Lindsey Graham Knows What White Ladies Want
Senator Lindsey Graham has lamented that his party performed "fairly poorly with suburban women in some of these House districts." This is the canny political observation of a seasoned operator who watched dozens of Republican seats in the suburbs fall to Democrats. The running GOP theory leading up to the midterms was that the districts that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 but switched to Hillary Clinton in 2016 did so only because of an aversion to Donald Trump. Without Trump himself on the ballot in 2018, these areas would remain loyal to Republican candidates. This did not happen.
We all recognize that "suburban women" is code for white women, specifically well-off, well-educated white women who are probably watching "This Is Us" right now. So, when the election returns came in from suburban districts on election night, it was clear that this prized demographic had fled Trump's party.
According to CNN exit polls, Democrats nationally tied Republicans with white women. Trump narrowly won them in 2016. Even worse for the GOP, Democrats won college-educated white women by 20 points. Clinton only carried that group by 7 points. Republicans have to do better among white women because they already lose every minority demo, and they can't just run up large margins among angry white men and hope to have any real value proposition in a representative government.
If Graham is in any way shocked by these events, it only demonstrates how little Republican men think of white women, even the ones who live in their own zip codes. You'll recall in the distant past of last October, Republicans confirmed someone credibly accused of sexual assault to the Supreme Court. They also treated his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, like garbage they suspected had once belonged to Barack Obama. This irritated a lot of once and no longer future Republican women.
They didn't have to go to the mattresses for
Rapey McGrossface Brett Kavanaugh. He was already unpopular before Dr. Blasey came forward, and because multiple sexual assault allegations rarely have a positive PR benefit, he was historically unpopular when he freaked out on national television, vowed revenge against his enemies, and confessed to ordering the "code red." Graham's hyperbolic rant that ditching Kavanaugh would result a socialist dystopia didn't hold much water when all evidence indicated the GOP would hold the Senate this year. No matter what Republicans claimed, it was never Kavanaugh or young, time-traveling Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was Kavanaugh or Amy Coney Barrett, who was waiting in the wings and knew all her lines.
The GOP wanted to keep the angry white guys happy and deny liberals the "win" of not confirming alleged sexual predators to the Supreme Court. Trump claimed it was a "scary time for young men," but election night became a scary time for Republican men of all ages when suburban women helped knock them down a few pegs. Republicans were banking on these women following in the shameful footsteps of Senator Susan Collins but they thankfully went the more respectable route of Lisa Murkowski.
Graham said Republicans have to "address the suburban women problem, because it's real," but he has no real solution. Does anyone think they'll actually alter their policies and rhetoric? Or will they keep demonizing Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters? When Mitt Romney lost in 2012, after performing poorly among Hispanic voters, Graham talked a big game about how Republicans should support immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.
Graham: "If we don't pass immigration reform , if we don't get it off the table in a reasonable, practical way, it doesn't matter who you run in 2016... We're in a demographic death spiral as a party, and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community, in my view, is pass comprehensive immigration reform. If you don't do that, it really doesn't matter who will run, in my view."
If you'll recall, the GOP nominee in 2016 was Donald Trump, who ran and won on a viciously anti-immigration platform that was basically "No More Brown People." Given this precedent, if Graham's expressing concern about losing suburban women, we can expect a red wave of Republican candidates in 2020 whose platform is basically "No More Fat Chicks."
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He recently fled Seattle, where he did theatre work for Book-It Rep and Cafe Nordo.