Donald Trump says suburban women will reelect him president, but in Connecticut female voters calling themselves The S.W.A.T. Team are campaigning against his efforts to court the crucial voting bloc.
Suburban Women Against Trump was formed in early August in response to the US leader claiming that Democratic opponent Joe Biden would “destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream” with low-cost housing.
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“I was just appalled by how he was trying to paint this picture of suburban women falling into his camp and being as racist as he is,” co-founder Brook Manewal tells AFP at a S.W.A.T. get-together.
“He paints us as afraid of losing our white picket fences, perfect little houses and perfect yards and I don’t think that’s the people I have run into at all.”
The 43-year-old lawyer sent a late-night text message to friend and fellow Stamford resident Shira Tarantino suggesting they form an organization aimed at persuading suburban women to vote for Biden.
S.W.A.T. was born as a small Facebook group. It quickly spread by word of mouth and on social media and now has 9,000 members across 35 states, according to Manewal, a lawyer and mother of four.
The women call voters on the phone daily, mail voting-reminder postcards, raise funds for Biden’s campaign, post information online and are organizing a march this Saturday in Stamford.
They are also sending 10,000 copies of a letter to the White House telling Trump: “You do NOT know us, you do NOT speak for us, and you do NOT represent the type of leader we respect.”
– ‘Please like me’ –
At Wednesday’s event, the activists made posters for Saturday’s march that said “We won’t go back” and “Back off my body,” a reference to Trump’s claim that the Supreme Court may overturn abortion laws.
Unsurprisingly, the women vote overwhelmingly Democratic but they have been able to pick up a few traditional Republican supporters, although they say that is not their focus.
“I don’t think that we are necessarily here to change the minds of people whose minds are already made up,” says 49-year-old Tarantino, who has two children.
“I think what we are here to do is to get people out to vote who don’t normally come out to vote,” adds the non-profit executive.
White women, including those living in suburbs, played a significant role in Trump’s shock election win over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
According to the Pew Research Center, 47 percent of white women voted for Trump, compared with 45 percent for Clinton.
Among white women without college degrees, some 61 percent voted for Trump compared to just 34 percent for Clinton.
The votes were pivotal in swing states such as Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which he won by only 44,000 votes, and could be key again this time.
On August 12, Trump tweeted that the “suburban housewife will be voting for me” on November 3.
But at a rally in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, he sounded less sure. “Suburban women, will you please like me? I saved your damn neighborhood, okay?” he told the crowd.
The plea came after a Washington Post-ABC News poll in August showed Biden 13 points ahead of Trump among suburban women.
– Polls –
Christopher Borick, professor of political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said Trump’s outreach to suburban women is “increasingly central” to his campaign.
“However there seems to be very limited evidence to date that this effort is yielding gains,” he told AFP.
Robert Shapiro, an American politics expert at Columbia University, believes a shift in support away from Trump among white women is a key reason for Biden’s strong lead in the polls.
“This, including women voting in large numbers, could lead to a substantial Democratic victory in the popular vote and the Electoral College,” he told AFP.
Marie Rocha, a S.W.A.T. organizer and venture capitalist who is black, believes the massive George Floyd protests “awakened” a lot of suburban women to the plight of minorities in America.
S.W.A.T, which also has an organizer of Pakistani origin, isn’t the only group of suburban women challenging Trump’s fear-mongering pitch to white women about crime-ridden suburbs.
Red, Wine and Blue has been gathering in Ohio’s suburbs since 2016. Their email list has 20,000 subscribers and their private Facebook groups have more than 180,000 members.
“He has no idea what our lives are like. We’re not ‘housewives’ and this is not the 1950s,” founder Katie Paris told AFP.