Democrats are counting on the votes of women to put them over the top in the 2016 election, not simply in the presidential race but in the House and Senate races as well. Polls show that the gender gap is larger this year, with many more women than men preferring Democratic candidates. In the last 36 years, that gap has averaged about 8 percent, but this year experts predict that it could double.
Is it simply the fact that a woman is at the top of the ticket for the first time in the history of either party? Most women are not that easily swayed. It is the fact that, up until now, the debate over who should be president has centered on the personalities involved, not on the issues that affect our everyday lives.
In the primary, we saw a successful businessman who relied on his bravado when he did not have a solid grasp of these issues, even the ones he strongly favored. Recently, the more thoughtful Donald Trump – to his credit – has walked back many of his initial statements, as well he should.
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Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton doubled down on the lies surrounding her emails, Benghazi and the all too obvious pay-for-play connection between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation – the dubious charity that served as a slush fund to keep her family and former staffers living lives of luxury between political appointments.
Still, that gender gap exists and may be difficult to overcome for the following reasons:
- More women today are in the workforce full-time than ever before. In addition, they still carry the bulk of the load at home, shopping, preparing means, cleaning, caring for children and planning the family's activities. This is not to say that their husbands don't help with these activities; they do. However, the majority of housekeeping and child care still falls on them. Why? Married men, on average, work longer hours, have jobs that entail more travel and, yes, make more money. It's understandable, but the reality is that a woman's work, as the old saying goes, is never done. Therefore, most young married women are simply exhausted. They have little time for themselves, much less time to sort through the facts leading up to an election.
- Meanwhile, their single counterparts are out there trying to play catch-up in what they see as "a man's world." It may not be true, but the mainstream media keep telling them that it is. A lie repeated often enough becomes an accepted fact. Reality check: The pay-gap we hear so much about is virtually non-existent when you compare the wages of all single men against the wages of all single women. However, since it is unlikely that employees are sharing information on their salaries, the gap exists in their minds. These women are angry and want someone to pay.
- The Democrats dwell on the issue of "fairness," which is much more important to women than men. We preach it to our children on a daily basis: "You must wait your turn. You must share your toys. You must consider the other person's feelings." Meanwhile, dad is much more interested in results. Therefore, when Democrats tell us that someone or some group is being treated unfairly and they are going to step in to correct this real or perceived injustice, it is much more likely to get the attention of women and could sway an election.
- The issue of abortion has been an important one for many years, particular for women. Some may be uncomfortable with our abortion law that permits the killing of an unborn child up to the actual moment of birth. However, the idea that society is going to take away a perceived "right" is troublesome.
- Finally, while Hillary Clinton's gender may not be the deciding factor for most voters, many are willing to hold their noses to vote for her in order to make it easier for the women that will follow.
To be sure, the majority of voters – women and men – aren't thrilled with either candidate, but women, in particular, are turned off by a candidate who constantly brags about himself and his accomplishments and hurls insults at those who oppose him.
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Let us hope that we are now seeing the real Donald Trump, and the one we saw before was simply the character he played on his television show, "The Apprentice." Old habits are difficult to shed, particularly when the character Trump played on television was so successful.
There is still time for women to examine the real issues – the ones that will affect their lives – but that window is closing.
Media wishing to interview Jane Chastain, please contact [email protected].