President Donald Trump and his Republican allies have made it easy for future historians and political scientists to understand how the gender gap exploded under his presidency. The vast majority of African American women (and men) for decades have identified with the Democratic Party, the party of civil rights, women’s rights and social welfare support. However, until the Trump presidency, the GOP had managed to hold onto white women (even Trump won 52 percent of them; by contrast he got 4 percent of African American women.) With Trump in power the GOP is now tied to a president who has offended, appalled and scared white women, most especially college-educated white women. This week is a perfect example of why that has happened.
Trump personally is a large part of the problem. The misogynist bully, a know-nothing who rejects science and basic economics, encapsulates every quality these women despise. This week has been no different — insulting presidential candidates, heightening conflict with other powers (Iran, China) for the sake of riling up his base, lashing out at law enforcement in venom-filled tweets, playing the tough guy, refusing to recognize any legitimate oversight role for Congress and, of course, lying up the wazoo about tariffs, which are obviously a tax on American consumers.
Now there is an added element. There are the efforts underway in Georgia, Alabama and a slew of other states to essentially outlaw abortion. Georgia’s new law would prohibit abortions after six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. Beyond that it’s murder under the new state law.
In Alabama the idea is to deny exceptions for rape or incest precisely so pro-lifers can set up a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. It may come as a shock to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, but around the country antiabortion forces figure they’ve got their majority to overturn Roe with Justice Brett Kavanaugh and are racing to outdo one another in criminalizing abortion.
The draconian legislation in Alabama (and in states sure to follow its lead), for example, would require a minor who is raped to complete the pregnancy. The no-exceptions abortion ban would also put at risk a doctor who follows his professional obligation to spare a woman grievous physical (but not life-threatening) harm and thereby may face a murder charge. If this cruel invasion of women's autonomy in the most aggressive fashion imaginable isn't the personification of the war on women, I don't know what is. (And, of course, these laws won't stop women from having abortions; they will revive illegal and unsafe abortions, putting women's health and lives at risk.)
Until Trump, abortion has actually not been a top issue for most voters (even women) because, frankly, voters saw (whether they liked it or not) the Supreme Court preserving Roe. That has all changed with two Trump appointees.
Even women who had been amenable to regulations of abortion clinics or to restricting late-term abortions can see how Trump's GOP has gone off the deep end. (This is why you see support for Roe spike in polls.)
And there you have it - the perfect formula for turning women off the GOP, perhaps permanently. These developments come after multiple attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, cuts to education spending and the inhumane child separation policies - all intensely unpopular with women voters.
The question is not whether women will abandon the GOP in 2020 but whether they will ever come back. If white women (even just white college-educated women who went for Hillary Clinton narrowly — 51 to 44 percent — in 2016) start voting more like nonwhite women, the GOP is toast.