Somehow there are five to seven percent of people, maybe it’s four percent, maybe less, that are undecided about this year’s presidential choices; of which there are only two. Now I can clearly see why there isn’t a three-party system. This is apparently tough enough. And so two weeks out the campaigns have narrowed their targets down to one group—as is the custom in these final harried days—white, middle-class, suburban women; known more condescendingly as “soccer mom’s” or “security mom’s.” But generally, as we have heard from the swatch of punditry willing to toss it all in; whoever is to be the next president will be is almost solely dependent on women, women and more women.
You hear it all the time now: Women find this appalling. Women are turned off by this or that. Women especially prefer this disposition. Women don’t like aggressive interplay during debates. Women only care about reproductive rights. Women have to get home to cook dinner for the kids. Women vote this way and that way.
Frankly, not being a woman, but nevertheless the proud husband of an intensely alternative thinking woman and the father of a pretty damned independently minded girl (not to mention the son of a raving lunatic), I would think these generalities to be a tad insulting.
Strike that, it’s a fucking embarrassment.
Yet it is repeated over and over by both campaigns and strategized to death. And of course it is the mantra of the media: How will women respond to Romney’s tie or Obama’s smile? Who is “more likable,” sweeter, calmer, less threatening, cordial or fatherly? This is the equivalent of “The American people choose the man they want to have a beer with or hand the keys of their car to” crap.
Of course, we play into their hands. For instance, this idea that Mitt Romney could show up to a debate in early October, after running for president for 16 months, enduring 20 debates, hundreds of interviews, a grueling primary season, stage a multi-million dollar biographical and ideological convention and continuously spend in the millions on ads and still manage to have a coming out party to turn the polls upside down means we really don’t pay much attention to this stuff. The president rewrites his record and no one seems to notice. Romney says one thing for a year and then says the complete opposite—not sort of different or a slight shift in ideology—but a diametrically opposing stance, as if reinventing another candidate, and it matters not.
So, we’ve earned this “people vote this way” tag, however pathetic.
Still, this accepted idea that “women like this” and “women vote this way” stuff is patently insolent. It is the point I was trying to make when Bush or Cheney were prattling on and on about “The Iraqi people,” as if there was one type of Iraqi people. And as we have come to understand at the very least there were three divergent sects of Iraqis, all of which had no interest in pooling their differences to form a democratic milieu.
The key to women, we are told in one way or the other by both campaigns and the lapdog media is the availability of this demographic. It is movable. Not entrenched. This is the main reason many Republican strategists have told me for three years now that the party must expand or fade. There are only so many groups left to maneuver now and women are the ripest. As for Democrats, they have the advantage in social concerns, specifically in Roe v. Wade, which is the sticking point. In fact, there is not much point in a woman who is not religious or entering menopause to ever vote Republican. Why would you let the government dictate what goes on in your body? This kind of thing tends to trump economic and security issues: Capital gains are down, but we’ll need you to act as carriage for the next nine months, thanks.
And let’s try and ignore, if we can, the absolute insanity coming from Republican candidates for Senate, who have in two different occasions now interpreted rape as either some divine interplay by the omnipotent Godhead or a vague distinction of “illegitimate” in which the female organs biologically reject semen.
These are the main reasons why Barack Obama enjoys an on average seven to nine percent gender gap among likely women voters, much less when taking minorities out of the equation. It was larger prior to the aforementioned early October debate. Thus, it is the only demographic the Romney campaign feels could be available to make up the last inches of ground in order to secure victory on November 6. Hispanics are out of the question. African Americans are long gone. And the youth vote is probably better for the Republicans if it sits this one out, as it usually does with the exception of 2008. For Obama, white working-class men are way out of reach, as are religious types, a good portion of the elderly who are not scared shitless of Paul Ryan, as well as the usual Republican strongholds; wealthy, military, etc.
Therefore, it is women.
The Romney campaign recently told me that they have been working their way back in the race on the strength of the woman vote; suburban mostly; specifically those outlining areas around Cleveland and Toledo, just outside Philadelphia and Phoenix, and similar areas around cities in nine other battleground states. Contraception, healthcare, right to choose, taxes, national security, jobs; these are the buzz words that will ultimately decide this election if both campaigns are to be believed. Too simple? Maybe. But nevertheless, this is the way the political wind blows.
More recent examples would be Richard Nixon’s 1968 “Southern strategy,” wresting the defiantly racist portion of the white, male population away from the Southern Democrats that had maintained a foothold since The New Deal. This was the fundamental shift that allowed Republican candidates for president a mortal lock on almost anything south of the Mason-Dixon Line for decades.
In 1972, it was the Silent Majority; Nixon’s term for those not taking to the streets to protest the abomination of Viet Nam, which he promised to end with “a secret plan” in ’68 and that whisked him to power on the televised riots in the streets outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Those frightened by social change, youth uprising on college campuses, drug culture and rock music, what Dr. Hunter S. Thompson dubbed Freak Power.
In 1980, there were the Reagan Democrats, or lunch pail white working-class men; previously unavailable to Republicans but brought in on fears of Iranian Hostage Crisis and a crumbling manufacturing sector. In ’84 and ’88, it was the growing Evangelical community, or what it is known as the Religious Right. In 1992, it was the Yuppies and the disaffected Boomers; the “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” types who’d had it with 12 years of Reaganomics. In 2004, it was Karl Rove’s “security mom” strategy with the slam-dunk previously untapped anti-gay contingent, which at that time was upwards of 74 percent of Americans.
Two years ago, Barack Obama achieved the near impossible; parleying the outlandish notion of a black, liberal two-year senator into President of the United States, largely due to the most effusive and active youth voting block in the history of this nation.
Now you wonder if women, long considered part of the general racial, cultural and geographical demographics, will use this new attention to defy the logic that they all respond, think, and vote in solidarity.
Or the “women don’t like to be referred to merely as women” vote.