Pittsburgh's Suburbs Try to De-Karen the 2020 Election

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tags: Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, 2020 Election, suburban history

When Voice of Westmoreland met on a recent Zoom call, leader Clare Dooley posed a question to the assembled group of political organizers: What does the election mean to you?

One attendee began talking about fighting the fascism of the Trump administration, and Dooley interrupted to clarify that she was asking how the election would affect him personally. The young man, an African American, pushed back against Dooley, a 53-year-old white woman. It did affect him personally, he said: He had experienced fascism and racism as both a student and resident of Westmoreland, which is 94.7% white.

“I shouldn't have implied that fascism or totalitarianism were things that didn't affect people personally, because obviously they did,” says Dooley. “It was a stupid thing to say.” 

For Dooley, it was one of many learning moments she’s encountered since co-founding Voice of Westmoreland, or VOW, in the far-eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh with a mission, in part, to confront whiteness — and more specifically, to win over her neighbors in a county where roughly two-thirds of voters supported President Donald Trump in 2016. The goal, at least for November, is to not only steer Westmoreland County residents in a different direction this year, but also to help them realize how racism is blocking progress on issues such as health care and housing.

Dooley is one of thousands of mostly college-educated white women who, awakened by the Trump upset of 2016 and charged up by the subsequent Women’s March in Washington, D.C., began building local political organizations in their homes in outer-ring suburbs, middle suburbs, exurbs and rural communities across the U.S. The new women leaders were convinced that there was enough liberal energy that existed, or was hiding, in these mostly white enclaves to ensure that 2020 would not be a repeat of 2016. The general understanding was that America under Trump was broken, and so who better to fix it?

“We still have a long way to go to fix the injustices in our society,” Dooley said, “but as white women, we have a particular responsibility because we know that white women elected Donald Trump.”

She’s referencing the oft-cited statistic that Trump claimed at least 52% of white women’s votes, which may or may not be a precise data point. Other researchers place it closer to 47%. Either way, this reality is likely less reflective of Trump’s popularity by gender and more reflective of popularity by place — Trump won most of the outer-ring suburbsmiddle suburbs, and rural landscapes, and it just so happens a lot of white women live in those places. 

Read entire article at Bloomberg CityLab

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