“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” One hundred years ago, Bainbridge Colby, Secretary of State of the United States, certified that the 19th Amendment had become valid as a part of the Constitution. Women now had the right to vote.
Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment was the culmination of decades of agitation and protest. Beginning in the mid-19th century, several generations of woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and engaged in civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans at the time considered an unnecessary and harmful mistake. Few of the early supporters lived to see final victory in 1920.
In last year’s Congressional elections, 68.5 percent of eligible women were registered and 55 percent voted. For men, 65.2 percent were registered and 52 percent voted. For younger voters, ages 18 to 24, the spread was much wider: women 51.3 percent registered, 35.3 percent voted; men 47 percent registered, 29.5 percent voted. Differences like these weigh heavily in a close election – think 2016 presidential contest – and can determine the outcome.
These percentages bode ill for the Republican Party. That’s because in 2018, younger voters overwhelmingly – 67 percent – favored the Democratic candidates, and women voters favored the Democratic candidates by 19 percentage points, 59 percent to 40 percent. In fact, the only voters who favored the Republican candidates were white men, 60 percent to 40 percent.
As is typically the case with midterm elections, opinions about the president were a major factor in the outcome. The Pew Research Center found that a majority of registered voters said they viewed their vote as either a vote for or against Trump. There’s another factor that should make Republicans nervous, Trump’s huge gender gap. According to a recent poll, 62 percent of women say they are unlikely to vote for him next year. A majority of women in every age group said they would not support Trump. Long-term polling by Pew and others has indicated that more and more women prefer the Democratic Party, but Trump’s behavior has accelerated the trend.
Trump’s job approval rating hovers around 40 percent. He still makes no attempt to appeal to voters beyond his base, he’s lied 76,000+ times since he took office, and continues to offer simplistic solutions for complex problems. But that doesn’t mean Democrats should assume he is likely to lose.
The author of a recent letter to the editor complained about the “utter lack of respect” for the president. How can anyone respect an individual lacking in decency (“conformity to prevailing standards of propriety or modesty; behavior that is good, moral, and acceptable in society”), dignity (“conduct or manner indicative of self-respect, formality, or gravity”), and decorum (“behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety; correct or proper behavior that shows respect and good manners; established social norms or expectations, especially as relates to polite society or specific professions; propriety of speech, behavior; behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety”)? Unfortunately, many still do.
But remember, Trump’s margin of victory in 2016 was only 77,000 votes – 0.06 percent of all the votes cast nationwide – in just three states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. That’s only about three-quarters the population of Adams County. In 2020, Trump will be beatable.
Meanwhile, the GOP is making a bold effort to protect and extend their gerrymandering. The Census Bureau wants to ask everyone living in the United States whether they are citizens when it conducts the 2020 census. Commerce Secretary Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, told Congress that his decision was solely in response to a December 2017 request from the Justice Department, ostensibly because the Justice Department uses data about eligible voters to help enforce protections for minorities under the federal Voting Rights Act.
But lawsuits challenging Ross’ decision produced email showing that he had been pushing for the question months before that. Thomas Hofeller, a recently deceased Republican gerrymandering expert, had written that GOP operatives hoped to do more than simply depress the census count. They also wanted to give themselves an edge in drawing Congressional districts. Hofeller concluded in 2015 that switching the way states distribute political representation – basing it on numbers of eligible voters as Congress always expected, rather than on total population whether voting-eligible or not – would benefit Republicans. Many Hispanics and their children would be excluded from consideration when district boundaries were drawn. The result would be districts becoming less Democratic. A decision by the Supreme Court is still pending.
Overall, Democrats need to be confident but wary, to inspire voters with vision and ideas, and to continue fighting against gerrymandering.