The "angry white women" problem

Are female Clinton supporters really planning to leave their party to vote for John McCain?


Sarah Hepola
June 16, 2008 6:10PM (UTC)

One of the most interesting, outrage-inducing cocktail conversations of this post-concession week (in my little circle, at least) is the troubling media narrative that rafts of female Clinton supporters, bitter at being taken for granted by the Democratic Party, would throw their support to Team McCain. It was bizarre, hard to imagine any liberal, progressive woman could really vote for John McCain, even as a protest. And yet the story gained steam, with McCain crowing his support for the ladies last week and EMILY'S list, the political action committee that staunchly supported Clinton, so concerned that it argued against such votes at its Friday conference. "A vote for McCain would be 'unthinkable,' said EMILY'S List president Ellen Malcolm," according to Women's eNews. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood launched a Web site, Know McCain, which aims to skewer the perception that McCain is a moderate.

But in his excellent Sunday column, Frank Rich challenges the narrative, pointing out that Barack Obama actually has a huge lead among female voters. The whole column is worth a read, but here's the clincher:

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"The notion that all female Clinton supporters became 'angry white women' once their candidate lost -- to the hysterical extreme where even lifelong Democrats would desert their own party en masse -- is itself a sexist stereotype. That’s why some of the same talking heads and Republican operatives who gleefully insulted Mrs. Clinton are now peddling this fable on such flimsy anecdotal evidence."

I've heard reports of Clinton followers who refuse to support Obama -- and we will hear more from them, and about them, as the campaign wears on -- but the vast majority of female Clinton supporters do. As Matthew Yglesias wrote over at the Atlantic.com, "The idea that Democratic women would defect en masse to the GOP in a fit of pique is a preposterous notion that seems to be founded on the underlying assumption that women can't respond to their political choices as rationally as men can."


Sarah Hepola

Sarah Hepola is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, "Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget."

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