Naomi Schaefer Riley
Monday, November 14, 2016
Killing the ‘SISTERHOOD’: Why Identity Politics Didn’t Work
Naomi Schaefer Riley
Sisterhood is dead. If the left learns nothing else from this election, perhaps they should understand that there’s no such thing as female solidarity — not, at least, as they envision it.
Sure, it was kind of cute to see all the women waiting in line at Susan B. Anthony’s grave to place their “I voted” stickers on the headstone, but it turns out they weren’t a very good gauge of female enthusiasm for the female candidate. Neither, for that matter, are the pantsuit portraits on Facebook.
Rather, in a race between a feminist icon and a man who could generously be called a chauvinist, women voters were remarkably torn. It’s true that the gender gap was about 12 points, the largest since 1972, but, as a report from Pew points out, “it is not dramatically higher than in some other recent elections, including the 2000 contest between Bush and Al Gore.” Neither the fact that Hillary is a woman nor the fact that Donald Trump insults women seemed to have much of an effect.
Hillary lost white women but won women of other races. Which isn’t surprising, because race has long been a better predictor of how people will vote than gender. Black men voted overwhelmingly for Hillary — and black women did, too. Hispanic men voted for Hillary — and so did Hispanic women. Class, level of educational attainment and geography are all better predictors of how you’ll vote than sex, says Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
It’s also true that women, as a group, don’t have that much in common. Their experiences in life and their views on policy issues tend to be shaped more by whether they went to college, whether they live in a city or suburb or rural area, whether they live in a blue state or red state, how much money they make and how they identify themselves racially and ethnically.
Women might roll their eyes with strangers about the long lines for the ladies room or the bad behavior of the guy at the bar. They might exchange knowing glances about what it’s like to be pregnant in July, but these aren’t real bonds and they don’t determine how you will vote.
Democrats have for years harped about women’s issues, but women’s issues are really not much different from anyone else’s issues. Women care about taxes and the economy and the cost of health care. They worry about national security and religious freedom and public education.
Republicans have traditionally won married women and Democrats have won single women. While it looks like Hillary may have won the former by a percentage point or two, there’s still a huge gap between them.
Truth be told, your marital status is a much better indicator of your life experience and ideological positions. In her recent book “All the Single Ladies,” Rebecca Traister suggests that this could be a growing voting bloc — since women are getting married later, if at all.
And Democrats will always do well with them because they’re the ones — having no second adult to help support a family — who are most interested in and dependent on government assistance for income, retirement, childcare, etc.
Democrats will always get some significant segment of the women’s vote. But it won’t be because they’re women.
When women were genuinely oppressed — before they could vote, before they could own property, before they could have the same access to education or the same opportunities in the workplace — it might have been possible to appeal to them as a bloc, even as a movement.
But in an era where women get a greater percentage of the college degrees and women without children earn more than their male counterparts, most women don’t see themselves as victims, let alone ones who need to join hands in solidarity.
In Slate, Michelle Goldberg writes that Hillary’s “victory would have been a sign that the gender hierarchy that has always been fundamental to our society . . . was starting to crumble. It would have meant that men no longer rule.” She laments, “I thought my daughter was not going to be consigned to a lesser life than my son. I no longer do.”
Oh, please. If anyone besides a few liberal elites believed that, Hillary would have won.