White women have favored the Democrat only twice since 1952. They went with Trump in 2016, and then a series of Trumpy Republicans in 2018. Why trust them now?
In recent weeks, as election day nears and nervous prognostications about the outcome proliferate, I’ve noticed a new kind of article emerge. These pieces, part confessional essay and part apology letter-by-proxy, brim with quotes from white women who helped Donald Trump win the presidency in 2016 but who now plan to vote for Joe Biden.
In regretful tones, these women describe feeling “riddled with guilt,” “embarrassed,” and “sick to [their] stomach” for voting into office a “moron” and “bully” who “represents everything that I don't want my children to grow up to be." “I really failed my fellow American citizens,” one white woman told the Guardian. “I’m extremely disappointed in myself…If I were to vote again for Donald Trump in 2020, it would be just as much a failure as an American, but also a failure as a human being.”
They were “duped” into voting for Trump, or just accidentally “got it wrong,” these white women imply, or outright state—an alibi that’s impossible to square with the unchanging nature of this president, who made his racism, xenophobia, and predatory tendency to grab women “by the pussy” well known long before Nov. 8, 2016. Their protestations conjure what writer Ruby Hamad has labeled the “illusion of innocence” that white women reliably use, a mirage that “deflects and denies the racial crimes of white society.” These women knew that Trump would inflict widespread harm—that he would ban Muslims, end DACA, stuff the courts—because that is precisely what he promised to do. What they could not foresee was COVID-19, or how they might get swept up amidst the collateral damage of so much Trumpian failure.