August 11, 2014

Women Have the Power to Terrify Congress & Create Change. ~ Deborah Montesano

women holding hands statue

That the current Congress is totally worthless, as far as doing their jobs, isn’t news.

It’s more like a sick, sick joke.

The consequences of their actions/inactions are self-defeating. The Grand Old Party (The Republican Party) in Congress should especially be terrified. People of color and young adults have great reason to oppose GOP policies and to vote accordingly, but single women are the biggest faction the party should fear.

Last November, single women handed victory to Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. His conservative Republican opponent had a record of opposing reproductive rights—a fact that McAuliffe emphasized throughout his campaign. The Democrat won by a bare two percentage points in the overall count. However, among single women, he won by 42 points (1).

At the same time that the GOP is licking its chops over the prospect of controlling both houses of Congress, it has been waging an all-out war against the fastest growing segment of voters in the country.

There are now almost as many single women of voting age as there are of either married men or married women.

Not only do these women vote Democratic in overwhelming numbers, but they’re angry. Many of them are single mothers, trying to make ends meet, but Congressional Republicans are determined to deprive them in ways that hit them hard in the pocketbook—by a refusal to raise the minimum wage, to institute wage equality, to provide either affordable contraception or child care, or to give them the safety nets of unemployment benefits, food stamps and financial assistance that would allow them to further themselves through education.

Plus, it is the GOP that has installed so many white, male, Roman Catholic Supreme Court justices (five) that conservatism on the court is relentlessly strangling hard-won rights for which women fought since the founding of the nation. A Republican-dominated Congress could well be in a position to confirm future Supreme Court nominees.

Undoubtedly, as women examine these facts, Republicans should be very afraid.

However, Democrats also face a problem in this November’s election. Even though one-fourth of eligible voters in the country are unmarried women, they don’t turn out to the polls in the midterm elections in the same numbers as in a presidential election. The Democratic Party is keenly aware of the fact.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research has recently come out with a study (2) that is allowing them to hone their message to single women. The study found that when the message is an empathetic one, focused on an economic agenda, unmarried women “shift from +17 Democratic margin to +31 and their turnout increases by ten points.” Turnout would be most affected by the “GOP attitude toward equal pay” and “GOP attacks on Obamacare and economic policies”.

While minority voters tend to be concentrated in certain areas and are certainly sparse in the most heavily red parts of the country, single women exist everywhere, able to vote in every district, in every state. But the difficulty with turning them out is that they often are highly stressed and focused on economic survival to the detriment of paying attention to politics.

The Sacramento Bee states that:

This year’s ‘Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink’ reported that one in three American women lives on or over the brink of poverty—or is churning in and out of it. (3)

The research is helping Democrats utilize the same strategy that worked in 2013’s off-year gubernatorial race in Virginia for this year’s election.

They are reaching out to unmarried women in every way possible (1)—by phone, email, online and through personal contact. Their emphasis is on the resistance of Republicans in Washington to the bread-and-butter issues that are crucial to women. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood are among the groups making a concerted effort to contact women, provide them with information on voter’s registration and follow-up with them from now until the election.

A personal touch is crucial to getting women’s attention.

That’s the way women tend to network, in smaller more intimate ways than men do. In pivotal states, the effort to knock on doors and establish one-on-one contact could well turn the tide in Democrats’ favor.

Women know that their welfare depends on Democratic victories; today’s Republicans are not their friends. They also need to know that each and every vote is absolutely vital to accomplishing those victories. In every way possible, women need to help other women in the effort.

A supportive sisterhood, working to get women to the polls, could make all the difference in November—and reshape Congress in the process.

(1) To Hold Senate, Democrats Rely on Single Women. The New York Times. 2 July 2014.

(2) Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. June 2014.

(3) Karen Skelton: A rising power in American electoral politics—unmarried women. The Sacremento Bee. 6 July 2014

(4) How Do Women Network Differently From Men? The Next Women. 20 September 2012

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Apprentice Editor: Yaisa Nio / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Flickr / Valerie Everett

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