“Do I believe that some women look at a powerful woman and question whether she can lead, maybe voting for the man their husband is voting for instead? It may not be universally true or easy to hear, but yes, it’s a dynamic still at play in our society. I know this because even I spent parts of my life wondering if I could achieve the same as male leaders, and a lot of that insecurity stemmed from my gender and how society views women. When I was serving in various roles in public life, I was always more popular when I was working for or defending a man than when I was out there on my own. That’s the point I was making, in an effort to explain to an audience some of the many dynamics that have gone into these tumultuous last few years.I understand how some of what I said upset people and can be misinterpreted. I meant no disrespect to any individual or group. And I want to look to the future as much as anybody.”
During a discussion at the India Today Conclave on March 10, Clinton was asked why she thought most white women voted for Trump, even after the “Access Hollywood” tape and claims of sexual misconduct weeks before the election.
“[Democrats] do not do well with white men, and we don’t do well with married white women. And part of that is an identification with the Republican Party, and a sort of ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should,” she said.
Some critics called the comments sexist, while others claimed that Clinton failed to take responsibility for the reasons most white women voted against her.
But Clinton doubled down in her Facebook post:
“As much as I hate the possibility, and hate saying it, it’s not that crazy when you think about our ongoing struggle to reach gender balance — even within the same household. I did not realize how hard it would hit many who heard it. I was out there having a conversation, and this was one piece of a larger point about how Democrats need to do better with white women, because I know in my heart that Democrats have much more to offer them.”
As The Fix previously referenced, some studies show that some white women do sometimes feel pressured to support their husband’s political ideology.
However, many women vote the same way as their husband not out of pressure but because they share political ideologies, economic philosophies, cultural values and other interests with their spouse — something Clinton’s critics accused her of leaving out of her initial remarks.
But the former secretary of state made an interesting point in her follow-up comments. She said some women doubted her ability to lead — and that may have been, in part, because of her gender.
Clinton’s gender was a major part of her campaign. She talked often about her desire to break the glass ceiling in presidential politics, and her inability to do so was written about widely after the election.
Clinton believes the reason may have been that she is sometimes less popular when speaking up for herself than when she is supporting and/or defending a man — something she did often as first lady when her husband faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. She even had to take on that role during her own presidential campaign as those allegations resurfaced when then-candidate Donald Trump attempted to push back on reports that he was guilty of sexual misconduct.
While support for Trump’s job performance appears to be decreasing among white women, that group has still supported GOP candidates in statewide races since the presidential election.
And that could be, in part, because of one often overlooked reason the Democrats possibly lost the white women’s vote: White women just aren’t the swing voters many believe them to be.
White women have backed Republicans for president more than they have Democrats. Most white women — 56 percent — voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. And most white women without degrees have backed the GOP nominee in every presidential election since 2000.
It is obviously too early to say what could happen in 2020. But if Trump continues to lose support among white women, and the social movements focused on women’s issues continue to gain traction, perhaps the next general election will be the one where white women rally behind the liberal candidate — and their husbands’ votes may have little to do with it.