratic Party.
For many of the GOP defectors, it came down to the president’s personality — his flagrant racism and misogyny, his bullying, his insult comedy. “People talk about [voter] enthusiasm, but there should also be a revulsion metric,” said Longwell, who founded the political initiative Republican Voters Against Trump earlier this year. “The important thing with Republican women is just how revolted they are by Donald Trump.”
It’s really up to them, isn’t it? If they’re interested in following the facts and genuinely helping people, sure. If they’re fed up with the cruelty and utter hypocrisy of the GOP — which was around long before Trump — and want to see it taken down, sure. If they’re willing to accept women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, sure. If there’s a silver lining to not being a single-issue voter, it’s not it allows you to see a bigger picture.
For Democrats, an ideal society takes care of its elderly and sick. People shouldn’t have to go bankrupt for basic medical procedures or lose their entire livelihood after one emergency. More women will keep their pregnancies to term because they can afford childcare expenses, and raise their children with reasonable confidence that there will still be clean air and water to use when those children are grown. That’s heavily idealistic, but it’s far more inclusive than the Republican goal of building up your own wealth — or inheriting it — and making it harder for those under you to pull themselves up by the bootstraps.
If nothing else, Democrats have the opportunity to define themselves to a broader public on the basis of what they stand for instead of who they’re against. If they can do it effectively, there are people they could reach who have been left out by the GOP. At least until some third parties become viable, this may be the best way to expand the Democratic electorate.
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