According to this recent NBC poll, Trump has a 23-point advantage over Clinton among white men. In other words, if only white men could vote, Trump would be a shoo-in. Yikes.
I read that statistic, and thought about the fact that just 96 years ago, before the 19th Amendment, American women couldn’t vote. My grandmother was born unable to vote!
This was no accident. The Founding Fathers were perfectly aware that many women wanted to vote. Abigail Adams, one of my personal heroes, told her husband, John Adams, “…if particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.” She warned him that “All men would be Tyrants if they could,” and was an abolitionist as well as an early feminist, in her genteel way.
Abigail was one smart woman. But John did not take her seriously, and so that all-male, all-white assembly of men predictably restricted voting rights to people who looked exactly like they did.
151 years ago the 14th Amendment theoretically gave black men the right to vote. But Jim Crow laws—written and enforced by white men—took that right away in many places until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 actually began to enforce them. Just two years before I was born. Wow.
I don’t wish to bash all white men: after all, I’m married to one, am the daughter of another, and the mother of yet another! Most of the white guys I know wouldn’t dream of voting for Trump. Even speaking historically, the Civil Rights Act was passed in large part because of a white man from Texas. We shouldn’t forget that. And white men eventually passed the 19th Amendment. (It only took them 140 years.)
Still, I can’t help thinking that it’s a good thing white men aren’t the only voters anymore.
Back in the day, most arguments against letting women vote were based on how “illogical” or “hysterical” we were. We were too emotional, you see, to make decisions like choosing a president. And black people were considered to be too naturally “ignorant” to vote.
Now, I could easily post a video of a bunch of white guys in red ball caps (and a few completely inexplicable women) talking about how they like Donald Trump because he “tells it like it is” or he’s “gonna build a wall.” But I think we’ve seen enough of those. The two things all Trump supporters seem to have in common are ignorance and irrationality. And, quite often, a mean streak. I’m pretty sure threatening and punching people out at a rally because they happen to disagree with you is highly illogical, emotional behavior!
Thankfully, women, being just over 50 percent of the U.S. population, have plenty of electoral heft. They are giving Clinton a 24 point lead in the poll cited above. Black Americans are only about 13 percent of the population, but they are heavily concentrated in a few key areas, electorally speaking. Recently, Trump has been polling at anywhere from 6 percent to ZERO percent of the black vote. I would say, how does he even manage that? But, well, you know.
This is what Trump voters are afraid of: the rest of us. That’s why they are nostalgic for the good old days. When all white men could be “Tyrants.”
But those days are gone. This next election should make that clearer than ever. The rest of us can vote now. Thanks to the 14th and 19th Amendments to a Constitution that got it right in so many ways—but reserved all power to white men.
I hope Abigail Adams is watching.