Pundits always find a new name for them: "soccer moms," "Walmart moms," "security moms." Whatever you want to call them, this year, they're bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic with no end in sight. They're suburban women. They're stressed out. And they're going to decide the 2020 election.
Despite this seismic shift in how women are living, working, caring for, and educating their children, these all-consuming issues are being overlooked and underestimated as a major factor — if not the deciding factor — that could push suburban women to swing voters to one candidate or another.
We know about the "rage moms" this year who have shown up to protests, many for the first time and been outspoken about their anger about the pandemic. But even the women who aren't necessarily angry are exhausted. They're facing unprecedented economic and domestic pressures during the pandemic. They're now the primary caregivers and teachers for their children, the person most likely to do more of the household cleaning and cooking, all while working full-time jobs or being pushed out of the workforce completely.
Women make up for most COVID-19 related job losses, and with remote learning and a collapsing child care system, women are three times more likely than men to quit work to focus on child care. Even if they plan to return to work at some point in the future, women face an uphill battle to ramp back on and will likely be paid less than they were before, which hurts their household income now, retirement savings later, and their career trajectory.
These pressures and frustrations will only continue to compound between now and the election, with most school districts across the country having no real choice but to do remote or hybrid models of learning this fall. Like last spring, the burden of distance learning will yet again fall disproportionately on women.
For many women, the new demands at home are constantly top of mind and affect every major decision. Yet for all the extensive public opinion research on the economy and public safety outside the home, there's very little we know about how much women's new exploding responsibilities inside the home will influence their vote, in part because pollsters just aren't asking enough of these questions. We don't know how these burdens are pressurizing this key segment of the electorate in the final stretch of the race, and we are likely missing a major undercurrent running through suburban battlegrounds across the country.
Democrats easily have the upper hand with women heading into the fall, thanks to President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE. Since 2018 when women rejected Trump and congressional Republicans in the midterm elections and gave Democrats their largest pickup in the House in nearly 50 years, Trump has continued to get crushed in polls with women consistently. A recent poll had Trump down more than 20 percentage points in the suburbs, and by a 2 to 1 margin with women. In early August, an average of national polls showed women favoring Biden by 23 points and the white women Trump depended on to win in 2016 fleeing the President as fast as they can.
Vice President Biden is right on many of the issues suburban women care about and is already over-performing with them, but the race is far from over and polls are tightening. He has a critical opportunity right now to win over this key segment of voters by speaking directly to them about the pressures they're facing every day at home and offer them a way out — something that Trump has failed to do over the last six months.
He should make the case that he is the only candidate in the race who understands the enormous pressures that have been thrown onto them and has a substantive plan to get the pandemic under control, return kids safely back to school, reopen daycares, restart the economy, and get people's lives back to normal without the threat of more spikes in COVID-19 cases and shutdowns. If he does this, Trump will have no chance of clawing back the suburban women voters he needs to win in November.
Trump's August tweet about "Suburban Housewives of America" at once demonstrated his understanding of the real trouble he is in with these voters and his total misunderstanding of who these women are. Rarely have Democrats had such a clear opportunity to win over such a crucial part of the electorate. They have to seize it.
Whitney Brennan is a Democratic strategist and senior vice president at Firehouse Strategies. She served as communications director to U.S. Senator Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Biden signs bill to help victims of 'Havana syndrome' Lawmakers using leadership PACs as 'slush funds' to live lavish lifestyles: report MORE and has worked on battleground campaigns throughout the country.