Making America Smart Again

I LIVE PART-TIME IN RURAL MICHIGAN. While helping me pull weeds in the summer before the 2016 presidential election, a friend of mine, a non-college- educated white woman, told me that the increase in her health insurance premium under the Affordable Care Act would make her more likely to vote for the Republican candidate. (This was before Donald Trump was nominated. I have not asked her how she voted.) Her health insurance premium had been significantly less under the old system when she could purchase an individual plan with a high but manageable deductible. According to her, no similar plan was offered in Michigan after the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

There was no mistaking her sense of hurt. She talked about how much she was suffering, even though she worked hard and was a responsible employer and employee. She shared how unfair she thought it was that, even with these qualities, she was still suffering.

Several months later, I talked with my friend’s aunt, also not college-educated, about the job situation in our area of rural Michigan. “There are no jobs here,” she told me, as we discussed the fact that there once were many more in manufacturing, for instance at nearby Whirlpool, which has moved much of its manufacturing abroad.

These two smart women identified two policy arenas of life-saving importance to every woman: health care and jobs. I don’t know how they voted in 2016, but I do know this: they want the same economic security that I, a college-educated woman, do.

No woman needs a formal education to understand the advantages of being a self-interested voter, but every woman deserves as compelling a case as possible for her consideration.

In the Chicago Tribune, Renee Elliott, who lost her job at the Indianapolis Carrier factory that Donald Trump promised to save, wrote:

Last month, despite Trump’s promise, Carrier laid off another 215 employees and shifted their work to Mexico. I lost my job. As a result, I’m losing my health insurance, my retirement benefits and quite possibly my home…. I feel betrayed, angry and forgotten— and I’m not alone…. Even though working people like me helped put Trump in the White House, the truth is that he’s done nothing to keep his promises to save American jobs.

The action I propose here is to make America think again, which starts with finding ways to educate voters about why it is important to vote in their self-interest.

The remedy here is educating every voter about the importance to her own life of supporting candidates who propose economic policies that advance economic security for every woman, even when other policy proposals may be distasteful.

Rebecca Sive, who has taught politics at the University of Chicago and founded one of the nation’s first women’s centers, is an advocate for women’s political power and public leadership.

From Vote Her In by Rebecca Sive, copyright 2020, Midway Press.