Indeed, black women, a reliably Democratic voting bloc in Alabama and across the United States, stood strong in the #MeToo era, rejecting a candidate accused of stalking malls looking for teenage girls — and sending the state’s first Democrat to the Senate in a quarter century. Fully 98 percent of them voted for Doug Jones (up from 95 percent who voted to re-elect President Obama in 2012, according to exit polls back then).
This week’s exit polls are interesting to unpack. Overall, 57 percent of Alabama women backed Mr. Jones, compared with 42 percent of men, a significant gender gap.
Among white women, 63 percent supported Mr. Moore, which at first blush suggests they were not hugely moved by the allegations of sexual misconduct.
Meanwhile 34 percent of white women voted for Mr. Jones — more than twice the percentage who cast ballots for Mr. Obama five years ago.
That’s a big shift — seismic in political terms — of one demographic group voting for a member of the other party. And consider this: 72 percent of white men supported Mr. Moore, a 9-point spread between white men and white women; in 2012, the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, got 84 percent of white men and 83 percent of white women, a statistically insignificant margin.
As a black female journalist who has written about race and its ever-present role in social, political and economic issues, I have been thinking about the lessons of this election but also listening to others who are helping to shape the conversation.
Yes, the black women’s vote was perceived by many women on the left as a moment worth celebrating. But what’s next looms larger. As Kamala Harris, the second African-American woman ever elected to the United States Senate, pointed out in a tweet.
It raises questions we’re only just beginning to answer: What is the cost of political loyalty? How does voting muscle translate into support for issues important to black women? Will this trigger a reckoning among the feminist movement, often accused of dismissing or ignoring the voices and work of minorities?
What We’re Reading
Jess Bidgood, a national correspondent for The Times was on the ground in Alabama, talking to female voters outside a polling place in Gadsden, Ala., a city of about 36,000 people.
“Depending on one’s point of view,” she wrote, “Tuesday’s election was a referendum on decency, a test of the credibility of the news media, or a rallying cry against outside interference in Alabama politics. But it was also the first election in the #MeToo era and a measure of the deep divide among women over personal issues like sexual harassment, religion and race.”
Also in The Times, the editorial board noted that in Alabama, “Sanity Reigns,” while Laurie Goodstein, who covers religion, reported on the resulting soul-searching among evangelical Christians.
In HuffPost, Julia Craven wrote that the turnout among black women was not just magic, but the result of prolonged hard work in the election’s lead-up, by organizers who were largely female.
Anna North argued in a Vox column that the #MeToo movement — and feminism in general — must recognize the leadership of black women, while Fortune’s Ellen McGirt offered suggestions that people could do beyond thanking black female voters (like understanding maternal death rates, intimate partner violence, and equal pay).
What People Are Saying
“One thing that was made clear [on Tuesday]i is that for the first time we’ve seen that the idea of traditional feminism, of just fighting for women’s rights, doesn’t really resonate. We need to have conversations about race, we need to have conversations about class, we need to understand the linkage between those things to dismantle ideas of patriarchy, misogyny, racism and capitalism, and what autonomy and self-determination needs to look like for women.” — Rep. Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, and the country’s first Somali-American legislator
“I feel a combination of things — pride, exhaustion, rage and a sense of heightened resilience. Which is pretty much like every other day as a black woman in America.” — Rebecca Carroll, editor of special projects at the public-radio station WNYC and critic-at-large for the Los Angeles Times
“Black women have been showing up for years for the Democratic Party. They have long been a key voting bloc, but only recently has that power been recognized. It’s high time for more than lip service, that real resources are injected into the African-American community.” — Symone Sanders, a strategist for Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC
“I’m very proud of black women — I’m always proud of black women. But I wish that nonblack people would stop treating the resiliency and strength that we’ve been forced to cultivate through generations of trauma and abuse as a natural resource they can mine whenever they need to. Real ‘appreciation’ for black women looks like action.” — Ijeoma Oluo, author of the forthcoming So You Want To Talk About Race, slated for publication in January
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