One would think that after losing not one, not two, but four special elections since Donald Trump won the White House in November, Democrats would begin to consider the fact that their strategy needs work. Before the latest race, a special House election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district to replace Tom Price, who was tapped by President Trump to run the Department of Health and Human Services, Democrats had hopes of flipping the district, which has been Republican-held since 1979, the longest-held district by one party in the state.
But let’s rewind for a moment. How did Democrats think they were going to win the Presidential election? Winning over women voters was a crucial component, and with the nomination of the first woman Presidential candidate, liberals seemed to believe some good old identity politics was going to suffice. Combined with President Trump’s history of crude comments about women, liberals thought the election was in the bag, especially with women. That’s what Hillary was counting on—total allegiance based on gender—and she played up the fact that she was a woman whenever possible. The party of Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy really ought to have known better.
Writing at the FiveThirtyEight blog, Clare Malone explains how Hillary failed to secure the crucial white women’s vote:
Suffragette white. Hillary Clinton wore it in the biggest moments of her campaign: when she clinched the Democratic primary, when she accepted her party’s nomination, when she made her final debate appearance. The subtle sartorial symbolism was paired with the more explicit campaign message of Clinton as a tireless striver for women and families. Throughout these many months, the Clinton team made it clear that they believed her historic candidacy had the potential to sway portions of the electorate, most especially women voters. They were counting in no small part on the support of sisterhood.
But Clinton’s stunning loss Tuesday night showed that issues of culture and class mattered more to many American women than their gender. The sisterhood, as real sisterhood tends to be, turned out to be riddled with complications.
Post-election, liberals still haven’t figured out that there might be something wrong with their message. Less than a month after the attempted assassination of a member of Congress at an Arlington, Virginia, baseball field (Rep. Steve Scalise was targeted because he was a high-ranking Republican) Senator Elizabeth Warren accused Republican members of the Senate of killing Americans in order to appease the rich. On Twitter, she captioned a video about her opposition to the Republican health care bill with “This is blood money. They are paying for tax cuts with American lives.”
Instead of acknowledging that perhaps Americans in favor of repealing ObamaCare base their opposition on the fact that they’ve lost countless plans and seen skyrocketing premium increases, Democrats are banking on the same tired identity politics that lost them the 2016 Presidential election (along with control of the Senate).
Writing in New York Magazine’s The Cut blog just before the special election in Georgia, Hillary superfan Rebecca Traister floated the idea that Trump’s election had “snapped” white suburban women to political consciousness. Guess which party affiliation Traister assumes these women espouse?
In their nascent activism there are echoes of another American moment in which middle-class white women snapped to political consciousness. When describing their past inertia and isolation, these activists often sound more than a little bit like Betty Friedan, who wrote in the first paragraph of The Feminist Mystique about the “strange stirring,” and “sense of dissatisfaction [and] yearning” that “each suburban wife struggled with …alone.” Then, as now, white middle-class women were following a path that had been first blazed by women of color, many of whom had been making the same arguments as Friedan decades in advance of her best seller, women who have been the activist, hard-working base of the Democratic party and progressive resistance well in advance of the 2016 election.
The Georgia election was a litmus test for this new “feminist movement.” In the 2016 election, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by just one percent; in the special election, Republican Karen Handel beat Democrat Jon Ossoff by three percent in what became the most expensive House race in American history. Even after dumping piles of money into a campaign to elect a man with few ties to the district and trying to spin a narrative about an overwhelming sea change of political affiliations in a post-Trump world, if we’re using this Georgia district as any kind of litmus test, little has changed between November and June.
Perhaps it’s time for Democrats to accept the fact that they will need to do more than deploy celebrity robocalls, incendiary tweets, and accusations of homicidal intent by their opponents in order to win elections. It turns out women are just like every other subset of voters, and they require more than identity politics to be swayed at the ballot box. Considering the fact that liberals extol the incredible power and intelligence of women at every opportunity, they should perhaps acknowledge that there are many who refuse to succumb to peer pressure and group-think about voting along with the rest of the “sisterhood.”