By Michael Gates ’15
“It’s the moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right,” Ann Romney said in her opening speech of the Republican National Convention. And just a week later, Michelle Obama delivered a similar speech to open the Democratic Convention, telling the heartfelt, sentimental story of Barack Obama’s mother, and how she “hit a glass ceiling,” and “men that she actually trained were promoted up the ladder faster than she was.”
Housewife, working mom, single, widowed, or divorced, if you are a woman, the parties want your vote. In most states, there are far more registered women voters than male, so making a plea to the women has become a central focus of both campaigns. Recently, Mitt Romney and the Republicans especially have been competing for their votes in the upcoming election. To this point, Obama has a staggering lead among women in key swing states, leading by 51 to 44 percent in Florida and even more significant, 58 to 37 in Ohio, and 59 to 35 in Pennsylvania. Women in the swing states are most sought after because they outvote their male counterparts.
Obama’s monumental lead among women voters can most likely be credited to his party’s stance among key issues like Planned Parenthood, abortion, equal pay, Medicare and others that the Democrats have ardently backed. During his campaign, Obama often highlights his administration’s advances in women’s rights issues. During his first term, he appointed two women to the Supreme Court, Justice Elena Kagan, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, making it the first time in American history to have three women justices on the bench. The White House website also cites other key advancements like gender equality in the armed forces, and better education for women as part of their accomplishments. It also ranks other issues, such as equal pay, as some of their main concerns moving forward.
Since the landmark Supreme Court decision in 1973 in Roe v. Wade, women have been able to have an abortion regardless of what state they live in. However, a poll conducted in 2009 by Gallup Politics found that more Americans are pro-life over pro-choice, as compared to 1995 when the percentage of people pro-choice to pro-life was about 56 to 33. In recent years, the number of Americans who are pro-life is still greater, yet we are experiencing a change in attitude among many women. Many women do not necessarily agree with abortions, but they see it as a woman’s choice to have the baby or not. Women’s rights advocates argue that it is not so much about abortion as it is about giving the woman the right to decide the baby’s fate.
Planned Parenthood has been a controversial issue for both sides, and we can expect to see it appear in the upcoming presidential debates. Planned Parenthood itself is a non-profit organization that provides breast cancer screenings for women, and family planning, and other services. Not so controversial, right? However, they also offer abortions for women that cannot afford them. And Congress annually spends about $300 million supporting these programs. Because of the controversy of abortions, the House of Representatives has a plan to cut the $300 million that it is currently spending. However, a recent report cites Scott Brown claiming that he is against the budget cuts that Republicans have planned. He stated that the cuts “go too far,” claiming, “I support family planning and budget cuts for women.” This could be an actual attempt at moderate politics, or this could be his appeal to the independents in Massachusetts, trying to bolster some support for the upcoming election. Either way, it gives women even more a say in the outcome of political elections.
The 2012 presidential candidates (slate.com)
And finally, there’s Medicare. Medicare is a social insurance program that guarantees all Americans, of or over the age of 65, health insurance. The main problem facing both Medicare and social security is that people are living longer due to advancements in technology and medicine. The life expectancy in the United States is now 78.2 years, almost eight years more than when the program was introduced. The government now has to support the average person for thirteen years, making it tougher and tougher to supply the programs and funds for all Americans. So, why is this important to women? For two important reasons. 1. A recent study showed that women on average live six years longer than men do, making Medicare even more significant for them. 2. The demographics of Florida, the swing state with by far the most electoral votes, shows that women over 65 outnumber men by almost 275,000, making Medicare a hugely influential issue.
In the presidential election, both candidates must acknowledge the power and importance of the women vote. The vote from women alone will not decide the election, but it may just be enough of a boost to win one or two swing states to push Obama over the edge in the election.