The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Millions of women voted for Trump, and didn’t need a man to do it

Women at a Trump rally in Huntington Beach, Calif., on March 25. (Mindy Schauer/AP)

Gary Abernathy, a contributing columnist for The Post, is publisher and editor of the (Hillsboro, Ohio) Times-Gazette.

At a recent Hillsboro Rotary Club meeting, I told Karen Faust that I had learned she voted for Donald Trump because her husband pressured her to do so. Her husband, Jim, a farmer, happened to be sitting beside her as her guest on Rotary’s Ag Day, and they both rolled their eyes.

“Yeah, right,” he said as they laughed. “Just try telling her what to do.”

Like every other woman I know who voted for Trump, Karen Faust is strong-willed and independent. She holds a master’s degree in education. She was the first 4-H Extension agent in neighboring Adams County, and has been a program manager for Jobs for Ohio’s Graduates and a licensed professional clinical counselor. She serves as president of the Southern Ohio Pregnancy Center board, a pro-life organization that supports women facing unplanned pregnancies. Last year, she was inducted into the Highland County Women’s Hall of Fame.

But according to people such as Hillary Clinton and actress Sandra Bernhard, of the 52 percent of all white women who voted for Trump, the married ones, such as Faust, did so out of spousal pressure or just plain ignorance.

During a recent appearance in India, Clinton said, “We 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.”

Similarly, Bernhard said recently, “I think it’s being either under the thumb of your husband or, for the election, it was being so offended by Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton’s legacy that you turned on her. . . . A lot of women have compromised, given in, raised their kids and not had the luxury of being able to think for themselves.”

Bernhard’s correlation between raising children and the inability to think for oneself is unclear. But for many people, the only legitimate definition of a thoughtful woman is someone willing to march wearing a vagina-themed hat, pledge allegiance to the pro-choice cause and support only Democrats for public office. If a woman voted for Trump, she most certainly did so because her domineering husband made her do it.

The complaints by Clinton and Bernhard appear based on their frustration that, despite decades of attempts to define “real women” using the criteria of feminism and progressive politics, many women still march to their own drumbeat.

Thousands of strong, smart, independent women in Highland County, Ohio, voted for Trump for president, as they did across the nation. I don’t have to venture further than my own family to identify accomplished women who enthusiastically supported Trump, including my mother, a retired postmaster; my sister, a successful small-business owner and city council member; my wife, a journalist; and my daughter, a teacher with a master’s degree in education.

Is it possible people such as Clinton and Bernhard are oblivious to how insulting their comments are to the millions of women who chose the Trump-Pence ticket? Or do they simply not care?

Soon after Clinton’s comments, The Post’s The Fix cited studies that it suggested backed her up. According to one theory, married white women support their husbands’ choices because “women consistently earn less money and hold less power, which fosters women’s economic dependency on men. Thus, it is within married women’s interests to support policies and politicians who protect their husbands and improve their status.”

That’s merely an analytical way of describing married female Trump supporters as they are typically described — as unwitting victims of their husband’s subjugation. Do married women who voted for Clinton make more than their husbands on average? Probably not, given wide income disparities between men and women in the United States; they’re just smarter and more independent, the theory goes, the only proof necessary being that they voted for Clinton.

The left seems perplexed by women who support Trump, as though it is aberrant behavior in need of therapy. Until they come to grips with the reality that women who are intelligent, independent and Republican do not represent an abnormality or a sign of oppression, their dime-store psychoanalysis will continue to create more of a chasm than a bridge.

Another married white woman, Canadian country singer Shania Twain, was recently shamed for saying that if she were eligible to vote in the United States, she would have voted for Trump. She soon apologized. One of Twain’s biggest hits was “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” but that was in 1997. Two decades later, Twain may well be quietly contemplating just how narrow the definition of womanhood has become.

Read more on this issue:

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Will Democrats have an antidote to Trump’s fake populism?

Dana Milbank: How Trump is transforming himself into the greatest president ever

Karen Attiah: Let’s pay Trump to leave office

Marc A. Thiessen: Why conservative Christians stick with Trump