ELECTION 2012: Women Told the Nation, Loud and Clear, This Election was About the Economy and Jobs

Women have spoken. And they told the nation, loud and clear, that this election was about the economy and jobs. Some pundits and politicians didn’t get it, though. For women, topics like birth control and equal pay—which received a lot of attention in the weeks leading up to the election—are absolutely economic issues for women. I’ve heard some say we voted with our “ladyparts,” which we certainly care about, but it was bigger than that.

Women can’t provide for their families and plan for their futures without birth control and fair pay, and women turned out to vote in a big way—we made up 53 percent of the electorate—to tell politicians just that. Single women, in particular, turned out for President Barack Obama—to the tune of 67 percent. Women and the issues they cared about decided this election, and anyone who says otherwise wasn’t paying attention.

Election Day may be behind us, but women can’t rest on our laurels. We need to make our voices heard and exercise our clout, starting with the lame-duck session and sequestration talks. What transpires in the halls of Congress this December will be critical in determining the direction of the next Congress and this country as a whole.

Indeed, Congress has the chance to be grown-ups and work out a deal in the next month that will prevent the across-the-board spending cuts that are set to begin in January. A deal is possible. If Congress can agree, the president has already expressed his desire for a “grand bargain” and has proven that he is willing to buck his base to make a moderate deal. Advocates who care about women and children need to make it clear that any deal must not be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable among us and should ensure that the wealthiest 2 percent pay their share. A reasonable balance between increased revenue and targeted spending cuts will enable our economy to grow.

Congress needs look no further than women for models of good government. Women have historically proven to be better about reaching across the aisle. This makes the results of this year’s election—which led to the most women ever in the U.S. Senate at 20 and the House with at least 77 women—particularly exciting. More women in Congress, from both parties, will be critical if a divided Congress is to move past gridlock.

It’s clear that women will play a strong role in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The Democrats would not have retained control without women senators. Many of them were recruited by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), giving her clout that she is sure to exercise in a way that benefits women. The “dean of the women,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), will have a full house at her monthly bipartisan dinners for women senators and the chance to extend the bipartisan reach of women’s issues. None of this would be possible without the women’s vote.

Whether Congress decides to work together and move past gridlock has real impact on the work that can be done by advocacy groups like the American Association of University Women. If the gridlock continues, we will need to pay special attention to regulatory reform and enforcement—as well as strategic use of executive orders — as our best remaining avenue to create change.

The election results boil down to two things for women: Women should be excited, and women should be vigilant. Our work began when we got our issues heard and we got to the polls. Like the senior women in the Senate, the American woman voter has clout going forward. We voted our elected officials into office; we must hold them accountable. Let’s seize this valuable opportunity to make progress and ensure that President Obama and Congress dance with the ones who brought them—women.

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  • tk69

    This article is delusion and deviod of reality.  THe repblicans lost because people did not show up.  And more improtatnly becaue there was a lot of voter fraud.   IF anything, Romney policies are simular to Obma, who is a carbon copy of Bush.

    The idiot activist are actually rooting for the wrong canidates and the repbublicans actually implement the polices that the democrats don’t have the balls to do.

  • rosesagetwins

    I am a woman that voted for just this reason. I did not want to see my rights taken from me from a group of men that have no other interest than to see woman under their thumb instead of by their side. I voted with my uterus in mind. With the thought of what could happen in the future. And with the thought of children are an expensive endevor. Birth control on the other hand in cheap compared to a child. I would rather a woman use birth control than have an abortion. But I will not have my rights or that of any other woman out there impeded but misogynists who only think there way is the right way. Abortions have been around since the begining of time and no one should have the choice of taking a right aways that has nothing to  do with their own bodies.

