What’s wrong with women? Absolutely nothing.
On a cold January night in Chicago, fifty young conservative and libertarian professionals gathered indoors to discuss an apparent statist trend in the way women generally vote. Although the Republican party hasn’t exactly been a beacon for liberty in recent years, its level of support might be a proxy for support for liberty among voters. Moderator and AFF-Chicago committee member Eric Kohn introduced the fact that women backed Democrats by 12 points in 2006. There was a 12 point gap between women who voted for Democrats over Republicans in 2006, and a 13 point gap in 2008. One recent study even labeled statist, big-government modes of thinking as “feminine” and more libertarian mindsets as “masculine.”
Are there essential qualities belonging to women that guide their voting behaviors? Do women want government to be a caring parent to its citizens?
A question, phrased more provocatively, could be asked: “What’s wrong with women?”
Like everyone at the event, panelist Lisa Wogan of the Campaign for Liberty believes nothing is wrong with women. In fact, she said women are positioned well to respond to the ideas of liberty given their intimate knowledge and experience with issues like health care. She also suggested that the recent electoral success of Republican women like Nikki Haley and Michelle Bachmann could revive some dormant women voters’ interest in voting again, and allow them to add to the voters favoring candidates advocating greater liberty. “When you’re talking about statism you’re also talking about military statism, just as welfare statism or regulatory statism.” She said there are many people–men and women–out in the cold, feeling they have few options when casting their ballots because of the Republicans’ recent hawkish foreign policies.
Shawn Healy of the Chicago Young Republicans rejected the premise of the question and asked instead, “What’s wrong with young people?” Healy remarked that young people under 30 in 2008 favored Democrats 66-32, a 34 point gap with 50 percent turnout. In this last cycle, young people favored Democrats 55-42 with a 23 percent turnout, leading to the huge Republican victories in the congressional elections. Voting habits, Healy said, are formed early. If a young person votes for a particular party in three consecutive cycles, they will likely vote for that party for the rest of their lives.
Those who vote based on social issues, Healy added, tend to be relatively affluent regardless of their actual social policy position. Given women’s rising affluence, Healy hypothesizes that women cast their votes more on social issues. The tendency for women to be more socially liberal than men may, therefore, drive them away from many Republicans who campaign on socially conservative platforms.
Chicago Young Republicans president Meredyth Richards opened by saying that gender is not a meaningful indicator of someone’s voting patterns. “There are more important things to think about, like education. There’s a strong causation between being very highly educated and voting liberal, and having a very low education and also voting for big-government policies.” Airing a personal theory to a roomful of laughter, Richards speculated the women vote for the more physically attractive candidate, particularly in presidential elections. “If you look at 2008, you have the King of Charisma taking an overwhelming percentage of the female vote versus this old grandpa. So Obama got 56 percent of the female vote versus McCain’s 43 percent.” In closing, Richards joked, “I think women tend to be overwhelmingly superficial.”
Blogger Emily Zanotti speculated that women are more sympathetic than men and respond well to the “lovey-dovey” message of big-government, adding that she’s a libertarian and doesn’t, herself, cry. In 2010, however, the recent economic collapse altered women’s priorities and caused them to reconsider their default choice and embrace a more limited government message. She then asked, “How you get women to listen to a liberty-minded philosophy when we go back to a time of economic prosperity? I think the conservative and libertarian viewpoint has had terrible public relations when it comes to women.
“Ronald Reagan really needs new PR when it comes to women,” said Zanotti.
Join AFF-Chicago for our next event on February 22nd, where Tea Party Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Pat Hughes and Green Party candidate for Cook County Board President Tom Tresser will debate the importance of WikiLeaks in a free society. It’ll be a fun and informative night you won’t want to miss.