Trump's Angry White Women: Motherhood, Nationalism, and Abortion
46 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2019 Last revised: 11 Sep 2020
Date Written: May 10, 2019
A majority of white women — fifty-two percent — voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. White working-class women supported Trump in even greater numbers: sixty-one percent of white women without college degrees voted for Trump. This result seems remarkable considering Trump’s derogatory statements about women and his staunch opposition to legal access to abortion. Why did white women, especially those most likely to need access to reproductive healthcare—poor and working-class women — vote heavily against their own interests to embrace a candidate who called for punishing women who access abortion? Much recent commentary has considered this question and drawn various conclusions, including that white women lack information and live with close ties to conservative white men who they look to when casting their vote. This Article brings a new perspective to this question by examining the ways that motherhood is mobilized in movements for nationalism. Specifically, it investigates how Donald Trump’s presidential campaign drew upon a familiar narrative forged by the family-values movement of the mid-1970’s that linked opposition to abortion with protection of motherhood, family, and nation. The pro-life message that conflates opposing abortion with protecting motherhood and American culture and values continues to animate opposition to abortion: Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan had first been used in the Reagan-Bush campaign along with their promise to “take back our country.” Trump’s campaign effectively deployed the same message that promised to defend motherhood, traditional family, and nation to mobilize white female voters. Drawing upon social science research and the historical record, this Article seeks to uncover the origins of how opposition to abortion was transformed into a powerful expression of white women’s disaffection and nationalism.
Keywords: abortion, nationalism, working-class, Schlafly, motherhood, Trump, election
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