Suburban Women Getting to Work

During a campaign rally in Michigan on Tuesday, Trump promised women, “We're getting your husbands back to work.”

This outdated and clearly sexist appeal to suburban women occurs against the backdrop of changing female voting patterns in this demographic. An episode of The Daily this week titled “The Field: Why Suburban Women Changed Their Minds” explores how many white suburban women have become mobilized against Trump. The podcast focuses on a group in Ohio called “Red, Wine and Blue” which is hoping to swing the election for Joe Biden. The group appeals to women who voted for third party candidates or for Trump in the previous election, as well as existing democratic voters. In exploring why so many women from different political backgrounds have not only changed their minds but become political organizers, the podcast uncovers that these women have gone through deep political transformations. These transformations often occurred for deeply personal reasons. Many of these women are mothers and discuss how they do not want their children to grow up in a world with Trump as president. These emotive factors did not end with disdain for Trump but have led to increased political conversations and mobilizations. Women who, before this election, did not spend significant time engaging in politics now meet to have political discussions, to encourage female voter turnout, and to publicly display political beliefs. This shift in suburban female voters has not only occurred in Ohio but across the country.

It is still unclear whether this trend of political engagement among white women is just a phase. Whether it is or not, it is worth paying attention to how the Republican party seems to be more and more out of step with suburban women every day. Trump’s comment at the Michigan rally was not just a single outlandish claim, but rather a representation of the party’s appeal to women. The idea of women relying on their husbands to provide for them and the government to protect them comes straight from the 1950s. It does not acknowledge the cultural shifts that have occurred which make women unlikely to relate to that messaging. It does not acknowledge the increase in women in the workplace or the increase in politically engaged white women. It sees suburban women solely as housewives.

This lack of cultural change in the Republican party has to do a lot with representation. While there are 127 women in Congress (in the House and the Senate combined), only 22 of them are Republican. In a party run predominantly by men, it is not surprising that women are reduced to a 1950s caricature. In a party run by men, it is not surprising that women are not seen as legitimate political actors. It is not surprising that the party’s presidential candidate is accused of multiple cases of sexual misconduct.

Without female representation, political bodies cannot represent the will of women. They will not understand female cultural shifts, values, and interests, and they will not adapt to do so. The Republican party has chosen to remain stagnant. As a result, it is driving away what it once considered a reliable part of its base: white suburban women.