By now the exit poll statistics from the recent election in the state of Alabama are well known: 98% of black women and 92% of black men voted for Democrat Doug Jones, while 74% of white men and 65% of white women voted for Republican pedophile and child-molester Roy Moore.
These statistics raise two important questions. The first is why white women would vote—some would say against their own interests—for a man whose abusive behavior toward women and girls is a matter of public record. The second, and related question, is whether the Democratic strategy of trying to appeal to racist and sexist white people by downplaying racism and sexism is a winning strategy.
No one should really be surprised that white women—conservative and evangelical or not–voted for known child-abuser Roy Moore.* One of the main tenets of the white supremacist patriarchal system is that powerful white men can do no wrong. Most Americans were raised with this notion, and this of course is why it takes women so long to report every form of sexual abuse. White supremacist patriarchy teaches women and men to give white men every break while placing the blame on women—especially if they are black or brown, but also if they are white.
Why do a majority of white women want to believe this story? Because they have been told that their economic status and social position can be secured only by their ties with powerful (in this case, a relative term) white males. When confronted with the allegations against a Roy Moore, white women’s first reaction may be to blame the victim. Maybe she is lying. Maybe she foolishly put herself in harm’s way. Maybe the man who abused her misread the signals she was giving. The last thing women seduced by the white supremacist patriarchal myth want to do is to look clearly at the sexual abuse perpetrated by white men.
Why? Because white women have been taught that if they follow all the rules, they will not be subject to abuse. When they suffer abuse, they try not to think about it. Instead they normalize it by saying to themselves, “it happened a long time ago” and “no matter what happened, it did me no real harm.” If every white woman were to look seriously at the abuse she has suffered at the hands of white men, the whole white supremacist patriarchal system would collapse. However, when single and divorced women are stigmatized, and when there is every likelihood that a single mother with children will struggle to survive financially, there are reasons why white women may not to want to take the abuse of women seriously.
In a powerful blog titled “Dear Democrats. Wake Up and Smell the Black Coffee. We Remember,” Denise Oliver Velez argues that the Alabama election shows that Democratic Party strategy of trying to reach out to disaffected white voters (males and the females who follow their lead) is a failed strategy. She writes:
Instead of chasing the white working class bigots who voted for Trump due to so-called income insecurity—I have been saying for years that the Democratic Party needs to focus major efforts on getting black folks their voting rights.
There is nothing progressive about ignoring black Democrats.
I agree. Instead of seeking to convert the elusive “dissatisfied white voter,” the Democrats should be focusing their efforts on making sure that all Democratic voters have all of their papers in place to be eligible to vote in elections in states where voter suppression efforts have been installed as law. Voter suppression and intimidation targets poor black voters and also the elderly and students. To ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote is able to vote will require a massive effort long before elections are scheduled to help people find or request the necessary papers and to drive them to DMV or other offices that are no longer easily accessible in order to secure voter ID cards. It will also require driving voters to and from polling places that are no longer in their neighborhoods on election day or teaching them how to take advantage of early voting and absentee ballots. And it will require being present at polling places to ensure that voter intimidation does not occur. This kind of grass roots organizing paid off in Alabama.
Beyond that it means making the needs of black voters central in election campaigns and continuing to take them seriously after the elections are won. And yes, let’s elect more black women, both locally and nationally–for they are the true heart and soul of the Democratic party!
This is the real day-to-day work that needs to be done. Democrats and progressives, take heed!
*Not all white women think the same way: in Alabama the other 35% of women voters chose Jones or wrote in another name; there are indications that some higher income and better educated white Republican women voted for Jones or stayed home, perhaps for the first time making a different choice than their husbands.
* * *
Carol’s new book written with Judith Plaskow, is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology.
Join Carol on the life-transforming and mind-blowing Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. It could change your life! Spring tour filled, sign up now for Fall 2018.
Carol’s photo by Michael Honegger