Buss: Trump’s silent majority

Kaitlyn Buss
The Detroit News

Donald Trump’s victory was due in part to surprising support from women. Female voters were only 2 percentage points less likely to cast their vote for him than men, according to a Morning Consult/Politico exit poll.

Those numbers astounded the press following the election. But they shouldn’t have.

That women voted for the candidate they thought will best improve economic opportunities for them and their families — even over other interests traditionally associated with women — shouldn’t be such a surprise.

Maybe women’s issues aren’t all that different from men’s after all. In fact, maybe the era of identity politics altogether is waning.

Trump performed better with black voters than John McCain in 2008, and similar to George W. Bush’s performance in 2000. Trump also performed as well as McCain did with Latinos in 2008.

Hillary Clinton failed to capture enough votes from women whose primary concern was advancing an outdated feminist agenda. Equal pay for equal work makes more than enough sense, but it might not be the focus of a woman trying to start up a small business, raise kids or seek a path outside the corporate ladder.

Trump, on the other hand, won women by avoiding, or sometimes insulting, that outdated model.

It’s not that these groups didn’t care about insults like the Access Hollywood video; it’s that it wasn’t their first consideration when it came down to the ballot box.

“It became more and more apparent [women] didn’t like the comments [Trump] made in 2005,” Lena Epstein told me. She co-chaired the Trump for Michigan Campaign and worked closely with women throughout the state to get out the vote. “But that was 2005. Now it’s 2016. With no media chatter, no sound bites, they wanted to know if America was going to be safe and if they’re going to have opportunities for their families.”

Epstein said she learned throughout the campaign that Michigan women cared about the economic stability and success of America, jobs and opportunities for them and their partners, safe neighborhoods, affordable health care and good schools.

She also said Trump was able to speak to them on more “women-centered” issues like increasing childcare access and flexibility for women in the workplace, and that his business reveals how he actually views women.

“More women work for him than men,” Epstein said.

Perhaps it’s counterintuitive, but maybe a new feminism has taken over — one that has realized economic growth is critical for a society to sustain women’s broad range of interests.

“I know and believe very strongly in my head and my heart that a Trump presidency will be extremely positive, successful and fruitful economically for America — and thus the world,” Epstein said. “GDP in Michigan will grow under the Trump administration.”

And that benefits women just as much, perhaps more, than men.

But Epstein believes the business community, including women, came out in strong support for Trump because the threat of even more regulation from Washington was simply too much to risk.

That was certainly motivation for her to support Trump.

“While I did stick my neck out for Trump, I wasn’t the only one,” Epstein said. “I was very honored to be at the helm of that and be able to lead the community, but it was a wonderful group of people that were very, very proactive.”

Despite October surprises and drama, Trump’s victory ultimately seemed to push gender and identity issues aside. His voter turnout could indicate little more than widespread frustration with the economic status quo — from men, women and minorities.

“People are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Epstein said. “The silent majority has spoken.”