White women have historically voted for their party, but that trend seems to be shifting. Following the 2018 midterm elections, we’re seeing a change for the first time.
Immediately following the 2016 presidential election, the Left was overwhelmingly fearful of how far Trumpism would go and the Right was optimistic about the “MAGA” promises Trump peddled to his base. Within Trump’s first 100 days in office, there were more jaw-dropping headlines than in many presidents’ entire terms, and the two years that followed have seen huge swathes of people mortally afraid of what catastrophic legislation lurked around the corner. But, with the absolute chaos and much irreparable destruction, many progressives are redefining who we want to be as a country.
The women’s marches of 2017 functioned as spaces for like-minded progressives to rally together to show our opposition to Trump. They helped to bring long-standing racial and socio-economic issues to the forefront of our collective consciousness. Kevin Banatte took a photo at the D.C. march of three white women wearing pink pussy hats, standing on a ledge, completely absorbed by their phones, while activist Angela Peoples stood in front of them, over to the side, holding a sign that read “Don’t Forget: White Women Voted for TRUMP.” And they did. That’s to say, the vast majority of individual white women I know did not vote for him, but as a national demographic, more than half of them did, ringing in at 53 percent. One hundred percent had the opportunity to vote for the first-ever woman president and only a fraction did. In essence, white women have always historically voted for their party—not their gender.
The 2018 midterm elections, however, saw a change in this. One CNN Exit Poll showed that 49 percent of white women voted for Democratic candidates and another 49 percent voted Republican. Although this shift seems small, it isn’t. It reveals that since the 2017 women’s marches, white women are starting to get it. They’re leaving the Republican party and voting more in line with their gender and for legislation that benefits minorities. The reasons for this are difficult to fully determine, of course, but a few key events have likely played a role. For example, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony in front of the Supreme Court Judiciary Committee—the recounting of her gruesome assault to a room filled with people, the majority of whom were white men, which ultimately failed to prevent the Committee from confirming an alleged rapist. Her race and socioeconomic status hold great importance in this instance because she is a privileged white woman who’s had an exceptionally successful career as a psychology professor, while also balancing her role as a mother of two children, and she was still no match for the Republican-majority Senate. If they won’t take her word seriously enough, whose word would they? A white man’s, Kavanaugh’s.
Ultimately, all Republican senators voted to confirm Kavanaugh in spite of Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony while only one Democrat voted yes. This is yet another example of how painfully clear it is that the Republican party does not prioritize women’s interests or rights—regardless of race. If women want a government to reflect our diverse experiences—both good and bad—and enact legislation that directly meets our needs, we need more diverse women in decision-making positions. And that’s exactly what’s happening. There are now more women serving in Congress than ever before, with several “firsts” in the elected congressional body: Abby Finkenauer and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are the two youngest women ever elected to Congress; Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland are the first Native American women ever elected; Ayanna Pressley is Massachusetts’ first-ever black woman elected; and Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are the first-ever Muslim women elected. Congress has never looked this diverse.
So while the past two years have felt like a decade, and while we still have two years left with the Trump administration, there is hope for what women will accomplish for the duration of his term. Many of the incredible changes that have happened since 2016 are in large part because white women are finally seeing that the Republican party does not support their needs and rights as women. And if we want to improve our universal status, all women need to vote in our collective best interest—regardless of party.