Scott Brinton

Is there really a ‘women’s vote’?

Posted

I’m obviously not a woman, so I’m not the best person to parse the so-called “women’s vote.” But I’ll try.

I’m covering my 25th general election this year, and I know this: Critical races are often won or lost by a percentage point or three. Hillary Clinton lost — or Donald Trump won — the 2016 presidential election by fractions of a percentage point in three battleground states. The maxim is true: Every vote counts, so no vote should be taken for granted.

After the bluster and bombast of the protracted Senate hearings to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh last month, there’s been much talk about the women’s vote. There’s a sense in liberal circles that women will present a united front at the polls and cast their ballots for Democrats on Nov. 6. That remains to be seen.

Traditionally, women have been no more likely to vote as a bloc than any other subset of our electorate. The 2016 presidential election proved the point. Trump had had salacious affairs splattered across the front pages of New York City’s tabloids many, many times. He had made uncouth, vulgar, enraging comments about women that I shall not repeat. He had even admitted that he, as a celebrity, could grab women by their genitals and, he laughed, they were powerless to fend him off.

Yet millions of women voted for him in 2016. According to The New York Times, a majority of Republican women — 53 percent — cast ballots for Trump. Most were white, and working-class or college-educated.

I was stunned. I can only imagine how the millions of women who despised Trump’s attacks on their gender writ large felt on Nov. 9, 2016, the day after the election. Can you say betrayed?

According to The Times, 42 percent of women and 53 percent of men voted for Trump. Meanwhile, 54 percent of women and 41 percent of men cast ballots for Clinton. The figures roughly equated to the Republican-vs.-Democratic breakdown of elections dating back to the 1990s. That is, nothing — nothing — changed, despite the Trump campaign’s patently misogynistic undercurrent.

If Democrats are hanging their electoral hopes on the #MeToo movement, they might want to rethink that strategy. The nascent revolution exploded last fall in reaction to revelations that famed film producer Harvey Weinstein, known as the “liberal lion,” was a womanizer who, actresses have alleged, doled out movie parts in exchange for sex. #MeToo is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. It’s one of justice and equity.

Female voters, in recent years at least, have outnumbered male voters. In the last presidential election, 73.7 million women voted, compared with 63.8 million men, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Even younger women vote in large numbers. In 2016, 46 percent of 18- to 24-year-old women cast ballots, compared with 40 percent of men. And 60 percent of 25- to 44-year-old women voted, compared with 53 percent of men.

In 2008, nearly 70 percent of white and black women voted in the presidential election. In 2012, 70 percent of black women and 65 percent of white women cast ballots. And in 2016, 67 percent of white women and 64 percent of black women voted.

In the past three presidential elections, however, only 50 percent of Hispanic women and a little less than 50 percent of Asian women voted.

That made me think that Democrats squandered a potential midterm election advantage this September. Their attempt to derail the Kavanaugh nomination was relentless. Meanwhile, they could have — should have — been speaking directly to Hispanic women (and men), who have long been underrepresented at the polls.

Only months earlier, the Trump administration had ripped Hispanic babies and little children from their parents’ arms and separated them in detention centers. The mothers and fathers often wound up in chain-link cages. Their crime? Seeking asylum in the United States to escape the drug trade and gang violence.

This should have been a crucial issue in every race this election cycle, but we have heard relatively little about it from the Democratic Party. As noncitizens, these women and men could not have voted this year. But, I’m sure, America’s 47 million citizens who identify as Hispanic really, really cared about this issue.

If the Democratic Party is to survive, it must bring in new voters, in particular Hispanics and Asians, while maintaining its ranks — including white men. Increasingly, however, we’re seeing sanctimonious attacks within the party and in the media against “old white men,” a phrase that has become code for antiquated and privileged, even racist. That was why, in part, we saw many working-class white men, many of whom were union stalwarts, flee the Democratic Party straight into Trump’s arms in 2016.

I’ve written this before, and I’ll do so again: The Democratic Party clearly needs new national leadership.

Scott Brinton is the Herald Community Newspapers’ executive editor and an adjunct professor at the Hofstra University Herbert School of Communication. Comments about this column? SBrinton@liherald.com.