Ever since the controversial election of Donald Trump, my Instagram feed has been littered with posts about the rise of the woman in politics. More specifically, I have seen calls for women to vote Donald Trump and his supporters out of office, perhaps most notably during the 2017 Women’s March. What I see in these posts and signs, protests and speeches, is a common theme of women refusing to accept sexist politicians, policies, or businessmen any longer. By all appearances, women are far beyond frustrated; I have seen signs and captions such as, “raising our children to tear down your wall,” “keep your tiny hands off my rights,” “OMG, GOP, WTF?”, or my personal favorite, “we are the granddaughters of the witches you tried to burn.”
These slogans and rhetoric suggest that women feel oppressed by the party of Donald Trump, and they will not stand for it any longer. But are American women as fed up with sexism as they seem, and do they really feel that the GOP is to blame? I have wondered if all the buzz regarding a female blue wave is just wishful thinking on the part of American liberals. However, after reviewing the results of the 2018 midterm elections, it is clear that American women are, in fact, moving decidedly to the left.
According to political data blog FiveThirtyEight, during the midterm elections, 59 percent of women voted for Democrats. Women voted Democrat by a margin of 19 percentage points, nearly double the margin of 2016. While men as a group swung left in 2018 as well, women voted a full 23 points more Democratic than did men.
White women voters comprised a large part of the shift, as non-white women have long tended to vote for Democrats. In 2016, white women voted for Republicans by a 12 point margin (55 percent). However, this year during the midterms, white women were split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Furthermore, although white women overall voted more left than in years past, educational attainment was a still more significant indicator of voting behavior. White women with a college degree voted for Democrats by 20 points, while white women without a college degree voted Republican by a 14 point margin. It appears that the Women’s Marchers of 2017 are making good on their promises to upend the Republican establishment, but without the help of one faction: white women without college degrees.
In the past, American men have tended to vote based on economic issues, while women consider a wider array of social issues in choosing candidates. I see the movement of white women to the left as a result of outrage over the Republican party mishandling issues of sexual harassment and assault. For example, the Republican establishment’s reaction to the Kavanaugh hearings was not well executed. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch exasperatedly told female protesters to “grow up,” many representatives were reluctant to even hold a hearing, and during the hearing many appeared to have already decided how to vote. As the Kavanaugh hearings gripped the nation, I wonder if many white American women saw their own experience represented by Dr. Ford. The new emphasis in American politics on gender equality perhaps pushed a new faction of women to the left, although the influence of education on white women’s voting preferences remains an enigma.
The role of women in politics is changing, and it has real implications for both the Democrat and Republican parties. During the midterms, the country elected a record number of women to Congress. However, 30 of the 31 women elected are Democrats, and at least one Republican woman (Mia Love) lost her seat to a male Democratic candidate (Ben McAdams). It is time for the Republican party to step up and prove to doubting constituents that they will not stand for sexism in their party in any form, much less from the president. Otherwise, Republican leadership may soon find that time’s up.