As a student of American history and a person of color, I never underestimate the white, hot rage, anxiety, and resentment of a Karen scorned. You might think you’ve won them over with Beyonce, Oprah, chai latte, and henna, but the cult of Karen will always turn on people of color on a dime to uphold oppressive systems that ensure they remain influential and powerful handmaidens of white supremacy.
Don’t believe me? According to an NBC exit poll, 75 percent of white women without college degrees voted for Glenn Youngkin for Governor in Virginia, compared to 56 percent who went for Trump in 2020. They voted for a man whose single campaign message was about stopping the manufactured bogeyman of Critical Race Theory, the latest incarnation of the Southern Strategy, which most of his voters can’t define and isn’t taught in schools, but they are certain it is absolutely terrifying and worth canceling because it’s making their kids hate white people and become transgender.
In some bright news, 62 percent of college-educated white women went for Democrat Terry McAuliffe, up from 58 percent who went for Biden last year. But overall a majority of white women, around 57 percent, went for Youngkin—a remarkable 15-point swing from 2020 when 50 percent went for Biden and 49 percent for Trump.
I’m not surprised.
After all, 47 percent of white women voted for Trump in 2016 compared to 45 percent for Clinton. This was after he bragged about grabbing women by the pussy. When I interviewed white women at a Trump rally before the election, nearly all of them played off his misogyny as “locker room talk,” and gave him a pass, saving their disdain for Hillary Clinton. In 2020, these white women were so disgusted by Trump’s rampant misogyny, cruelty, and racism, that even more of them, 53 percent, went for the vulgarian with numerous, credible sexual assault allegations.
In fact, a number of high-profile Republican candidates have recently been accused of sexual abuse, including Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania, whose wife testified he once strangled her and forced her out of the car and commanded her to get an abortion. So far, these ugly and terrifying accusations haven’t dented a single one of them with their base, which very much includes white conservative women. The sad truth is that a majority of white women have voted for Republican candidates since 1952, every single time except for Lyndon B. Johnson and for Clinton’s second term.
It makes sense. They vote for their interests, which is preserving whiteness at all costs. When push comes to shove, many white women in this country have historically shoved people of color out of the way. These suburban, PTA moms were “segregation’s constant gardeners” who helped keep Jim Crow alive; they upheld white power at the expense of Black and brown women as they marched towards suffrage; and they even came out to derail the Equal Rights Amendment, thanks to the advocacy of conservative firebrand Phyllis Schlafly, who argued that (white) women, and their (white) families, were better under the current, unequal system that promoted patriarchy and white supremacy.
She had a point. Why dismantle a system where you can always be the victim and weaponize your tears into bullets against Black and brown bodies? When doing the right thing means that your white son and daughter would have to compete equally with children of color in academics, sports, and the workplace, and your white husband won’t get a head start on job promotions, higher wages, and bank loans compared to colleagues of color? Why dismantle a system that will protect your white children from having to confront the enduring sin and trauma of white supremacy, which includes slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, xenophobia, and racist dog whistles that continue to degrade, humiliate, and incarcerate so many people of color?
In that version of America, it’s good to be a white woman. When you go missing, or there’s a tragic murder, this country mourns you, writes about you, and mobilizes all its efforts to seek retribution, but it all but ignores Black and brown girls who were also loved and leave behind family and friends yearning for justice, closure, and empathy.
These Virginia Karens can now sleep peacefully at night knowing their cultural warriors will confront and annihilate that loathsome and fearsome beast known as CRT. Their children still have to deal with coronavirus and mass shootings, but at least they might not be traumatized by Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved and other triggering books or discussions that mention America’s spectacular history of racism.
Talking about this racism also apparently makes you a racist, as I learned last night on social media from my many adoring GOP-voting fans. They assured me they’re not racist, because they also elected conservative Winsome Sears as the state’s first female, Black lieutenant governor! You might remember her defiant picture posing with a rifle, which is totally normal, and means she’ll be able to shoot the coronavirus and CRT away. Republican Jason Miyares, a son of Cuban immigrants, also won as attorney general, and he provides further cover of color to many of these white women and GOP voters who delude themselves into believing they have “zero racist bones in their body” because they elected two people of color. Of course, no person of color has ever caped for whiteness, embraced racist policies, and echoed racist dog whistles to attain fame, fortune, or political office. Oh, hello, Candace Owens and Larry Elder! Sorry, I didn’t see you, the ghost of Herman Cain!
I’ll be fair and give credit where it’s due. The cynical, ugly, and totally fabricated fear of CRT, much like the Sharia fear in 2010, worked wonders. That singular message was paired with an image of a friendly, Trump-lite candidate, who was able to sell the bullshit that schools are transforming their children into radical transgender activists who will kill pronouns and join the Black Panthers.
However, there are some positive lessons for Democrats moving forward towards the 2021 election, and those don’t include blaming progressives or throwing the Squad under the bus. McAuliffe ran a lazy, uninspiring campaign without generating enthusiasm from the Democratic base. He lost this race, and the Democratic establishment has no one to blame but him at the end of the day. The manufactured CRT panic isn’t going away, and it will work wonders across the nation, especially with white moms, unless Democrats confront it head on. Democrats need to take this seriously and develop a counter-message, because ignoring it isn’t an option.
Democrats must finally stop chasing Amy and Karen, and start chasing Stacey: lean on women of color and a multicultural coalition that will inspire and bring out voters of color, who are your base and helped deliver you Georgia and Arizona. Look at the next mayor of Boston, Michelle Wu, a young, progressive Asian American daughter of immigrants, who brought a diverse coalition to win as Mayor in Boston. Learn from that.
Finally, Democrats can still win over most parents, including enough white women, by endorsing policies beloved by parents across the board. This includes paid parental leave, free Pre-K, and empowering Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. These “progressive policies” have overwhelming support even with Republican and Independent voters, even though they upset a Manchinema. President Biden and a majority of Democrats have a Build Back Better plan that could make this happen. It would be a winning talking point for the entire party, including Manchinema, leading up to the 2022 and 2024 elections, considering zero Republicans support it.
Democrats might not win the majority of white women, but they haven’t for a while. That ship has sailed. It’s time to court and win over women of color and a diverse coalition that can save this country from itself and its self-destructive addiction to white supremacy. At the very least, now Youngkin can stop playing footsie with Trump and his MAGA acolytes and give them a full-throated bear hug while wearing his winter fleece. However, he should reserve the parade for white women who came out for whiteness like a Bath and Body Works candle sale.