We’ve all heard the statistic: in 2016, 53% of all white female voters voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton (according to exit polls, anyway — this study says it’s more like 47%). It seems clear that conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin was not one of them, both from her years of Trump criticism and her forthcoming nonfiction book Resistance: How Women Saved Democracy From Donald Trump, on sale next week, but her fascination with how women voted bears out either way. While Rubin doesn’t directly grapple with the role white women played in electing former president Donald Trump, she dives deep into the role that women — and women of color in particular — played in getting him out of office, a shift she credits to the tenacity of new women in politics, the Democratic Party’s focus on attracting and retaining women voters, and the Republicans’ utter failure to do the same under Trump, instead relying on family members like Ivanka Trump and Melania Trump to handle making Trump seem like a palatable option.
In comparing the 2020 Democratic National Convention to the 2020 Republican National Convention, hosted by the Trump administration at the White House and featuring Kimberly Guilfoyle’s now-YouTube-famous screamed-out speech, Rubin points to Trump’s failure to highlight prominent Republican women, featuring instead his own family members, as a fatal blow to his re-election efforts. Where Democrats showed women a path forward, Rubin argues, Trump’s vision of the party’s future looked bleak for women — unless you happened to be related to him.
“The Democrats could feature so many women because so many of them had run for, won office, and ascended to national prominence…Instead of a slew of prominent women lawmakers who had risen in the party, the Trump team relied heavily on Trump relatives like Melania, Ivanka, Tiffany, his sons, and his sons’ significant others,” Rubin writes. “At times it seemed the only women willing to tout him were those who stood to inherit something. This was the party of the 1950s, where women’s position depended on their relationship to men in power.”
“The Biden campaign team, from campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon on down, remained acutely aware that women would be the deciding factor in the race,” Rubin writes of the contrasting DNC. “That meant the convention had to fire up women voters and stress issues essential to them. The diversity of the women speakers and the plethora of women participants…reflected how critical women of color were to Biden’s coalition. In addition, the convention designers aimed to keep in the fold the sort of women, many suburban and college-educated, who had abandoned the GOP in 2018.”
“As frustrating as the Republican convention was to watch, Biden’s campaign’s direction was clear: Do not get distracted by Trump’s schtick. Let him be the candidate of chaos. Let Melania Trump try to convince women her angry and condescending husband cared about them. Let Trump’s kids offer rote defenses of their father without a single personal memory evincing good character…The campaign leaders had confidence women voters would not forgive Trump for his serial failures.”
According to Rubin, that confidence paid off — and for women like herself who left the GOP around the time Trump came on to the scene, it seems clear that the Trump family’s RNC display was one more blow they just couldn’t ignore.
RESISTANCE: How Women Saved Democracy from Donald Trump by Jennifer Rubin, published by William Morrow, September 21, 2021.
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