Women of the ’burbs — like those enclaves they inhabit — are not who Trump thinks they are.
He needs them in his bid for reelection. But by clinging to the notion that suburban women are White housewives who need to be saved from scary threats such as (gasp!) low-income neighbors and protesters for social justice, his wooing isn’t working.
Across America, the suburbs are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse and dynamic. They’re not the little boxes and fenced yards of Levittown, but a mix of homeowners and renters, apartments and condos, cottages and McMansions.
The suburbs are where city folks go for Korean groceries, Indian buffet and salsa night.
Since 2000, more than half the immigrants coming to America settled in the suburbs, according to the Brookings Institution.
White people became the minority in the D.C. suburb of Montgomery County in 2011, according to Census Bureau figures showing the breakdown of groups in this Maryland locale.
Houston and its suburbs are so diverse, the man running for the 22nd Congressional District there — former Foreign Service officer Sri Preston Kulkarni — has campaign literature in 21 different languages.
The suburbs are where more than half of Americans say they live — and they’re not all existing in Trump’s aprons-and-cocktails Queens childhood of the 1950s he keeps pining for.
After my social media query to the suburban women I know, I went in search of some in the wild.
I headed to the prime habitat of the suburban woman: Michael’s. Surely I could find them in the emporium of scrapbooking and silk flowers in Rockville, Montgomery County’s seat.
So, after spending way too much money on aspirational craft items (hey, urban women craft, too!) I began chatting with the women I found there.
“I am making calls, calls every night, doing anything I can to get him out,” Till Cartwright, 68, a child of the Atlanta suburbs, said of Trump.
“I don’t think he’s doing anything to help us,” she continued. “Montgomery County, we’re one of the most diverse counties in America, and everything he’s doing is hurting the people here — from denying science, the immigration nonsense, the image of the presidency.”
Cartwright meant to simply hop into Michael’s to pick up some art supplies for her nephew, but within minutes, another suburban woman from Chevy Chase joined our discussion.
“It scares me,” the newcomer said. “If you look at the polls, I think it’s closer than everyone thinks. And I just don’t understand these women who want to support him. They’re not from the suburbs I know.”
I redirected to another of the most suburban areas I could think of, the place where we did our Target shopping before any Targets came to D.C.: Northern Virginia.
There, I talked to a woman who seemed to embody the suburban aesthetic that Trump is after. She’s a wife and mother, a Realtor, and an active and chatty member of several women’s social groups. Her hair always looks salon-fresh, her car always detailed.
Would she vote for Trump?
“Even if a tree ran against Trump, I would vote for the tree,” said Naghmana Malik, 58.
Many of her clients in Chantilly and her friends in Fairfax — the suburbs where she works and lives — are, like her, of Pakistani descent. White people make up just 37.8 percent of the population in Chantilly.
Trump has got it wrong if he thinks he knows suburban women.
“I belong to a Jewish and Muslim group, and among us, none of them are Trump supporters,” Malik said. “And even among my Realtor friends, I’m sensing a shift in the White women who used to support him. And the thing that changed their minds? The way he handled covid.”
So does that mean the dealbreaker for suburban women is safety?
That’s what Trump is trying to emphasize.
It was during the first presidential debate that Trump tried to tap into suburban fears and said “our suburbs would be gone” under a Joe Biden presidency.
Nice try. Except it’s not the looming specter of random, scary crime that’s scorching the suburbs.
“Donald Trump is right to think that suburban women will be voting for safety, but he’s wrong to think that means they’ll be voting for him,” said Shannon Watts, a suburban woman and mother of five who has become a force in American politics with her group, Moms Demand Action.
“It’s devastatingly apparent that we’re vastly less safe than we were four years ago. Gun sales and gun violence are surging,” she said. “Covid-19 is out of control.”
For sure, suburban women are worried. And Trump should be worried, too.
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