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Gender gap myths and legends
Question of the Day
To its political detriment over the past 20 years, the Democratic Party has wholeheartedly embraced the gender-gap subterfuge of the radical feminist movement, which, judging from its spokeswomen, rallies and Web sites, is essentially an all-white-women operation, many of whose primary goals have more to do with sexual orientation than gender. In the 2004 election, John Kerry got burned, despite help from his billionaire wife, whose official campaign biography describes her as “an advocate for women” who has been “at the forefront of women’s issues for more than 30 years.” If Mr. Kerry needs any solace, he can share a good cry with Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and Al Gore, all of whom marched to feminism’s Pied Piper.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, the gender gap is defined as “the difference between the proportion of women and the proportion of men voting for the winning candidate.” In his narrow 1976 victory, Jimmy Carter received 50 percent of the votes of both men and women. Thus, there was no gender gap. In 1980, however, exit polls revealed that Ronald Reagan, who defeated Mr. Carter by 10 points, received 55 percent of the men’s vote and 47 percent of the women’s vote. Thus was born the gender gap, which totaled eight points that year.
Ignoring the fact that Mr. Reagan actually won a plurality of the women’s vote (47-45-7) in a race that included independent candidate John Anderson, National Organization for Women President Eleanor Smeal immediately began trumpeting the gender gap. In effect, she guaranteed the Democratic Party, which also lost the Senate in 1980, that it could regain total political dominance by exploiting the gender gap. In 1984, Mrs. Smeal even wrote a book: “Why and How Women Will Elect the Next President.” Based on a separate study that she conducted for the party in early 1984, Mrs. Smeal guaranteed that the Democratic presidential candidates would receive a 10-point boost by selecting a female running mate. Well, Mr. Mondale selected Geraldine Ferraro as his vice presidential candidate, and they were clobbered by President Reagan, receiving 17 million fewer votes and losing 49 states. The Mondale-Ferraro ticket also managed to lose the women’s vote by 12 points (56-44). Amazingly, however, the delusional feminists still divined a silver lining from the electoral shellacking by identifying a gender gap of six points: Men gave Mr. Reagan 62 percent of their vote, six points more than women.
Four years later, Mrs. Smeal and the feminists were still peddling their theory that Democrats could find White House salvation through the gender gap. And for the third presidential election in a row, Republicans won the women’s vote.
At last, in 1992, self-styled New Democrat Bill Clinton won the White House. In a three-way race, George H.W. Bush received 38 percent and 37 percent of the men’s and women’s vote, respectively. Mr. Clinton coasted to re-election in 1996, admittedly helped by a 16-point advantage among women. In 2000, however, George W. Bush won the election despite losing the women’s vote by 11 points. In 2004, with women comprising 54 percent of the electorate and giving a 51-48 majority of their vote to Mr. Kerry, President Bush nonetheless won re-election by nearly 3.5 million votes. His secret? He crushed Mr. Kerry by 11 points (55-44) among men, obliterating the seven-point gender gap in the process.
Thus, in the last seven presidential campaigns (beginning with the 1980 election when the gender gap was first detected), Republicans have: 1) won five times; 2) lost twice; 3) received more women’s votes in three of the elections than their Democratic counterparts got; and 4) won two other campaigns despite receiving fewer women’s votes. Not bad for being on the wrong side of the gender gap.
Examining the gender phenomenon a bit closer, one cannot help but conclude that removing the racial component from the supposedly Democratic-favoring gender gap explains why the concept deserves to be so discredited. Over the last seven campaigns, Democrats have received an average of 89 percent of the black vote that went to either of the two major parties. Black women have given Democrats 92 percent of their two-party vote. Thus, it is fair to say that the factor of race explains far more of the voting behavior among blacks, particularly women, than does the gender gap.
So, to get a more precise understanding of how women have responded to the Democratic message, let’s examine how white women have been voting since 1980. In the seven elections beginning with 1980, Democratic presidential candidates have received an average of 46 percent of the white-women two-party vote. Republicans have collected an average of 54 percent. Bill Clinton’s re-election in 1996 was the only time a Democratic candidate received a majority (53 percent in 1996) of the white-women two-party vote. Mr. Reagan received 57 percent in 1980 and 62 percent in 1984. (Mrs. Smeal’s dream ticket of Mondale-Ferraro captured a mere 38 percent of the white-women vote.) George H.W. Bush got 57 percent in 1988 and 50 percent in his 1992 losing campaign. George W. Bush received 51 percent of the white women’s two-party vote in 2000 and 55 percent in 2004. Thus, beginning with the 1980 election, Bob Dole has been the only Republican candidate who has failed to win a majority of the white-women two-party vote. Since white feminists comprise the largest voting bloc based on gender and race, the repeated failure of Mrs. Smeal and her cohorts to deliver helps to explain why Democrats have lost five of the last seven presidential elections.
Reconsider 2004. In Ohio, a mere 119,000 votes (among the 5.6 million cast for Messrs. Bush and Kerry) separated the two candidates. A reversal of 60,000 votes would have given Mr. Kerry Ohio’s 20 electoral votes and the presidency. White women, comprising 46 percent of the Ohio electorate, gave 55 percent of their vote to Mr. Bush and 45 percent to Mr. Kerry. Mr. Kerry would have won the presidency if he only could have increased his share of Ohio’s white women voters by less than 2.5 percentage points (2.3 points, to be exact). He didn’t even need a majority: only 47.3 percent. Similar relatively minor improvements in Mr. Kerry’s white-women vote in the cumulative states of Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada would have been sufficient to catapult him into the White House.
In Florida, which Mr. Kerry lost 52-47, he received 43 percent of the white-women vote, which comprised 38 percent of the state’s total. To win the state’s 27 electoral votes and the presidency, Mr. Kerry did not even need a majority; 49.6 percent of the white-women vote would have sufficed.
As these examples illustrate, on the margin, the 2004 race was extraordinarily close. So, it should hardly be surprising that Mr. Kerry’s post-general-election fund-raising report to the Federal Election Commission raised so many Democratic eyebrows. After paying himself back the $6.4 million he lent his faltering campaign in December and January — a loan, by the way, that was made possible only by his billionaire’s wife’s 100 percent purchase of “their” Beacon Hill mansion — Mr. Kerry reported that his coffers still had $14.3 million. That money could have been transferred to the Democratic National Committee, which could have spent it in Ohio on his behalf. But it wasn’t. And Mr. Kerry lost.
Citing a post-election survey, Anna Greenberg reported in the December American Prospect that “Kerry lost white women without a college education this year by 23 points (38 percent to 61 percent).” The statistic offers plenty of food for thought for Mrs. Smeal and other disgruntled Democrats to consider over the next four years.
By Michael Widlanski
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