Why did President George W. Bush get four million more votes from women than Al Gore? Why did the much discussed “gender gap” almost disappear in last week’s election? I think I learned the answer from an eloquent e-mail sent to me by a woman named Elizabeth Olivier who lives in the northeast corner of Ohio; she wanted to share with me the reason that she and many of her friends voted for George W. Bush.
Elizabeth wrote: “We live in an old town that was once part of the Western Reserve of Connecticut and that has experienced steady growth in the past decade. New construction has brought younger families like ours as well as empty nesters and retirees. In our new-ish neighborhood many of the mothers stay at home. Most of us aren’t new rich. We’re comfortably middle class and upper middle class. And to a mom we feel privileged to stay home and raise our children, especially those with young kids.”
Elizabeth and some of the other mothers have a book club that meets at McDonald’s. “Nine of us, and we’ve been together for two years. We’ve talked. I mean really talked about lots of hot topics: politics, religion, race, immigration, wealth, poverty, war, homosexuality, media, celebrity. We’ve certainly had our share of heated debates. In an environment that encourages discussion and demands respect and confidentially, we’ve really gotten down to the nitty-gritty on many issues.
“In our group are Protestants, serious Catholics, lapsed Catholics, Jews, Christians married to Jews, and non-believers. We are all married, though not everyone happily. One older mom has only one child; another younger mom is expecting her sixth. All except one is college educated and all of us have worked. One mom holds a master’s degree, another is a CPA, and another is an occupational therapist. And we can all bake some serious cookies.”
Elizabeth suggests that pollsters should have sat down with her group at McDonald’s and that it could have helped them understand what women are really about and why they voted the way they did. A pollster would find, she writes, “that religion matters a lot to a married mother. Not all mothers, but most mothers. It doesn’t matter if her husband is religious or not; if she is, it matters.”
Also Elizabeth notes, “She will do anything to keep her kids safe and out of danger.” Yes, there were security moms and they were in every town in America. And she also makes an interesting, too often forgotten point: “Her childhood and the role her mother played largely forms her perspective on the world and the role of women.”
She also comments that her crowd “will judge people on their conduct more than on religion or ethnicity. [Such a woman] can see other points of views but will not accept a coarser, more vulgar culture in the name of diversity. She does not believe in homosexual marriage–even when a member of her own family is homosexual. Also, “she likes movies and music but she sees entertainers as just entertainers, nothing more than a diversion.” In other words, the Kerry-Springsteen joint appearances may have attracted fans but irritated a lot of voters.
Another crucial understanding that Elizabeth and her friends have: “She abhors war and all the suffering caused by it. She may have a father who is a chief of police, or father who is a war veteran or grandparents who escaped Nazi-occupied Europe. She understands that freedom is not really free for any American.”
I am happy to report that Elizabeth and millions of women like her have minds of their own–and darn good ones. As she says, she is not influenced by media or campaign spin. She ignores Kate and Diane and doesn’t even buy Oprah’s showy enthusiasm for stay-at-home moms. The bombardment of millions of dollars of political advertising tends to annoy her more than affect her. As she writes: “We’re pretty bright and we can figure things out for ourselves.” That’s why she has felt so good since the election. “There’s a definite feeling of reaffirmation, that, darn it, we knew what was right and we said it loud and clear.”
Yes, you did; and thank you, Elizabeth, for your vote and for sharing. I am really grateful. I have forwarded your e-mail to all my friends in Europe who have sent me whining or outraged messages since the election. First of all it has quieted them down. Best of all, it has, I hope, made them think.
And you can bet the Democrats won’t be taking women for granted next time around.