What To Call The Key 2016 Demographic?

The political media is falling down on the job. Where (oh where) are the cutesy names for the key demographic group in this election cycle? You can trace this phenomenon back to (at least) the vaunted Reagan Democrats of the 1980s, but more recently we've had Soccer Moms, NASCAR Dads, and Security Moms -- groups who were supposedly the most crucial for how the vote turned out in presidential years. Now, the construct seems a bit limiting (just moms and dads?), but I'm kind of surprised we haven't had such a snappy label for the group that most pundits have already identified as being the key to victory this November. I keep hearing "college-educated white women," but that's a real mouthful. Which is why I say the media is falling down on its job. Now, the job I speak of is admittedly a rather inane one, and might be properly defined as: "oversimplifying complex demographic trends and then obsessing over one particular slice of the electorate at the expense of all others." But as they say, it's a dirty job but someone's got to do it.

So what should the college-educated white female voter be called? These are (mostly) suburbanites, and most pundits even narrow it down to only married college-educated white women. At first glance, it might seem we've made it back to the beginning of the cycle, and that "Soccer Moms" might be worth dusting off and reusing. But I've never really liked the term, personally, because it seems to be rather sexist in nature. Perhaps I am being oversensitive (not being female, it's hard to gauge these things), but reducing women to their familial status ("Mom") and their supposed-occupation of shuttling the kids to and from soccer practice seems a bit retro, at the very least (and not in a good way). Plus, it's already been used once.

I've never seen the demographic breakdown, but I would assume that many college-educated white women actually have jobs outside the home. So perhaps this should be reflected in their label? Professional Moms? Even that doesn't really have much of a ring to it, but it seems a step up from Soccer Moms. Commuter Moms? 'Burb Moms? None of these seems snappy enough to go viral, I have to admit. And Corporate Moms seems a tad negative, even if it might be more descriptive.

We could concentrate on the education part of the description, which would give us options such as Educated Moms, Diploma Moms, or Graduate Moms, but the last two would be slightly misplaced since most of the descriptions specify "married white women with some college education" -- meaning not all are actual graduates. Reaching back to the 60s and 70s might give us Co-Ed Moms, but there's the same retro (bad, not good) connotation there, so probably not. The best in this category might be Collegiate Moms, which has a certain dignity and ivory-tower quality to it, at least.

The whole "Moms" thing seems a little annoying, especially after typing it out in all those previous suggestions. It does conjure up the "married with kids" image, but again seems to reduce women with a college education to just their family situation. The only thing really going for it as a descriptive label is it definitely describes the group as women. But what could it be replaced with that would be better? I have no real answer for that, but still kind of cringe at all the "Moms" labels, personally.

Perhaps it could be achieved by using the label "Republicans" instead, and choosing a prominent example (real or fictional) as a lead-in. The most obvious of these would be Hillary Republicans (shades of Reagan Democrats), but this doesn't really narrow the demographic down enough. It might actually wind up being the preferred label after the election, as the data is sifted through by the number-crunchers, but that's just speculation on my part. If Hillary truly does have appeal to moderate Republicans (of either gender), then Hillary Republicans might be the best way to explain her victory. Clinton Republicans probably wouldn't work as well, since we'd have two Clintons who became president -- so it'd be slightly confusing.

Perhaps a fictional character might be the way to go. The biggest fictional character in recent American politics (well, not all that recent, now) was Murphy Brown, due to Dan Quayle saying some derogatory things about the character's choice to have a baby even though she was not married. But that's reaching pretty far back. Since then, no other sitcom character springs to mind when thinking of political (or social) issues, at least not to me.

This is going to prove I'm not exactly a millennial, but the first thing that did spring to mind was Mary Tyler Moore (Mary Tyler Moore Republicans, to be exact). However, I quickly realized this didn't really work, except as a mashup of her two most famous characters. In The Mary Tyler Moore Show Mary was an educated, professional woman -- in fact, she became the role model for educated, professional women everywhere, for a long time to come. But her character was not married and lived in an urban apartment, not in the suburbs. This is where the mashup part comes in, because as Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, she was an even-earlier role model -- for suburban housewives. Unfortunately, Laura never went to college (she was an ex-dancer, in fact). So neither one really works all that well, and both characters are extremely dated to begin with (again, showing my age here).

The only recent example I could think of isn't all that well-known by her character's actual name: Temperance Brennan (or Temperance Booth, after she got married). You might know her better as "Bones," from the show of the same name. But Bones Moms or even Bones Republicans isn't going to work, for obvious reasons (too easy to read it as a verb). And Temperance Republicans probably already has a historic definition ("those in the GOP who were for Prohibition"). It's a shame neither of her character's names works, since Dr. Bones is smart as a whip, highly-educated, married, and lives in what appears to be a nice house in the Virginia suburbs. She's an excellent representative of the demographic in question, in other words. But "Bones Republicans For Hillary" obviously just does not work.

I must admit my knowledge of television drama and sitcoms is rather limited, so I'd certainly be open to suggestions for any other fictional character who might fit the bill (feel free to chime in, down in the comments). My lack of creativity in this department stems from lack of knowledge, I fully admit (I just don't watch all that much non-political television). The only other recent character I could come up with was one of the characters from the show Parenthood, who was indeed married and highly-educated (she was a powerful lawyer), but I confess I can't even remember the character's name -- meaning few other people are likely to, either (it was an ensemble cast, not a show about her, after all).

I think the best example I came up with while brainstorming does not use a fictional character but rather a real-life professional woman. Because of this, it is not her character's demographics which matter (I have no idea if she's married or lives in the suburbs, in other words), but rather her audience appeal. Ignore the whole "college educated white women" thing, to put this another way, and focus instead on how these women have historically voted. Since they normally vote Republican, and since they are intelligent women, they probably keep up on political news. But where might they get their political news from? Which shows might they watch on a regular basis? Add in the fact that they're breaking heavily away from Donald Trump due to his piggish attitudes towards women, and I think I've got a perfect candidate: Megyn Kelly.

Megyn Kelly was the first target of Trump's boorish anti-woman behavior (or, to be strictly accurate, the first target of Trump-as-presidential-candidate), because she asked him in a primary debate about his previous boorish comments towards women. Trump clearly didn't like getting asked such a thing, and name-dropped Rosie O'Donnell for the first (but not only) time during a presidential debate. This only served to further alienate women, and then Trump later attacked Kelly herself with his infamous "blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever" comment. This was, in fact, the actual starting point for Trump's massive problem among the demographic group we're talking about here -- college-educated white married women in the suburbs. As a group, they recoiled in horror over Trump's feud with Kelly -- even those who had never previously heard of Megyn Kelly.

So my suggestion for the "reduce the electorate to one key group and call them by a snappy name" contest this time around would be either Megyn Kelly Moms or Megyn Kelly Republicans. The connotations are clear -- women who might watch Kelly's show on Fox News, who have regularly voted Republican, but who are absolutely disgusted with Donald Trump's continuing misogyny and demeaning comments towards women. If it actually caught on, it could even be shortened to Megyn Moms (which does have a nice alliterative ring to it) or Megyn Republicans.

Since the rest of the media is falling down on the job of providing a snappy name for the key demographic in the election, I am offering up these suggestions to fill the void. Megyn Moms or Megyn Kelly Republicans immediately bring to mind the debate fight Trump picked with her -- which is one of the reasons why this demographic has been identified as the key one this year. It's not a perfect label (for one, I would think Kelly herself might push back on being identified as the reason Republicans lost a presidential election), but it was the best I could come up with. If you've got a better idea, I would love to hear it in the comments.

 

Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant