Unmarried women behind the crisis

Posted: Nov 21, 2000 12:00 AM
You have heard of pure scientists? They are the originators of such pure thoughts that eventuate, a generation later, into such lifesaving practical products as atom bombs and lightbulbs and penicillin. The counterparts of pure scientists are those journalists

whose deadline comes in after the finding of the circuit court judge's ruling that the Florida secretary of state acted reasonably in declaring closed the vote counting, but before the Florida Supreme Court affirms or overturns that decision. What do we do? The tocsin sounds for brave hearts, for the pure political analysts to resume meditation over the demographic voter breakdown of Election Day, Nov. 7.

The focus today is on unmarried women. They voted for Gore overwhelmingly (63 percent to 32 percent). The vote by married women was virtually tied (Gore 48, Bush 49).

Now the great polarization didn't happen overnight. Four years ago, Clinton got 62 percent of the unmarried women to 28 percent for Dole. The quick assumption that unmarried women were scared to death on election Tuesday by the high-pitched Gore predictions that a Bush victory would mean destitution at Social Security time doesn't stand up, unless we pure analysts are willing to say that the fear of dispossession began four years ago and stayed there to frighten unmarried women.

The drama, as you will have surmised, goes back to antecedent quadrennials. In 1992, Clinton vs. President Bush came in 53 percent to 31 percent. Perot got 15 percent. We can't know for sure from whom he took those votes, but if we apply them proportionately, we see that the unmarried women had already swung to the Democratic candidate.

And so we move back, this time by two presidential elections. In 1984, the vote was virtually tied: 49 percent for Reagan, 50 for Mondale. And in 1988, the slippage had begun: 42 for Vice President Bush, 57 for Gov. Dukakis.

What is going on? Several contributing factors are volunteered.

The first is that the GOP is associated with the right to life, and single women are most covetous of the dominion over reproductive rights, as the right to abort is most generally referred to. The assumption here is that married women care less about choice, but this isn't manifestly so: The married woman who finds herself pregnant and already has other children to raise will often opt for an abortion, and this group makes up about one-third of abortions performed. Where then do we look for this near 2-to-1 disparity in the current vote of unmarried women?

The figures reveal that 90 percent of black Americans voted for Gore. The mere application of that advantage contributes to the unmarried-women Democratic figure. But blacks are only 10 percent of the voters, which means that 90 percent of the plurality has to be otherwise accounted for.

Then ask: Isn't it possible that unmarried women find themselves, in the absence of a husband, relying on somebody else to help with the usual social anxieties? Health care and Social Security predominantly, but also, for a considerable number, education? Single mothers procreate a great many children, and these need to be educated.

The impression given by modern Democrats is that it is they who hold out a hand to aid the disadvantaged at every level: somebody there at the hospital at time of birth, somebody at the schoolhouse to teach the kids, somebody to give them drugs as required, somebody to look after her in her old age. What's his name? Not Daddy. It's Uncle Sam.

Does this reasoning apply to widows? They are "unmarried women." But it is likelier that they will have been provided for by their dead husbands, and trained to rely less on government than on personal resources.

The GOP can't reasonably be expected to promote a campaign to get husbands for unmarried women. But short of that, Republicans have to come up with something. It isn't as easy as to reverse its position on abortion: Reagan did just fine simultaneously (a) opposing abortion, and (b) attracting the backing of unmarried women.

At the least, future Republican strategists could openly address the question. They try to appeal to Jewish voters by cosseting Israel, to Catholic voters by church/state rescue missions, blacks by civil-rights militancy, Hispanics by social hospitality. The unmarried woman can selectively be singled out for attention at least to the point of acknowledging that she exists, and ought to adopt the GOP for her otherwise childless household.