I have been following the statistics on the gender gap in voting patterns for many years, often patting myself on the back for belonging to a group that on the whole votes Democratic or breathing a sigh of relief that I am not part of a group that votes Republican. Imagine my dismay when in 2012 I read that though the gender gap exists, I belong to a group—white women—that is likely to vote Republican. Since 1972 only Bill Clinton in 1996 took a majority of the white women’s vote.
The gender gap in 2008 and 2012 was created by the fact that over 96 percent of African-American women and over 2/3 of Hispanic women voted for Obama. In contrast, white women voted for McCain by a 7 percent margin and for Mitt Romney by 14 percent.
Breaking these statistics down further, I could consider myself “home free.” Single white women and women with a college education vote Democratic. The Republican voters among white women are married women and women without a college education. Still, white women as a whole tend to vote Republican. A lot of them were waving banners at the Republican convention in August. And like it or not, these women are my people: some of them are in my own family.
I have often wondered why these women vote against (what seems to me to be) their own interests, cheerfully opposing women’s right to choose and equal pay for equal work, while supporting tax cuts for the rich (a group they certainly will not be part of if they get divorced) and a macho America-first military policy. It seems to me that some of these women are convinced that if they play their cards right—which means not upsetting the patriarchal men in their lives—they will be able find and hold onto men who will love them, support them economically, and protect physically. Others have been brainwashed (sorry!) by patriarchal religious teachings to believe that God created them to serve others, most especially powerful white men. Now even evangelical women are beginning to ask evangelical men why they have not spoken out against sexual abuse and harassment.
The Republican voting pattern of white women is changing before our eyes.
Following the recent publicity given to Donald Trump’s “pussy grabbing,” Clinton is now leading Trump among white women by 50 to 43 percent: white women with college degrees favor Clinton at 62 percent; white women without college degrees are turning to Clinton too, at 42 percent. In the same period, Trump’s 40 point lead among white men fell to 17 points. Trump’s still commanding lead among white men means that some white women are about to vote for the first time for a different candidate than their husbands. This would have been unthinkable for many married white women in the past.
This new stance of white women as a group can surely be attributed to the fact that Donald Trump is so openly contemptuous of women. Is white women’s vote against Trump a one-time thing? Or is it the case that if women break once from their men and what they have been taught, there is no going back? Will white women’s newfound support for Hillary continue down the ballot with votes for Democratic candidates for the Congress and state houses? Will it continue in future elections? Only time will tell.
I am not a betting woman, but if I were, I would bet that white women as a group are finally waking up. Let’s hope they will bring the men in their lives along with them. Otherwise we will be living in a newly divided America: white males (who though their relative numbers are dwindling still have money and power) against everyone else!
Carol P. Christ’s new book written with Judith Plaskow is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. They are co-editors of Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions. Carol wrote the first Goddess feminist theology, Rebirth of the Goddess and the process feminist theology, She Who Changes.
Carol P. Christ leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. Join the 2017 spring and fall tours now and save $150.