The contribution made by female voters to President Obama’s re-election this week, along with the striking change in the gender composition of the Congress, has made 2012 “the election women won.” Females were more likely to vote, as well as more likely to vote for Obama, giving the President an 18 point gender lead over his opponent and tipping the race in swing states like Ohio and New Hampshire. At the same time, Democratic women beat Republicans in several Senate races, creating the largest cohort of female Senators in history: 20 out of 100. In the new House, there will be 61 female Democrats, compared to only 21 Republican women.
In the aftermath, Republicans are continuing the sexist rhetoric that defeated them, blaming the loose morals of single women for their loss (as if this trash talk will win them friends for the next election). Essentially, Republicans are denying they have a problem. They call the War on Women “a myth” manufactured by the Democrats.
Maybe it is true that the majority of Republicans don’t share the ignorant beliefs of people like Todd Akin. But how would we know? We don’t hear much censure by these supposed moderates when their party fellows and media supporters spew hate speech. They don’t condemn, exclude, or deny, but merely sit, cowering on the sidelines, apparently hoping to benefit by capturing the voters this lunatic fringe controls. The party has concretely supported or proposed plans to deny funding to Planned Parenthood and to take access to contraceptives from employee health plans. Mitt Romney, the Republican’s chosen Presidential candidate, prevaricated on equal pay and pledged to reverse Roe vs. Wade.
How is one to interpret this apparently unified front as anything but a straightforward attack on women?
If the Republicans think women beat them at the polls and Democrats think women put them at the top, that is fine by me. But the conclusion obscures a more fundamental phenomenon: Obama swept every major demographic group except white nonurban men and their wives. Blacks, Latinos, gays, and the young all turned out in force and all overwhelmingly voted for Obama. Instead of saying the women won, it is perhaps more accurate to say that the WORMS (White Old Rich Men) lost.
The aging of the Republican base is a sign of hope, in spite of the close popular vote. That’s because we can see the outlines of the next electorate in the issues shared between women and the other groups who lined up behind Obama. To be sure, women were upset about the attacks on reproductive rights as well as the aspersions cast on their sexual behavior. But they were also put off by the way Republicans attacked immigrants, gays, and the poor. (Indeed, sometimes I marvel at the arrogance that allowed Republicans to think they could build a campaign on a series of vicious attacks against every group other than privileged, aging, white men.)
Experts say that women have historically been tougher advocates for health care and education, investments that benefit everybody. In fact, some commentators take this victory for women as the sign of an emerging paradigm that is socially “moderate-to-liberal.”
“Women have a vision of a different America: an America that shows its citizens–by actions and not just political lip–that every single one of us is equal in the eyes of the law, regardless of gender, race, religion, politics, or sexual orientation,” claims Barbara Hannah Grufferman of the Huffington Post. That such a statement would seem brave and new for a nation born 235 years ago under the “self-evident” truth that “all men are created equal” is testimony to the distance Republicans have dragged America from its core vision. (I guess, for Republicans, the operative word there is “men.”) That dream of a government constituted of, by, and for the people–one in which church and state were clearly separated–once made America a beacon to the world. Maybe more females in the leadership and a President beholden to women will help get it back