Listening Posts: Where People Talk Politics Women Favor Clinton Over Dole Their Top Concerns Not Same As Men’s
The gender gap is more like the Great Divide when it comes to this year’s presidential race.
Numerous polls show women overwhelmingly favoring President Clinton over Bob Dole in the race for the White House.
While the numbers indicate men are almost evenly split, women support Clinton nearly 2-1.
Men and women often speak different languages when it comes to politics. While many men dwell on issues such as tax cuts, foreign aid and military buildups, women are more likely to bring up child care, health insurance and education.
In Spokane as elsewhere, some women say, these are the issues that drive their voting hand.
A reporter listened in during informal gatherings of women at Manito Park and a South Hill house used as a refuge for women recovering from alcohol, drug or domestic abuse. Here are excerpts from two.
It’s early evening. Seven women have just finished dinner and are sitting around a patio table outside the stately South Hill house.
Four live there; the other three are the home’s coordinators.
They sip ice water, savor each other’s company and, with only a little prodding, slip quickly into passionate political discourse.
“I hate the partisan politics,” says Marcie, who - like her roommates - has asked that her last name not be used because of her substance abuse problems. “It’s not about what’s good for the people. It’s about what’s good for their own cause.”
Elizabeth Jane, another resident, jumps in. “It’s the interest groups they’re supporting. That’s politics and that’s how it works … I like to think as more women get into politics that’ll change.”
The discussion clips along, with brief stops at gays in the military and abortion.
It idles at health care.
Jo, who also lives at the home, says she feels lucky because she has insurance. “I work at a hospital,” she says. “I get to see the other hand, young mothers coming in who can’t afford anything. They’re working really hard, and they can’t get health care.”
Elizabeth Jane says she tried the state’s Basic Health plan but found the coverage so limited she had to switch to the federal Medicaid program. She called several of her state legislators to talk about her health care problems. Only one returned her call.
“He didn’t seem to know what I was talking about,” she says. “Sometimes you feel like you’re flailing around out here.”
Monica Walters, the center director, springs into the conversation. “Twenty-one percent of Spokane children live in poverty,” she says. “That’s a staggering, scary statistic.”
She distrusts the Republican push to put more money into states’ hands for social services and cut dollars from federal programs.
“It makes decision-making and competition for dollars at the local level more capable of tearing a community apart than pulling it together,” Walters says. “Often we do have better answers, but we can’t do what we’re expected to do with no assistance.”
She lists the federal programs she thinks are in jeopardy: Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program, school lunch programs, Medicaid.
“It’s just like welfare reform,” she says. “It’s naive to assume a woman can move from poverty and dependence to total self-sufficiency in two years.”
The conversation suddenly shifts from cruising speed to a relay race.
“I’m a recovering drug addict,” Wendy says. “I can’t do it without help.”
“When I was working, day care cost me $700 a month,” says Marcie, a nurse whose 3-year-old daughter now lives with her father in Seattle.
“Child care’s a huge thing,” Walters says.
“Especially on minimum wage,” Marcie says.
“Candidates stress family values but don’t value child care,” Walters says. “There’s such inequality to women and children in general.”
As for Hillary Clinton, the women unanimously say she’s getting a bum rap from the media and Republicans.
“She’s a powerful, strong, smart woman,” Elizabeth Jane says.
“She doesn’t take a traditional first lady role, and that’s threatening to the old guard,” says Marcie.
“I don’t see a weakness in Bill Clinton because he listens to his wife,” says Paula Blum, a house counselor.
All the women gathered on this warm summer evening say they vote, although most say they aren’t as politically active as they’d like.
“I’m here, dealing with day-to-day survival,” Elizabeth Jane says. “Right now, I don’t have the energy to focus on that.”
The best of friends, Helen Brajcich and Susan Crumb have a lot in common: They’re stay-at-home moms. They live on the South Hill. They’re married to attorneys.
When they talk about the upcoming presidential campaign, they list the same issues of concern: child care, education, poverty.
But the similarities will stop at the voting booth.
“I’m a Clinton fan,” says Crumb, explaining that pal Brajcich is a Republican. “I come from a long line of Republicans, and now I’m a strong Democrat.
“I think he and Hillary are doing the best job they can do.”
“I think he’s a liar,” counters Brajcich. “I think he just says whatever people want him to say.”
The two women have just finished their lunch at the Park Bench in Manito Park. They’re sipping sodas and talking about how they don’t let political views interfere with their friendship.
In fact, Brajcich swears she doesn’t really care about politics - she’s too “disenchanted,” she says. “They’re all crooks.”
But, minutes later, she lands on a potential candidate she does trust.
“I wish Colin Powell would run,” Brajcich says.
Crumb bounces the conversation back to Clinton. “You can’t tell me he’s not a caring person to put himself in the limelight. He’s very compassionate …”
“Or crazy,” interjects Brajcich. “They’re vicious with each other, Republicans and Democrats.”
“You don’t know what to believe …” says Crumb. “They say Clinton had these affairs, that Hillary talked to (a New Age psychologist).”
“Any good therapist would say what she did was therapeutic,” says Brajcich, offering her lone defense for the Clintons.
The conversation shifts to abortion - an issue neither woman thinks should be one argued by elected officials.
“That’s a moral issue,” says Brajcich. “Not a political issue. Keep religion …”
“… and politics,” says Crumb.
“… apart,” says Brajcich.
“Republicans say they’re against government control, but then they want to tell you you can’t choose,” Crumb says.
The two friends shun talk about Whitewater and FBI files. “I’d rather see kids that are hungry be fed,” says Brajcich, adding she does consider the White House controversies a reflection on Clinton’s character.
The talk shifts to education. Both women sent their children to private schools, but say they worry about kids who aren’t so fortunate.
“Being a Republican makes me sound like I don’t want to help people,” says Brajcich. “I find if I’m not taxed so much, I can give more.”
“I want to give to people, but I want a choice. With government, so much is wasted.”
“But Republicans are more into cutting programs,” says Crumb. “Democrats want to …
“… keep things tied up in bureaucracy,” says Brajcich, laughing as she interrupts.
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