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March 8, 2012
It’s clear now the Right means to demonize unmarried women and mothers this election. But they could be reaping the whirlwind by giving these women, who make up 25 percent of the electorate and tend to share progressive values, a reason to turn out this November.
First look at the trend:
Mother Jones has released a compilation of damning attacks from a leading Presidential candidate on unmarried mothers, blaming them in 1994 for ruining the county: “We are seeing it. We are seeing the fabric of this country fall apart, and it’s falling apart because of single moms [and] single-parent households simply breeding more criminals.”
And, as Lara Bergthold from the Lear Family Foundation and the Board of People for the American Way points out, this same candidate hasn’t stepped back from his claims. “In October, he said that the Democratic Party’s support base is single mothers with a “desire for government.” At a GOP debate in December, he said that single moms aren’t marrying their boyfriends because they want to “keep on collecting welfare.”
In addition, a Wisconsin lawmaker has proposed legislation that would require the state to officially declare single parenting as child abuse. Republican Senator Glenn Grothman presented the bill which would require the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to conduct a public awareness campaign to emphasize that not being married is abusive and neglectful of children, and to underscore “the role of fathers in the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect.”
All this on top of Rush Limbaugh’s attack on an unmarried Georgetown University Law student for speaking out in favor of insurance coverage for contraceptives.
But these attacks could have powerful and unintended consequences: there is already some evidence that the contraception debate has elevated the interest and engagement of single women in this year’s elections. According to the Salon’s Steve Kornaci, “It’s worth noting that single women tend to participate in elections at a lower rate than married women. The Voter Participation Center estimates that if turnout levels were equalized at the married rate, roughly 6 million new unmarried women would head to the polls. In demeaning an intelligent, well-spoken 30-year-old single woman, Limbaugh is doing his part to wake these non-voters up.”
And that could be a dangerous thing for the Right to do. If fully engaged, unmarried women have the potential to determine the outcome of 2012 races. In 2008, Barack Obama beat John McCain by 41 points among single women. Since then their numbers have grown considerably. According to the U.S. Census, 55 million unmarried mothers will be eligible to vote this November. The question now is how many will the Right send to the polls?