Women Voters’ Evolution Becomes a Revolution

October 23, 2020 | Swanee Hunt

This piece was originally published here on The Boston Globe.

In recent days, what has long been seen as a gender gap in American politics has become a gender chasm. With every passing news cycle, President Trump and his alarming allies drive more and more women over the edge — and into the willing arms of the Democratic Party.

An analysis published in February by the Brookings Institution forecast that a seismic shift would soon rock American elections: women turning to the Democratic Party in droves. That’s happening now, and the authors, Morley Winograd and Michael Hais, predict it’s unstoppable.

“If women turn out, [Democratic nominee Joe] Biden wins,” they state, noting that women (versus men) favor him by 1.6 to 1 and more than 2 to 1 among certain interrelated groups, including Black, Latina, college graduates, and suburban women. They characterize Biden’s gains among women as a rejection of the sitting president with unprecedented size and scope. Women have had it with Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, gender disparities, and racial justice. They don’t want him to end the Affordable Care Act. Even on the economy, where Trump leads overall, Biden has an edge among women.

After Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat, the global Women’s March was the first surge leftward. Two years later, a political stampede defined the results of the congressional elections. Women voters favored Democrats by almost 20 points, and women winners flipped the House from red to blue.

Fast forward. A recent CNN poll places women’s preference for Biden at an historic two-to-one. It’s virtually impossible, say Winograd and Hais, that Trump (and probably many down-ballot Republicans) can win if women show up and vote.

Will they carry through? Yes. For years now, women have been organizing in unparalleled ways and at unprecedented scale. Among the many organizations, MomsRising is powering a multimillion voter mobilization. The new kid on the block is Supermajority, led by Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, with another astounding million troops. Via a massive campaign of texts, phone calls, and letters, this grassroots community is urging a diverse two million women in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona to get to the polls.

Oprah Winfrey has launched OWN Your Vote, a collaboration with the NAACP, Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote, and a galaxy of other political stars. In a recent webinar joined by 20,000, Oprah noted that coordination among Black sororities — with alumnae long known for political as well as professional influence — could be the first alliance of its kind. To reach Latinas, actress Eva Longoria is adding her star power to America Ferrera’s for the new platform She Se Puede. On its launch day, they attracted 57,000 followers.

The women aren’t alone. Their greatest help comes from Trump. Suburban moms are rejecting his racist fear-mongering about menacing invasions of Black and brown agitators. As infector-in-chief, his campaign rallies, where most supporters don’t wear masks or socially distance, have turned into petri dishes for the spread of COVID-19, a relentless reminder of the hardship blighting the lives of women and their families. They don’t like his attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In the face of Trump’s mendacity about how good things are, our nation’s family doc is telling us how bad they are. Ironically, the trusted bearer of bad tidings is our comfort.

Beth Silvers, “Pantsuit Politics” podcaster and suburban mom, said she is “enraged” by Trump’s cavalier attitude toward the pandemic. “When he said a remote debate is a waste of time,” she lamented, “he told us that our Herculean effort to educate our children remotely doesn’t matter. My friends and I have long thought this administration incompetent. We now realize ‘incompetent’ is generous.”

And then there are the latest displays of his abiding misogyny…. “What was he thinking?” asked one CNN commentator after Trump called vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris a “communist” and a “monster.” And what about the contrast between him and “that woman,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer? (It was somehow her fault for being targeted in a foiled kidnapping plot.) Unlike her poise under pressure, when the crowd at a Trump campaign rally in Michigan yelled their stale “Lock her up!” he bellowed, “Lock ’em all up!”

This last stretch is tough. Really tough. But so are the women who are plowing past the traumatic 2016 election to push forward, full force, regardless of the inevitable vagaries of polling data.

We’re witnessing an evolution morph into revolution. Just 11 days after we lost Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we said farewell to another iconic voice of feminism. Next month, women will be echoing the words of Helen Reddy: “I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.”