« 2006 Outlook | Main | GOP Losing Grip on Senate? »

More on Women Voters

by Ruy Teixeira

Last week, I offered some very general thoughts on women voters and the progressive coalition. For a data-rich analysis of this issue that usefully breaks the women’s vote into a number of different subgroups and carefully considers the challenges progressives have reaching voters in these various subgroups, I strongly recommend Anna Greenberg’s piece, “Moving Beyond the Gender Gap” in the new book, Get This Party Started, edited by Matthew Kerbel. Her piece is available in abridged form on the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner website. Here’s some of what she has to say:

...[W]hite married women with kids have a range of concerns that are perfectly appropriate for progressives and Democrats to address. Reaching them requires reframing the cultural debate and expanding it to include a host of issues that concern their ability to raise children in a safe and healthy environment. Rather than accept the Right’s narrow definition of values (i.e., abortion, gay marriage), progressives should acknowledge the challenges parents face dealing with their kids’ sexuality and peer pressure around drugs and alcohol in an environment overrun with sex and violence on television, the Internet, and video games. Democrats and progressives should begin to talk about these concerns in simple language and should not shy away from taking progressive positions that are consistent with what moms’ value. Moms are pragmatic and want their children to be raised with the right kind of values that will allow them to make responsible choices about their behavior. They want their kids to be faithful, be responsible, and understand the “Golden Rule,” and they worry that their kids will be sexually active too soon or will be exposed to alcohol and drugs. These concerns are neither inherently liberal nor conservative; many progressives share them and would be wise to engage in a discussion of these values. In this context, progressives can trumpet positions on social issues that are more in step with these voters’ concerns than positions taken by the Republican Party. The vast majority of moms support sex education in public schools and access to birth control, which the Bush administration and its allies oppose through their advocacy of “abstinence only” education. Moms support stem cell research and worry about the impact of pollution on their children’s health and safety, areas where the GOP has staked out entirely different ground.

Democrats and progressives, therefore, have an opportunity to reframe the cultural debate by emphasizing the ways that they care about families rather than by fighting defensive battles that box them into the “antifamily” corner. We do not have to retreat from supporting values we hold most dearly—like protecting a woman’s right to choose or only supporting “traditional” marriage—because, as John Kenneth White argues in this volume, cultural arguments need not have a left-right dimension or be policy specific. Democrats will be successful with women voters if they cast progressive responses to cultural issues in the same commonsense language moms use when they express concerns about their children. Even better, progressives do have policy positions consistent with these concerns.

And there’s more–much more!–of comparable insight in the article I urge you to read and digest the entire piece.