Sitting at lunch in Kansas City before the election, I could not help but overhear two well-dressed women loudly discussing the upcoming election.
In my experience, women of means rarely talk politics over lunch. I would rather they had stuck to a subject less disturbing, but this proved to be a learning experience nonetheless.
After declaring that she was an “independent,” the one woman listed all the local Democrats she was voting for, including incumbent Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
When asked by the friend why she was voting against McCaskill’s Republican challenger, clean-cut young Attorney General Josh Hawley, the woman objected to his hair. She thought it looked “sleazy.”
The discussion reminded me of my most oddly contentious moment in my erstwhile talk-radio career. The place was Kansas City, and the year was 1998. My guest that day was our female county executive.
In attempting to explain the storied “gender gap,” I observed that on average men know more about current events than women because on average they pay more attention.
Although I qualified my answer with “on average,” the county executive looked shocked and hurt. When I offered to prove what should have been obvious, she exploded, the program director nearly expired, and the caller board lit up brighter than it had since O.J. walked free.
The county executive wanted an apology, and now the station manager insisted I oblige her. “Do you really want me to apologize on air for telling the truth?” I asked. I showed him one survey after another. The data always and everywhere made my case, and he ultimately backed down.
If anything, the knowledge gap has only grown in the years since. In 2013, the U.K.’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) surveyed 10,000 citizens in 10 countries, developed and developing.
Researchers asked them questions based on hard and soft news reports including recent international events. The results were consistent across the board. Men knew more.
As good progressives, the researchers felt the need to explain away the results. One of the explanations could not be that men and women were simply different creatures with different interests. That made too much sense.
They preferred instead to blame the patriarchy. They imagined impediments like “the gender-bias of hard news content” or the “lack of visibility of women in TV and newspaper coverage,” all of which could presumably be remedied with just a touch of social engineering.
What surprised the researchers, dismayed them really, was that the political knowledge gap loomed largest in those countries that had already done the most to engineer gender equality.
In the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, women scored 30 percent less than men on average and roughly 10 percent less than women in Greece, Italy and Korea. In no media account did anyone offer a critical explanation as to why women with the most equal access to education and information do worse than their more repressed sisters.
Although they will never discuss them publicly, Democratic strategists are well aware of these numbers. They understand that to maintain the gender gap all they need to do is control the headlines.
Many of their female constituents, perhaps most, will dig no deeper. Conservatives could rule certain long form media all day long and into the night, but as long as progressives ruled the headlines they could shape the political will of low-information female voters.
Thanks to the unapologetically biased social media sites – Yahoo, AOL, Google News, Facebook, Twitter – the left’s control of the headlines was even more powerful.
The Democrats counted on this control in 2016. They thought that by stressing Donald Trump’s crude comments and his alleged mistreatment of women, they could convince females to vote against him.
This strategy worked better on college campuses and in pleasant suburbs where many seemingly well-educated women had no more pressing issue to worry about.
The strategy did not succeed in those quarters where women cared about real issues like the economy, jobs, education, the Constitution, the Supreme Court and abortion.
So congratulations to the many women in Missouri who paid greater attention to Josh Hawley’s politics than they did to his pompadour.