Worrying our way to election day

September 29, 2004|By SUSAN REIMER

FOUR YEARS ago, I was lumped together with every other woman who drove a van full of kids wearing cleats and shin guards.

I was a "soccer mom" - media shorthand for women who stopped voting like their husbands in 1980 and since then had been tilting elections toward the Democrats.

I resented being labeled, but the truth was, I thought Al Gore would win the 2000 presidential election because none of my friends on the sidelines of the soccer field could bring themselves to vote for George Bush.

Florida was a terrible shock to us all.

This year, I am being labeled a "security mom," and I am supposed to be firmly in the Bush camp because he is tough on terror and I am afraid for my children.

Sept. 11, 2001, certainly changed my view of the world. And the Russian school massacre earlier this month was more evidence that terrorism can happen in the most remote locations and to victims perhaps more innocent than office workers - schoolchildren.

But the truth is, neither George Bush nor John Kerry makes me and my women friends feel secure, because the president did not misspeak when he said the war on terrorism is not winnable.

Our open borders make keeping track of terrorists in this country as difficult as keeping track of ants at a picnic.

And excursions like ours into Iraq, however well-intended, only seem to be creating even more enemies.

So-called security moms are supposed to be motivated by our maternal instinct to protect our children during this new age of terrorism.

What about the women who are single or childless?

There were 45 million of them eligible to vote in 2000, but less than half did. That compares to the 68 percent of married women who voted.

Security for these women probably means job security. It probably also means the security of their reproductive rights, the security of their health care, the security of their sick leave and retirement.

It seems to me that both Democrats and the Republicans should target a more comprehensive female voter: "the worried woman."

She is not convinced that either candidate - or any candidate - can stop the cycle of terror that has made beheading an Internet entertainment option and the massacre of children the new frontier in independence movements.

In the meantime, she is worried about her job being outsourced and whether she would be able to find another that pays as much or includes health care.

She is worried about her children's school; about the number of police in her community; and about gas prices.

She doesn't want to have an abortion and she doesn't want her daughter to have one either, but she is worried that the procedure will be banned; she's not certain how she will feel if she or someone she loves unexpectedly becomes pregnant.

She worries that it will never be known if stem-cell research might hold the answer to diseases like Parkinson's or diabetes, because she knows people afflicted with those diseases and has watched them and their loved ones suffer.

She is worried because a month before the election, she doesn't know whom to vote for - she and her women friends make up the majority of undecided voters.

Finally, on top of all those other worries, she is worried that it will take much more than a presidential election to help her sleep better at night.

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