The "Women's Vote" Never Existed
5 min read
fairly difficult
It's an emotionally compelling notion for activists and a tidy narrative for pundits. But it's a 100-year-old myth.
Yet the broad migration of women to the Democrats is underlain by other demographic trends. Specifically, this political turn has largely been driven by women of color—Black, Latina, Native American, and Asian American women, all of whom vote for Democrats at higher rates than their white counterparts and who, together, constitute one of the fastest-growing segments of the electorate. In the 2018 Georgia governor's race, for instance, Black women voters overwhelmingly backed Democrat Stacey Abrams, nearly propelling her to victory in a historically red state. (Exit polls found that 75 percent of white women voted for Republican Brian Kemp.) A year earlier, in Alabama's special election for the Senate, 98 percent of Black women voters in the state cast votes for Democrat Doug Jones, who won the seat. At the same time, while Black women are the most consistent Democratic voting bloc, they unsurprisingly vote at lower rates when politicians don't meaningfully engage them. "They take us for granted," California Representative Barbara Lee told NPR. "And over the years, it's been up and down, up and down. But for the most part, I don't believe that—until now, at least—there's been a recognition of the value of African American women, not only to the Democratic Party but to the country."

You can observe a similar pattern among Latina and Asian women voters. As the Center for American Progress has noted, 76 percent of Latinas and two-thirds of Asian women voted for Barack Obama in 2012, compared to only 42 percent of white women. Yet both groups turn out to vote at lower rates than white women—the result of scant outreach from politicians and, in some cases, language barriers. "If Democrats don't act, we predict nearly 60 percent of eligible Latino voters in battleground states will stay home," Stephanie Valencia, the co-founder of a group that studies Latino political participation, wrote in May of the upcoming election. Women of color voters consistently cast ballots for Democrats, then, but whether they'll be compelled to turn out for politicians that ignore them or fail to adequately address their concerns is another matter entirely.

Around half of white women voters, on the other hand, regularly vote Republican. That fact surfaced to some shock in the aftermath of the 2016 election, where exit polls found that around 53 percent of white women voters had supported Trump. That was just a few points lower than the percentage of white women voters who had voted for Mitt Romney in the presidential election before.

As anti-abortion organizations like the SBA List and Phyllis Schlafly's infamous STOP ERA campaign demonstrate, women—and white women, in particular—have also played central roles in organizing for and around the right-wing causes that make up the so-called war on women. ("I would say, more often in American politics, women have been a conservative force rather than a liberal one," historian Jill Lepore told The New York Times in 2018.) In the minds of plenty of Democrats, the explanation for conservative women's political ideologies is a kind of false consciousness: As former first lady Michelle Obama put it in an interview after the 2016 election, "Any woman who voted…
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