with her speech, or rather with what was missing from it, [Sarah] Palin drew attention to the biggest fault line in the election: the huge chasm between mostly white, married women, and the less white, overall less affluent, but far more progressive unmarried women.
Although, I would argue that by not making this a big issue, the mass media also ignored this chasm. But given that they ignore just about everything of substance, let’s not focus on that…
It is not surprising to me that Palin ignored us: We don’t fit into her archaic view of the world that resembles the separate spheres of the Victorian age (apparently those old-fashioned gender-definitions do not apply to Palin herself). Palin – and the McCain campaign – is ignoring the economic realities of single women who
account for 59 percent of low-wage earners — those making less than $8 an hour — and, on average, still earn only 77 cents for every dollar a white man earns. That figure shrinks to 63 cents on the dollar for African-American women and 53 cents for Hispanic women.
And these women are paying attention to the issues, not just the rhetoric. At least that’s what a survey conducted by Greenberg Research found: Unmarried women stressed that Palin “did not sufficiently address key issues in their lives.” Overall, 46% of married women were more likely to vote for McCain after he picked Palin compared to only 33% of unmarried women.
So, what are progressives, including the Democrats, to do? Well, they need to do a better job reaching out to us single women! The most important thing will be to convince us to go to the polls. Although single women tend to vote Democratic by large margins (as Hazen points out, up to a 33 percent margin), we’re “underrepresented in the electorate.” To me, it seems rather simple on how to motivate unmarried women to go to the polls: Bring up the issues that directly affect us and provide child care as well as other help to enable single mothers to go to the polls. Hazen lists a few of the issues affecting single women:
- More than 40 percent of single women have household incomes of $30,000 or less;
- Single women make 56 cents on every dollar that a married man makes;
- Single women are less likely than married people to have health coverage;
- More than 10 million are single moms with children at home.
As so often, though, the Democrats let the Republicans define the story. Instead of claiming our own definition of family, we’re trying to bend over backwards to fit into the traditional family model (and, yes, that would include the issue of gay marriage, which is a rather regressive idea, which will not stop me from voting No on Prop 8 – a proposition that would constitutionalize discrimination in California). Here are just two ways we can take back the story and make it our own: Being an unmarried woman is okay; there are lots of ways a family can be defined – it doesn’t have to include two adults and a kid.
The pay-off for Democrats (and the rest of us) could potentially be huge, as Hazen summarizes:
Since overall single women make up 26 percent of total voting-age population, if you do the simple arithmetic, they are the group primed for the biggest growth among progressives and the electorate at large. It’s time to reach out and motivate.
Hopefully, the Obama campaign will see the light on this one and start actively reach out to single women voters. This election is way too important to leave out, oh, about 50 million voters.