Phyllis Schlafly Says Unmarried Women Voters Cast Obama Ballots For Welfare
August 2, 2010Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly incited a firestorm of criticism and debate after she made remarks at a fundraiser that President Obama gained 70% of unmarried women’s votes because these women were eager to receive their government welfare checks. "Unmarried women, 70% of unmarried women, voted for Obama, and this is because when you kick your husband out, you've got to have big brother government to be your provider," Schlafly said, after stating that this “unmarried women” block was the second-largest supporting group involved in Obama’s win, behind African-Americans. When further questioned by Talking Points Memo (TPM) about her statement, Schlafly stood by it, saying, “Yes I said that. It's true, too. All welfare goes to unmarried moms…they are trying to line up their constituency for Obama and Democrats against Republican candidates." Schlafly’s blatant generalization of the so-called “unmarried women” group, a constituency almost as immense and diverse as the United States itself, is astonishing. Her conclusion that those included in this group voted for Obama in the hopes of receiving direct help from “big brother government” is grossly condescending and inaccurate. Gloria Feldt, Women’s Media Center Board member and former CEO of Planned Parenthood, notes in her blog response to Schlafly’s comments that these unmarried women made up 26% of Obama’s vote, and are thus a slightly larger voting group than that of African-Americans, which made up 23%. In regards to “unmarried moms”, Schlafly expressed her distrust of these single mothers before, as seen recently in a 2009 Q & A session with Time magazine. In this feature in Time, Schlafly claimed feminists single-handedly perpetrated an “idealization of the single mom.”While it is true that single mothers receive welfare at a heightened rate, Ann Curry reported that 60% of the families living in poverty today are families with single mothers--families who often need the most help. ThinkProgress.org further notes that "less than 20 percent [of unmarried women] are mothers to young children"-- a statistic that seems to have slipped Schlafly's mind . Many are calling for conservative candidates Schlafly’s Eagle Forum endorsed (including Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, Sharron Angle of Nevada and Jim DeMint of South Carolina) to distance themselves from Schlafly and her comments. Asher Smith's piece for The Huffington Post points out that Schlafly's support of these candidates might further complicate the public's notion of how they think of women; Smith specifically mentions Vitter as vulnerable to these potential voter doubts, thanks to his infamous use of prostitutes and derision of those women who dare to be anything but traditionally feminine such as Rachel Maddow. It is interesting to note that nowhere in Schlafly’s initial remarks or follow-up statements does she acknowledge the gender power gap that may have had something to do with a majority of unmarried women voting progressively. Feldt reminds us that women only hold 18% of power positions today despite being half the workforce and 60% of college graduates. With this statistic in mind, it’s a bit easier to understand why unmarried women, whether mothers or not, might cast their ballots in favor of a candidate who signed the Equal Pay Act into law—President Obama’s first bill signed into law. If history is any indication, however, Phyllis Schlafly will do as she did with the negative attention she received as she vigorously fought against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970’s--stick to her guns despite overwhelming evidence against her, become infamous for doing so, and mark this hyperbolic statement as one of her greatest achievements to date.