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We Knew McDonnell Was Against Women’s Rights. Why Did Women Vote for Him Anyway?


WomenVotedMcDonnellCandidate Bob McDonnell’s distaste for women’s rights was no secret. His masters thesis emerged early in the campaign, revealing his opposition to mothers working outside the home and to the use of contraception by unmarried couples.

A majority of women voters supported McDonnell anyway. It’s impossible to know the exact percent, but the final Washington Post poll before the election gives us a good idea. Fifty perfect of women backed McDonnell – and McDonnell actually went on to outperform the poll, winning 59% to 41%.

I understand the outrage at watching McDonnell’s views actually be implemented in Richmond. But I don’t think we can understand how to reverse the damage if we treat this as some completely unforeseen, unwarranted attack by aliens from outer space. The Republican war on women’s rights in Richmond is not an “overreach” as some are calling it – Bob McDonnell and his fellow Republicans are doing exactly what we knew they’d do.

Where do you think the failure lies? Were Democratic efforts to highlight McDonnell’s views insufficient? Did women choose to ignore McDonnell’s views, or to convince themselves he wouldn’t actually put his beliefs into action? Do women value these rights less than they value other issues? What can progressives do differently in the future to reach out to women in every corner of Virginia?

  • I’ve been really dismayed by everyone listening to the debate coming out of Richmond.  I’m getting a little tired of hearing (almost always from men, both liberal and ultra-conservative) what a heartbreaking and serious decision abortion is for women.  This is NOT to say that it’s the “lifestyle” choice for women that the stupid delegate made, but for many women, it is simply what they need to do in order to lead their lives the best way they can.  They do not go on to be wracked with guilt, or troubled or in need of grief counseling.  They simply remember a time in their lives when life didn’t go as easily as it might otherwise.

    On the flip side, the idea that an ultra sound is going to keep a woman from getting an abortion is ridiculous.  Even a vaginal one (and I’ve been told by one Republican that no such thing exists — yes, it does, and many women have one at around six weeks.)  But no, this is not the same as “rape” either.  And thousands of women have seen that beating heart and have gone on to have abortions anyway — just as any woman who has rec’d a devastating CVS or amniocentesis about genetics.  Knowing it was a beating heart didn’t stop Rick Santorum or his wife from taking the life-sustaining antibiotics she needed to survive, even knowing that by taking it, barring an outright miracle, the baby would not live.

    Then there is the problem that for women in the lower classes, having a baby is perhaps THE defining act of your life.  You may not have any education.  You may never have a job that pays more than minimum wage.  You may have poor relationships with men, and may never marry, but you can have a baby who will love you.  This doesn’t mean that poor women don’t have abortions (they do — in disproportionate numbers) but it also doesn’t mean that they particular want to make it easy on themselves for having them.

    So we have conservatives protecting women from making a terrible decision.  (See Supreme Court) and we have liberals protecting women from invasive procedures.  Maybe women aren’t looking for protection at all, but some help making a very complicated decision in a realistic, productive and expansive way.

    All I’m saying is that for two solids weeks, during this entire debate, we’ve talked about an incredibly complicated subject in very black and white terms.  We’ve seen other Democrats talk about it in a more nuanced fashion — safe, legal and rare comes to mind, and Americans of all classes and all faiths and all but the most ideological respect that and voted for people like Clinton accordingly.  Perhaps in part because it also implies that the leadership respects the complications in their own lives.

  • Clemgo3165

    Just like men, are diverse in their beliefs.  There are a lot of Republican women who firmly believe that abortion should be illegal and who will do anything to make that the reality.  There are others who vote Republican for a lot of other reasons beyond abortion and birth control.  So to assume that the reason women in Virginia broke 50/50 for McDonnell is the democrats failure to fully highlight his stance on birth control and abortion is, I believe, minimizing to women voters.

    McDonnell simply ran a great campaign, particularly in comparison to Deeds.  Deeds was not equipped to thrive on the Statewide level, and he couldn’t touch McDonnell in the debates.  McDonnell was also very successful at taking the lead on issues, forcing Deeds to respond, and he managed to keep the focus on issues that matter to the majority and away from niche issues like abortion.

    Women will vote for the Democrat when the Democrats put up a candidate that they believe will do the best job for the Commonwealth and who runs a strong campaign.  Unfortunately, Deeds was not that candidate.

  • Was to remove the stigma of the ultrasound itself.

    It might surprise people to learn that many many women out there would actually like to have a vaginal ultrasound at 6-8 weeks.  There are a variety of reasons for this — some aren’t sure how far along they are with their pregnancy, some aren’t sure if there really is a baby there (perhaps they have a history of miscarriage) and some just want to know that yes, they are going to be a parent.   It can be tremendously reassuring to the mother-to-be to have such an ultrasound because your chances of miscarriage drop dramatically if the heart is actually beating.  Chances are, if you are a woman in NoVa, with decent insurance and access to the exceptional doctors and hospitals that we have, you had one.

    But for lots of women throughout Virginia, this is not the norm.  Ultrasounds, as we know from the current debate, aren’t exactly pennies on the dollar.  Women on medicaid, or with extremely high deductibles, or without insurance at all, often never get them.  I’ve actually known women who have gone to emergency rooms insisting they were having a miscarriage in order to get an ultrasound about this time — because they just needed to know everything was ok.

    So what about this proposal — you want vaginal ultrasounds for women having abortion?  Fine.  We want vaginal ultrasounds for EVERY pregnant woman who wants one.  Let’s call it (gasp!) a MANDATE!  Let’s equip clinics such as Planned Parenthood to offer such services, which will allow the woman to know as best as possible when the pregnancy was conceived, and also have the opportunity to talk about prenatal care for both her and the baby.  Imagine — giving a place like Planned Parenthood funding for something that Republicans are insisting must be in place, and giving most women what they actually want.  

    You know, putting the CHOICE back into the pro!

  • NotJohnSMosby

    McDonnell ran a good campaign.  Deeds ran a horrible campaign.  He lost by 18 points, a massive landslide.  No single issue will trump that basic issue.  Personally, I feel that if Deeds had run a good campaign, he would have probably lost by 3-4 points, but would have had a decent margin of victory in the women’s vote.