Just four days before the election, InStyle editor-in-chief Laura Brown sat down with Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts to discuss the importance of voting for gun sense candidates. They also spoke of the significant role that suburban voters, specifically, will play in the outcome of the 2020 presidential race. “[Trump] thinks suburban women will be voting for safety, which he’s right about, but he’s wrong to think that means they’re voting for him,” says Watts.
Read their full conversation below.
LAURA BROWN: The election is just days away, and Trump has been publicly pleading for suburban women to “like him.” And yet, despite his attempts, he appears to be losing that voting demographic. Why, in your opinion, are suburban women turning blue?
SHANNON WATTS: It’s clear that this election will be lost or won in the suburbs. As we saw in the 2018 midterms, Democrats turned over 41 congressional districts from red to blue, 38 of which were suburban. In 2019, suburban voters also helped flip both chambers of the general assembly in Virginia, and then the governor passed and signed 7 new gun safety laws. Gun safety is a motivating factor for suburban women voters, and we already know that in swing states, those voters support stronger gun safety laws. We polled battleground states like Minnesota, Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania earlier this year, and the majority of suburban women said they would never vote for a candidate who opposed background checks. It’s a top issue for them, and that’s what Donald Trump has so wrong. He thinks suburban women will be voting for safety, which he’s right about, but he’s wrong to think that means they’re voting for him.
LB: It's fascinating, because he seems to be unaware of why they’re pulling away from him.
SW: Right. And “suburban women” is often code for white women, but the suburbs are increasingly diverse — over a third of suburban residents identify as people of color. 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump in 2016, but gun safety is an issue that could flip them to vote for Joe Biden. And honestly, white women in this movement have an obligation to have these tough conversations in their social circles to get the message out that we are voting for the safety of our families.
LB: Now, four days out, what can someone do to support a gun sense candidate?
SW: First of all, everyone needs to make sure that they have voted or that they have a plan to vote. At this point you should be dropping off your votes; it’s too late to mail them in. Second, check that all family members, friends, and neighbors have a voting plan. Third, donate your time. We have to get people out to vote for candidates up and down the ballot, and we can do that by phone banking and text banking. It may sound daunting, but it is so easy. We know that this race will be razor thin in some cases; I talk to candidates all the time who won by fewer than 300 votes. Every conversation you have counts, and you can find virtual events all over the country at our website, gunsensevoter.org. You can sign up to help at the polls, either by being a poll watcher or being part of what we call our Voter Squad, where you deliver pizzas and snacks to people in line at the polls. When we look back on this election, we need to know that we did everything we could to send the strongest gun safety ticket in our history to the White House, to flip the Senate, and to hold the majority of the House that we won in 2018. None of us should let up.
LB: Given what happened in 2016, people are not taking the polls for granted. What do you feel optimistic about, and in what areas do you think we need to keep pushing?
SW: It still amazes me that I started Moms Demand Action at my kitchen table about 8 years ago, and we’re now the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country. With 6 million supporters, we’re actually larger than the NRA and we’re passing good gun laws in states red, blue, and purple. This election certainly looks different than we thought it would [given the pandemic], but we’ve successfully pivoted to do this work online. We’ve made over 1 million calls, sent over 1.5 million text messages, and held over 8,800 election events for the 2020 candidates. And I’m incredibly proud that we have a record-breaking 100 Moms Demand Action volunteers on the ballot across the country, which means they want to move from not just shaping policy, but to making it. Most of those volunteers are women, and as the saying goes, if you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu. It’s very important that women have a seat at the table.
LB: Speaking of having a seat at the table, what’s in your Wheaties in the morning?
SW: Some vitamin B12, some hope and optimism, and a real feeling that we are on the precipice of major change in this country. That may be the silver lining of the darkness of the last 4 years: that we will have more women in office, that we will finally pass federal-level lifesaving gun laws, and that we registered and turned out to vote in such huge numbers that we’re never going back.
For more information on voting for gun sense candidates, visit gunsensevoter.org.
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