Some of the men were less supportive of Planned Parenthood than indifferent and opposed defunding it because it seemed like a misuse of political energy. . . . The women, however, tended to be strongly protective of the organization. Several of them had relied on it, which isn’t surprising; Planned Parenthood has cared for as many as 1 in 5 American women. “You feel safe when you’re in the Planned Parenthood lobby, because the people around you are dealing with similar things,” said a recent college graduate in the Trump-only focus group in Milwaukee. “Despite what people think because of the media, they’re there to help a woman make good choices for her body,” said a mother of four in Harrisburg.It is an important fact of American politics that many voters have conservative temperments and find conservative leaders more congenial, but are liberal about key issues. The is especially true about Social Security and Medicare. But there are other issues where many Americans who consider themselves conservative often take what might be considered the liberal position: abortion, equal pay for women, gay rights, raising the minimum wage, protecting the environment, not getting into foreign wars. The fight over the transgender bathroom bill in North Carolina seems to have hurt the Republican candidate for governor, who ran well behind other Republicans in the state. Part of that is probably because the state government badly mishandled the bill, leading to it becoming a much bigger deal than most people want it to be, but certainly there was no groundswell of support for the governor on the issue.
In Phoenix, two middle-aged women in the Trump-only focus group said they wouldn’t support him for re-election if he signed away funding for Planned Parenthood. “It’s a deal-breaker,” said an earthy 58-year-old in a plaid work shirt. “It will rob women of basic fundamental rights. I’m talking about female health care, which includes abortion. Which includes birth control. I think birth control is the greatest gift that they gave for womankind.” Added a 44-year-old, if Trump attacked Planned Parenthood, “I’d be pissed off as hell.”
This leads to an obvious question: If these women think defunding Planned Parenthood is a deal-breaker, why did they vote for a candidate who promised to do exactly that? After all, in a September letter addressed to “Pro-Life Leaders,” Trump pledged to strip Planned Parenthood’s federal funding unless it stops performing abortions. But many of the people in the focus groups didn’t know he’d made this assurance, and those who did didn’t take it seriously. It seemed as if Trump’s lasciviousness, which Clinton hoped would disqualify Trump with women, actually worked in his favor. The focus group participants couldn’t imagine that Trump would enact a religious right agenda. “He’s probably paid for a few abortions himself,” said the 58-year-old in Phoenix, eliciting a roomful of laughs.
Again, I think that a lot of Americans support Republicans only because they have never been able to enact the agenda they sell to the billionaires who fund them. If they ever did succeed in privatizing Social Security and overturning Roe vs. Wade, a lot of Americans might have to reconsider their choices.