  • unixdesigner78

    This is such an important point to bring up. In fact, over the weekend, I said something like this to my husband and our friends:


    You know, abortion and birth control access ARE economic issues for women. Without the ability to control our family size and timing, we can’t work. Without work, we can’t purchase housing, food, or healthcare. The ability to have sex without worrying about pregnancy isn’t solely the province of single women in college. Sex is part of a healthy marriage or long-term relationship. And many women rely on a spouse’s income to survive as well, even if those women are like me, part of the 40% of wives who are the primary breadwinners. Women of every color, sexual orientation, income group, and social group might have health issues that cause severe pain and leave them bedridden at least a few days a month. Those women can be helped by contraceptives, but not in a country full of people who treat the idea of covering women’s health as a joke (at best) or, more often, as a frivolous “handout” and waste of “hard-earned taxpayer dollars,” even as some of them argue passionately in favor of men’s right to co-pay free Viagra.


    Pregnancy also impedes a woman’s ability to survive by participating in the economy. If she’s lucky, a pregnant woman takes time off and loses some wages or salary. Others have complications and use up a lot of healthcare, or pay for their medical care out of pocket, which strains their economic situation and forces them to earn more money just as they’re responsible for a new child. Many companies are firing pregnant women, and the “recovery” is really a “he-covery,” as men are being hired over women many times over, while women’s jobs are being cut. We’re viewed as a liability, a group who universally gets pregnant, costs companies lots of money, and abandons our jobs. Every time the country has fallen into a recession, women as a class are the last to be hired and the first to be fired or laid off, and since the Victorian Era, Xtian moralists have campaigned to encourage women to leave the workforce to make room for the men, while using our ability to become pregnant as a primary (or the sole) reason why we don’t belong in the workplace.


    Some women can’t afford kids, and others may want them later, but may not currently work jobs that provide any leave time. As a country, we feel that paid maternity leave is optional. Terminating an unwanted pregnancy is NOT optional in any case, but it should be even easier to argue in favor of Roe v. Wade in a country where pregnancy can leave women jobless, homeless, and at risk of violence and worse. Also, some women, self included, are healthiest and best off not getting pregnant. We may have other health issues, or we may not have the right anatomy to safely carry to term. We might have been raped or we might be the victims of incest, either of which comes with its own health issues – issues that government-enforced pregnancy can exacerbate. Our right to live trumps a fetus’s right to grow dependent on us. Women who are left to die because a certain group feels abortion is immoral may also throw their surviving family members into poverty. Why can’t anyone on the Democratic side acknowledge that? Why are women’s reproductive rights always framed as a strange wedge issue, or a social ’cause’ rather than an issue of life and death, and health and economic survival?


    One friend said that Democrats can’t tie reproductive rights to economic survival because the “right to live” Xtians will howl in protest that we’re all a bunch of “baby killers” who are “sleeping around and then aborting for convenience.” And I said that I see that, but we have to challenge those messages instead of kowtowing to the anti-choice movement. Some liberals even use that camp’s language, like “pro-life.” To each his/her own, but I can’t in good faith consider people who gleefully endorse war, execution of the wrongfully accused, and killing the poor by starving social programs “pro-life” in any way.


    It’s a real shame that politicians don’t make it clear to voters that for women, reproductive rights are inseparable from the economy and jobs. Because they don’t, we’re always depicted as selfish cretins who “want the government to pay for our sex lives.” Obviously, the assumption that we’re seeking “sex welfare” is fundamentally flawed from the start. Witness how many conservatives misrepresent Sandra Fluke’s testimony, conveniently omitting that Ms. Fluke was not testifying in favor of contraception coverage for herself, nor for sexual purposes, but on behalf of a friend in the LGBT community whose health condition was ameliorated by contraceptives – and witness equally how few liberals corrected them, opting instead to argue in cool, dispassionate, Dukakis-esque language about the right to universal healthcare. It’s just too bad that politicans feel so pressured to kowtow to the anti-choice side that they refuse to stand up for women by making that connection between reproductive rights and economic rights. Women deserve better than to be depicted as welfare leeches always on the lookout for our next government-funded hookup. Lisa, do you have any ideas about how we can make our voices heard on this issue? If anyone reading has ideas too, I’m all eyes (ears?).