Relying on white suburban women using the midterms as a referendum on Republican excess is a loser’s bet. This seems obvious to anyone who paid attention to the 2016 election (or the last six decades of electoral history), but it’s also what comes across in this Politico piece delving into a contentious house race in North Carolina where a young, moderate Democrat by the name of Dan McCready is up against a bible-thumping Trumpite, Republican Mark Harris.
Reporter Michael Kruse went to the state’s ninth district—which stretches east to west from Charlotte to Fayetteville—in search of the much discussed and supposedly politically consequential suburban white woman, a voting bloc that pundits, talking heads, and strategists have argued can make or break the outcome of certain elections this time around.
A lot is apparently riding on this suburban woman who perhaps voted for President Trump, but after two years has grown frustrated with his boorish antics and the dishonesty of his administration. She’s willing to admit she made a mistake with her vote, that her worse case scenario of a Trump administration has far exceeded her worst expectations. She’s looking for a less nasty discourse. She’s ready for a change.
But what Democrats really need to contend with is the fact that she might not exist, at least not in the numbers they hope she does.
While Kruse spoke with various white suburban women in North Carolina’s ninth district who were Republican or Independent and plan to vote for McCready with enthusiasm, none of the enthused McCready supporters he spoke with voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Of the two women he spoke with who voted for Trump and may be voting for the Democratic challenger in their district’s congressional race, they’re doing so with little gusto:
Two years ago, she told me, she was more against Hillary Clinton than she was for Trump. She likes what Trump’s done with the economy and his stance on immigration but loathes the way he behaves. She flips back and forth between CNN and MSNBC and Fox News and isn’t sure whom or what to trust. She likes McCready. She respects [McCready’s] military service and appreciates that he’s more moderate and not “a fiery liberal.” But she worries. What if her vote is the vote that swings this district? And what if this is the district that swings the House? That result, she fears, would lead to a stalling of what she thinks are the good parts of the president’s agenda, and also, she suspects, would intensify the exhausting and exasperating partisanship she sees in Washington.
“It’s very deflating and overwhelming,” she sighed.
And this…. is what some Democrats hope to build their electoral strategy around.
The sentiment of ambivalence—liking Trump’s racist and classist policies but apparently not his manners—was repeated by the other lone Trump voter Kraus spoke to who refuses to vote for Harris due to his “antiquated views on women” and is leaning McCready:
She told me about her mixed thoughts about Trump, about her frustrations with the news coverage of his administration, about her utter exasperation with what she considers the extremist politics on both sides that are ripping the country apart, about her desire for more moderates, about how that’s what she sees in McCready, about her daughters and how she doesn’t want them to have to put up with sexism and harassment at the office or anywhere else, and about the very real weight that she feels as a swing voter in a swing district in 2018.
But she admits she probably won’t make up her mind entirely until election day.
“If I vote for [McCready],” she said, “what’s that going to mean in the bigger picture—if he gets elected? And that’s where I struggle.”
But what if, instead of hanging their electoral hopes on white women voters who have—for more than a half century—sent Republicans to Washington, Democrats embraced policies that would energize and build a base around a more reliable bloc: people of color, people who feel like the political process isn’t for them, young people. This feels especially important in a state like North Carolina, which has a political process poisoned by gerrymandering and obscene voter disenfranchisement.
If these white suburban women reluctantly vote Democrat in the midterms, great. But again, you’d be a sucker to put your hope there.
It doesn’t appear to be Trump’s actual policies that concern these white women Trump voters—it’s pure personality. Their discomfort is empty. If Trump could package himself more like “respectable” Paul Ryan or “aw chucks” Ben Sasse, we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place.
Read the rest of the Politico piece here.