Troy, Mich. (AP) – She walks with the determination of a person who believes the very fate of democracy might depend on the next door she knocks on, head down, shoulders forward. She wears nothing fussy, the battle fatigues of her troupe: yoga pants and sneakers. She left her Lincoln Aviator idling in the driveway, the driver door open — if this house wasn’t the one to save the nation, she can move quickly to the next.
For most of her life, until 2016, Lori Goldman had been politically apathetic. Had you offered her $1 million, she says, she could not have described the branches of government in any depth. She voted, sometimes. Now every moment she spends not trying to rid America of President Donald Trump feels like wasted time. “We take nothing for granted,” she tells her canvassing partner. “They say Joe Biden is ahead. Nope. We work like Biden is behind 20 points in every state.”
Goldman spends every day door knocking for Democrats in Oakland County, Michigan, an affluent Detroit suburb. She feels responsible for the country’s future: Trump won Michigan in 2016 by 10,700 votes and that helped usher him into the White House. Goldman believes people like her — suburban white women -could deliver the country from another four years of chaos.
For many of those women, the past four years have meant frustration, anger and activism _ a political awakening that powered women’s marches, the (hash)MeToo movement and the victories of record numbers of female candidates in 2018. That energy has helped create the widest gender gap _ the political divide between men and women _ in recent history. And it has started to show up in early voting as women are casting their ballots earlier than men. In Michigan, women have cast nearly 56% of the early vote so far, and 68% of those were Democrats, according to the voting data ﬁrm L2.
That could mean trouble for Trump, not just in Oakland County but also in suburban battlegrounds outside Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Phoenix. Trump has tried to appeal to “the suburban housewives of America,” as he called them. Embracing fear and deploying dog whistles, he has argued that Black Lives Matter protesters will bring crime, low-income housing will ruin property values, suburbs will be abolished. Campaigning in Pennsylvania last week, he begged: “Suburban women, will you please like me?”
There’s no sign all this is working. Some recent polls show Biden winning support from about 60% of suburban women. In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton won 52%, according to an estimate by the Pew Research Center.
Talk to women across suburban Michigan, and you’ll ﬁnd ample conﬁrmation: the lifelong Republican who says her party has been commandeered by cowards. The Black executive who fears for the safety of her sons. The Democrat who voted for Trump in 2016 but now describes him as “a terrible person.” Together, they create a powerful political force.
Goldman started her group, Fems for Dems, in early 2016 by sending an email to a few hundred friends that said she planned to help elect the ﬁrst female president and asked if they’d like to join her. Four years later, their ranks have swelled to nearly 9,000.
There is one thing Goldman gives Trump credit for. He stormed into the White House on pure guts and bombast, unwilling to acknowledge failure, averse to saying sorry. Those are not natural traits for most women who’ve absorbed societal expectations to please and be polite, she says. But she dug deep within herself to ﬁnd some hint of them.
A married real estate agent with 12year-old triplets and a 23-year-old daughter, she became simultaneously the stereotype of a suburban woman and its antithesis: She lives in a 6,000-square-foot home with seven bathrooms, and drinks Aperol spritzers. She also peppers almost every sentence with curse words and no longer gives one damn what people think.
“I hate the saying, `When they go low, we go high.’ That’s loser talk,” she says. “You can be right all day, but if you’re not winning, what’s the point?”
And it’s worked: She described her coalition to a newspaper once as “a bunch of dumpy, middle-aged housewives,” and a few got mad at her, but far more joined.
But she is terriﬁed that the constant cycle of crises has left many women exhausted and that could stall this leftward lurch. The nation is reeling from a pandemic and protests, the death of a revered Supreme Court justice, the hospitalization of the president, a foiled plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor.
“Our house is on ﬁre,” Goldman says, and so she steers her SUV to the next door on the cul de sac.