President Donald Trump’s efforts to court suburban women voters may be misguided, according to a new book with Las Vegas ties and national implications.
First, he promised to protect their neighborhoods from U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and low-income housing — a dog whistle so audible it required no interpretation.
“That’s nice and racist, thank you,” says Southern Nevada businesswoman and suburbanite Sonia Petkewich. “He’s trying to scare people with the threat of low-income housing in their neighborhood.”
Then, in a plea that seemed more pathetic than playful, Trump asked women at a rally to “please, like me.”
And this week, in an homage to ‘Ozzie and Harriet’, he promised suburban housewives he’d put their husbands back to work.
“Suburban women are probably in a household with two people working,” says Las Vegan Patty Romeo, who intends to vote for Joe Biden. “They may be making more than their husband.”
“He’s never really had to work so he’s tone-deaf and he’s always had things handed to him,” says psychologist Jamie Greene.
“It’s very interesting how out of touch Trump really is,” says Las Vegas business owner Brandon Davis. “We have this huge amount of women who are unemployed. It’s actually larger than men. He missed an opportunity to speak with women instead of at them.”
“I know plenty of women and men who are having to homeschool, juggle work, or quit jobs,” he says. “He could cater his message to them.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says about half of the 22 million-plus jobs lost in March and April have returned, but some, especially hospitality jobs held by women, are threatened by the whims of the pandemic.
In December 2019, women made up slightly more than half of the U.S. workforce. Today, it’s just under half. But in September, women dropped out of the labor market at a rate four times that of their male counterparts. Of the 865,000 women reported as no longer working or looking for work last month, 324,000 were Latinas and 58,000 were Black.
Davis believes Trump’s “macho thing turns women off.”
“Some women like that Trump’s so macho,” says Greene, who supports Biden. “They like the notion of a man who takes charge and control.”
“He really speaks his mind,” she adds. “You can’t always know where politicians stand but you know where he stands and people like that.”
“Everything he says is like an open book. His language is so simple. Everything makes sense,” says Giovanna Raccosta Nezhati, who says she voted for Trump after learning the FBI discovered more Clinton emails in October 2016. She says she “felt disgusted” by the Access Hollywood tape released the same day, in which Trump boasted of assaulting women.
“Once again, where do I go? To corruption or a man who has low values?” she asks.
If the polls are right, Nezhati is among a shrinking group of women for Trump.
Now, with women shouldering the brunt of the burden from a pandemic that the president has admittedly minimized, even supporters find his faults difficult to ignore.
“Do I think he’s perfect? No,” says Las Vegan Mary Rendina. “Do I think everything that comes out of his mouth is gospel? No. Do I agree with the policies? Yes,” she says. “When you look at the worse of the two evils, he’s the one I’m going to choose.”
“I’m a Republican. I was raised a Republican. I’ve never wavered from that all these years,” she says. “I don’t buy into the mainstream media narrative that he’s sexist.”
“I also happen to be a Christian woman so I look at him as being pro-life,” she says, adding she’s unconcerned that Trump was pro-choice before entering politics. “I’m a conservative woman and he’s appointed conservative judges.”
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News aggregate of polls released Thursday shows 50 percent of male voters support Trump, compared with only 35 percent of women. Biden wins 58 percent of women while Trump appeals to only 43 percent, according to the poll.
Suburban Women for Trump, “created because we are tired of the fake news saying that President Trump struggles with Suburban Women,” has a little more than 2,200 followers on Facebook. By contrast, Suburban Housewives Against Trump has more than 200,000 followers.
The ‘burbs, they are a-changin’
“This guy’s view of the suburbs is really ancient. I think it might actually work against him,” says UNLV Professor Robert Lang of Trump’s pitch to suburban women. He’s the co-author, along with colleagues David Damore and Karen Danielsen, of Blue Metros, Red States: The Shifting Urban-Rural Divide in America’s Swing States.
Lang says density, diversity and bachelors degrees are turning suburbs, especially older ones, into bastions of blue.
“It looks like the Blue Metros may take charge of the country,” says Lang, whose book examines shifting demographics in swing states that have a major metropolitan area, and where the 2016 election was decided by less than ten points. “The denser suburbs – Henderson north of the 215, older sections of Henderson, Scottsdale, older parts of Dallas — those folks are essentially city-like in their voting.”
Nevada’s population has more than quadrupled in 30 years, transforming especially mostly-white Southern Nevada into one of the most diverse areas of the nation.
Its “rapidly diversifying suburbs,” are referred to in the book as “the GOP’s last foothold in the Las Vegas Valley.”
Lang and his co-authors surmise “much of the expected Democratic shift in Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada will occur in the region’s fourteen fast-growing, large-scale urbanizing suburbs, or boomburbs.”
Henderson, the authors note, is “larger than Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh.”
North Las Vegas, with a population of almost a quarter of a million, “operates as an international gateway…” and “is home to a large foreign-born population…”
These suburbs are “poised to vote more Democratic compared to the whiter and sprawling suburbs located farther from the region’s metro cores,” the authors write.
Lang says the blue tinge of the suburbs is visible in Trump’s campaign rally site selections.
“He doesn’t go to the Philly suburbs,” Lang said, referring to Trump’s rally this week in Lehigh Valley, Penn. The president also campaigned this week in Bullhead City, Arizona, a remote location along the Colorado River.
In all, Lang says Trump’s courting of suburban women may be for naught.
“You’re seeing the Blue Metros, like they did in 2018, push back on the rural and small town dominance of politics that’s associated with Trump,” Lang says. “This may be the first presidential election where we see it.”