Over the past week, as I've watched multiple sexual assault accusations lead to an FBI investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I've come to believe that white women hold the key to America's political and social future.
White women, after all, stand along the line that separates racial and gender identity. On the one hand, their race makes them the epitome of privilege. But their gender has too often left them vulnerable to abuse.
Now, in the midst of a #MeToo movement that seeks to punish sexual abusers, powerful men like President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are supporting an accused sexual abuser's bid for a lifetime Supreme Court appointment. This, despite the Senate testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, a white woman who said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. Though recent polling suggests college-educated white women are starting to pull away from Trump, Kavanaugh, and their allies, the upcoming midterm elections will determine where white female voters' loyalties truly lie.
Their votes will no doubt shape the midterm results and, in doing so, shape America's future. Should white women see gender equality as a main issue in the election, they will likely lean Democratic. But if white women decide that racial dominance is more important, they will probably pick Republicans, some of whom are the very men who are openly hostile to women, such as Ford, who complain of sexual abuse.
One would think that the decision would be easy. Apparently, it's not. Given a choice between a candidate whose race-based insults earned a Ku Klux Klan endorsement and a woman who had much more experience in governing, 53 percent of white female voters chose Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016. I believe they chose misogyny over equality. They chose race over gender.
It's impossible to know exactly why, but perhaps the majority of white women understood that even with a female president, the change they were looking for would take time. Maybe they didn't care that a Trump win would lead to more paternalism and misogyny.
Or maybe white women saw things more simply, and decided that a vote for Trump was a vote for white privilege. In a country where one's skin color has monetary value, white privilege is no small thing. White privilege means whites are paid more than blacks for doing the same jobs. It means blacks with similar income and credit scores as their white counterparts have more trouble getting loans. It means whites get shorter sentences when they are convicted of the same crimes as their black counterparts, even when their records are similar.
The payoff for standing up for women's rights might not be that immediate, especially for white women who haven't earned college degrees. I believe that's why non-college-educated white women voted for Trump despite an audiotape of Trump bragging that his celebrity status allowed him to do anything to women, up to and including grabbing them by their genitals. They voted for Trump even after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Even now, after the list of women accusing Trump of sexual harassment or assault has grown to 22, Trump still has a support base among white women. But that support base is increasingly divided by educational attainment.
In the wake of dramatic Senate testimony by Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in the 1980s, college-educated white women are starting to back away from Trump, Kavanaugh, and the Republican Party as a whole.