Nearly two years into the Trump administration, it’s clear to all except the willfully blind what the modern Republican Party stands for: racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. The American left pinned its hope for a blue tsunami in part on white women, one of the largest voting blocs in the country, who the media assured us were fleeing the GOP in droves.
Positioned at the intersection of privilege and oppression, Democrats had reason to believe white women, particularly those with college degrees, would be repulsed by the GOP’s naked hatred of women, immigrants, and people of color.
It was disappointing but ultimately unsurprising when white women continued their decades long love affair with the Republican Party on Nov. 6. One question remains. Why?
White Women Disappoint
People of color are the backbone of the Democratic Party, particularly black women, who support Democratic candidates in extraordinary numbers.
In the race for Georgia governor, 25% of white women voted for Democrat Stacey Abrams versus 97% of black women. College, we are often told, transforms young people into liberals. That’s not the case in Georgia, where the Republican challenger, Ron DeSantis, captured a majority of college-educated white women.
In Florida, 47% of white women voted for Democrat Andrew Gillum versus 82% of black women. The education gap worked in the Democrat’s favor, with 57% of white college-educated women supporting Gillum.
In the epic battle between Sen. Ted Cruz (who is probably not the Zodiac Killer) and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, 39% of white women supported O’Rourke versus 94% of black women. College-educated white women were evenly split between the two.
Nationally, approximately half of white women continue to support the Republican party, down from the infamous 53% of white women who voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
I Need a Strong Man
I was in middle school when it seemed like everyday another one of my friend’s parents were separating. I watched women struggle to maintain their middle class lives after divorce. It made me realize how vulnerable women are, how vulnerable my own mother was, how she and by extension we were dependent on a man we couldn’t control for our very survival.
Perhaps not consciously, but I promised myself I would never depend financially on a man. And I haven’t. But too many women become exactly what traditional femininity teaches them to be: dependent on a man.
Traditional femininity is the ultimate outcome of the two-headed beast that is patriarchy and white supremacy. It puts white women on a pedestal even as it degrades women of color, because white women are kind but weak, in need of protection.
Men have been dropping out of the labor force for decades due to addiction, mass incarceration, and a lack of good jobs for low- and middle-skill individuals. Still, white women crave a strong man, require one for their very survival, because it’s impossible for most individuals and families to thrive in America on one salary.
Many white women don’t even hope for financial independence. More than 80% of black women say the ability to earn well is important in their careers versus 54% of white women, according to a report by the Center for Talent Innovation. Black women are also more likely to cite financial independence as one of their top three career goals.
The protection white women crave isn’t just financial. They need a men for personal protection because traditional femininity tells you to be nice, accommodating, never be mean and don’t make waves. So they wait for men to protect them from sexual harassment and sexual assault. It doesn’t work, but white women keep hoping if they smile the threat will go away.
Donald Trump represents the strong male figure traditional femininity told them they need. That’s why 53% of white women voted for him, and why half of white women continue to support him. He’s daddy.
Jim Crow Lives
Jim Crow didn’t die with legal segregation. It lives on through widespread voter suppression; mass incarceration, which disproportionately impacts black men; and institutional biases against hiring and promoting people of color. Although these problems weren’t all created by the Republican Party, the GOP has become structural racism’s most enthusiastic cheerleader in mainstream culture.
Not all Republicans are racist. But all Republicans aren’t bothered enough by racism to vote with Democrats in support of people of color, immigrants, and women’s rights. When white women cast their votes for extremist Republicans, who have all but taken over the GOP, they actively support these systems of oppression.
Yes, women are strong. Yes, women are amazing. They love with a ferocity that is simply astounding. They bear the brunt of childcare, housework, and household management, each one a full time job, often while juggling job and careers outside the home. They are the glue that binds the American family, often the only thing that keeps them together, since most divorces are initiated by women.
They also support the Republican fever dream of turning back the clock to 1950, when white men were real men who kept everyone else in their place, because traditional femininity says white women are incapable of functioning without a strong man, and capitalism has made it difficult or impossible to do so. Is it really surprising that half of white women vote like it’s true?