The New York Times Gets Women Voters Wrong

New York Times Los Angeles bureau chief Adam Nagourney can’t seem to figure out why the latest polls in California show that Republicans Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, a “new breed of tough female corporate executives looking to shift into public office,” have failed to gain the support of women voters. “At one point, it appeared that 2010 might be the year of the female Republican chief executive in California,” he writes in an October 29 piece. “But less than a week before Election Day, both Ms. Whitman and Ms. Fiorina find themselves struggling.”

Nagourney argues that Whitman’s potential loss, after spending at least $141 million of her own money, raises questions about “money, gender, and Americans’ views of candidates who come out of corporate boardrooms.”

Charlie Toledo, director of the Suscol Intertribal Council, a nonprofit that works with Native Americans in Napa, California, says it’s not that complicated. “Women support women that support women. These women are self-serving. They care about protecting their own economic interests, not women’s interests. It’s important to elect women and men that work for all of society, not just their own economic power.”

Maureen O’Connor agrees, saying gender is not a decision maker in the voting booth. “These women are poster subjects for everything that is wrong with corporate America today,” she says. “Just the amount of job outsourcing these two did during their CEO days is enough to stop anyone in their tracks.”

Jamie Delman, a Bay Area substitute teacher and member of United Educators of San Francisco says she’s not voting for the “tough executives” because Fiorina would make abortion a crime and Whitman’s policies would hurt working families. “Their policies would decimate education further than it’s already been decimated,” she says. “We’re smart voters. We don’t just vote for our own interests.”

Diana Madoshi, a longtime California activist, and coordinator for the California Women’s Agenda in Placer County, says assuming that women will vote for a candidate based on gender is as insulting as it was during the 2008 election. “As an African-American woman, I take my vote very seriously. Meg Whitman hasn’t voted in over 20 years. What message does that send?”

Madoshi says she’s also tired of the media assuming that voters will choose candidates simply because they have a background in business. “Haven’t they learned anything from George W. Bush?”

“Making money in business doesn’t mean they are qualified to run a state or write legislation,” she says. “What have Whitman and Fiorina done for working women? What have they done for working moms? Where do they stand on equal pay? Where do they stand on affordable housing?”

It’s hard to say because they haven’t discussed those issues. They’ve spent most of their time focusing on tax breaks for corporations, spending cuts and “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

“For God’s sakes, that’s all we’ve heard. They’re saying the same message over and over,” says Tracey Faulkner, founder of the Family Resource Center, an organization that supports parents attending City College of San Francisco. “Cut spending, but give tax breaks to the rich? They’re not talking to us moms at all. They’re talking to business people. Moms want to know if they’ll have childcare. Will there be after school programs? Will there be summer programs? People are concerned about whether their kids will be ok.”

Faulkner makes $30,000 a year running a center that empowers students and helps them get through school. Whitman has spent $500,000 a day on her campaign. “The amount of money she’s spent is obscene,” she says. “What does she want in return for her investment? She’s a businesswoman. So many women get it. Poor women feel like we no longer matter. We’re labeled as the bad guys.”

The New York Times’ Nagourney gets it right when he concludes that women in California are “much more likely to vote ideology and issues than gender,” but other than a brief mention of the layoffs that happened under Fiorina’s watch before she was ousted from Hewlett-Packard, Nagourney failed to delve into any of the issues.

He never mentions Fiorina’s anti-choice, anti-gay or anti-global warming positions, or Whitman’s failure to explain how she plans to cut $1 billion from the $2.9 billion the state spends on welfare, and transfer it to higher education without harming children. According to economists interviewed by The Sacramento Bee, her plan doesn’t add up.

Nagourney could’ve called the California Nurses Association (CNA) to find out why an organization with more than 86,000 union members in hospitals, clinics and home health agencies, ardently opposes Whitman’s plan to lay off 40,000 state workers, overhaul pensions and trim the budget by $15 billion a year from the state budget.

On Friday, Melinda Markowitz, president of the CNA, and a nurse at San Jose’s Good Samaritan Hospital, showed up at an event held at a Glendale, California, bakery to ask Whitman a question, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I said, ‘Ms. Whitman, I’m a registered nurse and I’m here with Connie Lane, who is a teacher. And we’re here to say we’re concerned about your 40,000 public employee cuts which will literally affect thousands of people.”‘ Markowitz told the Chronicle that she asked Whitman to explain which jobs she’d cut, and how she could ensure patients and kids in schools wouldn’t suffer.

Her response, according to Markowitz? “This is not appropriate for here.”

Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, says the media haven’t caught up with the political science research or the opinion polling that shows women choose candidates based on where they stand on issues like education and Social Security, not their gender. “They won’t vote for a woman they’re 180 degrees at odds with.”

Nagourney could’ve figured that out if he had spent less time talking to pollsters and more time talking to actual voters.