Are women breaking for Republicans?

If the recent New York Times poll is right, women are breaking for Republicans in the midterm election.

While the paper of record doesn’t explicitly break down the race or ethnicity of the women polled, it can be a safe bet that the polling shift comes mainly from white women.

Women, as a group, have been voting for Democrats over Republicans since 1982 – the year exit polling started breaking down voters into groups. It’s usually the nonwhite women combined with a large minority of white women that pushes that group to the Democratic side.

White women, in general, have been voting Republican for a while, but not in as large numbers as their male counterparts. Barack Obama won 46 percent of white women’s vote and 41 percent of white men. Al Gore won almost half of white women’s vote with 48 percent.

So what is motivating white women, an important part of the loose-knit Obama coalition, to go Republican this year in larger numbers? Is it the anti-Obama rhetoric, which is infused with racism?

And perhaps more difficult to answer, why would any woman vote for candidates who are in direct opposition to policies that could benefit women, like minimum wage, a woman’s right to reproductive health, breast cancer research, protections for the disabled, civil rights, job creation or pay equity?

Or why support candidates that attract campaign workers who would throw down and brutalize a woman because they don’t agree with her? Like what happened to a female supporter when she exercised her First Amendment rights at a Rand Paul event in Kentucky.

But that doesn’t seem to be on some of the poll respondents’ minds. The New York Times conducted a follow-up interview with respondent Judy Berg, an independent from Morton Grove, Ill. She said she voted for Obama in 2008 because she was “looking for a change.” But she doesn’t agree with Obama’s kind of change.

This year Berg, who is a registered nurse, said she likes the Republicans better because she is pro-life. Plus, she said, “I’m also looking at the immigration issues and the tax issues. I like the Republican agenda on these issues better than the Democratic agenda.”

For some reason, perhaps the always present yet always elusive idea that you will get rich, the tax hike on millionaires and billionaires has lost some popularity, according to The Times. Perhaps Berg is reflecting that in her comments about “tax issues” or it could be the state of Illinois budget crisis as well.

But it’s the immigration issue that – more than others – could be fueling the white women shift to the right. The tea party/Republicans have been clever in recruiting other white women to go on the offensive on this issue: Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Michele Bachman, Christine O’Donnell, Linda McMahon, Jan Brewer, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, to name a few.

According to the Times, more than 25 percent of respondents said they were willing to back a candidate with views that “seem extreme.”

Sharron Angle is the face of the most extreme and racist take on immigrants and Latinos to date.

Julianne Hing of writes, “Grainy, high-contrast images of thuggish Latino-looking men wearing baggy jeans and doo rags mug at the camera, while innocent white babes squeal in their kindergarten classrooms like defenseless prey. All the while a menacing voiceover worthy of a summer-blockbuster trailer spells out the threat: Those scary immigrants, whose presence in the country is enabled by Democratic Sen. Harry Reid.”

Joy Behar of “The View” had a throw down on national TV with Angle’s racism – twice.

Getting some flack for calling Angle a “bitch,” she didn’t back down, telling the audience, “You know what’s offensive? Watching those ads, and watching people who work for a living made to look like villains. That’s what’s offensive. Not what I said. Let’s get that straight, America.”

Rachel Maddow of msnbc travelled to Nevada and compared the atmosphere of racism towards Latinos similar to the legal segregation of Black people in the Jim Crow South.

She said, “When we as a country look back on the 2010 elections we will look back at Sharron Angle vs Harry Reid…and we will not believe this is really 2010 and this was really Nevada and this was not 1964 in the Deep South.”

Now Angle’s campaign is accusing Reid of plotting to steal the election with “ACORN-style tactics” (more racist fear-mongering).The campaign gives not one shred of evidence to support the claim. But they are raising money to deploy “literally dozens of election law attorneys and poll watchers to combat these tactics.”

Translation: lawyers and other thugs challenging every black or brown voter, every college student or person with a union logo on their clothing. Other GOP candidates are planning similar vote suppression schemes.

Meanwhile, this tea party/GOP/corporate cabal is ganging up on a number of women politicians, targeting them for defeat, like Senators Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray, along with House members. And perhaps the most vilified woman in the country is history-maker House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

These anti-women candidates, including Angle, are being back by a host of billionaires and Wall Street interests. Interestingly enough, NPR recently uncovered another profit-making entity backing anti-immigrant legislation: private prisons. The industry actually helped to draft and pass Arizona’s infamous Senate Bill 1070, from which they stand to gain hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Polls are just a moment in time. The real poll will take place Nov. 2, and hopefully women voters will reject the racism and fear-mongering.

Photo: Women union members make calls to get out the vote in Illinois at a labor phonebank. (John Bachtell/PW)


Teresa Albano
Teresa Albano

Teresa Albano was the first woman editor-in-chief of People’s World, 2003-2010, leading the transition from weekly print to daily online publishing and establishing PW’s social media presence. Albano has been a staff writer for People’s World covering political, labor and social justice issues for more than 25 years. She traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad, including India, Cuba, Angola, Italy, and to Paris to cover the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. An award-winning journalist, Albano has been honored for her writing by International Labor Communications Association, National Federation of Press Women and Illinois Woman Press Association.