In the final part of this study of the Cougar Vote I explain how Black Women aren’t Cougars and Demographics are driving this change in women’s votes. Click here to read part 1 click here to read part 2
The Cougar concept is alive and well, and is driving American politics in the 2012 election. Older White women, who are single, financially stable, still physically attractive and willing to date and marry younger guys are the difference between winning northern Virginia suburbs and losing the whole state.
In part one of this story, the history of Cougars was shared from the depths of 1998’s Sex and the City on HBO to the modern day Cougar Town on ABC.
In part two of the story the declining White birthrates and demographic changes leading to the Cougar vote were explained, as well as why Cougars are exclusively White.
In part three we’ll explain why Black women can NEVER be Cougars, but are nevertheless privately just as much that more important than the Cougar vote in the 2012 election.
Unlike in mainstream White popular culture, African American pop culture is full of examples of ‘older’ (re: over 35 years old) Black women being just as desired as women in their 20’s. Stacey Dash, Vivica A. Fox, Sanaa Lathan ,Gabrielle Union, heck even Pam Grier are all way past 40 (and in Pam’s case 60) and still making romantic comedies and playing love interests while in White Hollywood Jennifer Aniston is the only woman over 30 allowed by law in a Romantic comedy. Until this Cougar concept came along age seemed to ravage the value of White women within their own community, the same can’t be said for Black women. I will never forget Politic365 Executive Editor Jeff Johnson’s BET interview with then candidate Barack Obama in 2008.
Johnson: You come from a mixed-race couple. Yet your wife is a Black woman. Having a White mother, and being raised essentially by her parents, why was it important to you, for you, to marry a Black woman?
Obama: Well, first of all, if you met my wife, she’s fine. So…and I love her. She’s the love of my life. She’s the rock.
We all saw this video. Case closed, At 40 something years old Michelle is as hot to Barack as the day they met. And that’s perfectly normal in the African American community.
The second drive for the Cougar phenomenon is fertility, which again is not a huge issue publicly or privately for the African American community. According to a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts about women, class and birth rates, 71% of the childless 40-44 year old women in America are White. More specifically 1 in 5 White women in America between the ages of 40 and 44 have never had a child – the highest rate amongst all ethnic groups. While birthrates have gone down for all ethnic groups, African American women are still more likely to have children, even with advanced degrees, and less likely to have childless marriages than are Hispanic, White and Asian women. In other words the gloom and doom sayers about Black marriage rates past the age of 35 and children are flat out wrong.
The last element of Cougarism is financial stability. If you’re Samantha, you can’t keep pulling washboard stomached, highly educated young men back to your boudoir if you don’t have the cash to meet them, date them and keep yourself in shape. Unfortunately financial security is something that often eludes Black women in America. African American women are often at the bottom of the financial totem pole in America, and while their collective disposable income has kept Tyler Perry rolling in dough and helped T.D. Jakes build an empire, the majority of Black women in their late 30’s to 50’s remain squarely in the crosshairs of the working class to poverty. A group that is generally invisible to political leaders and pop culture prognosticators alike.
We have seen what Cougars mean to the White community, where the term comes from and why it is applicable. At the same time we’ve seen why, for a host of factors, not all of them good, why Black women are not included in the “Cougar” conversation.
There is one last critical element however.
While the White Cougar vote is crucial to campaign success in modern America, the Black female vote has secretly become a powerful difference maker in national elections as well. African American women had the highest voter turnout of ANY race or ethnic group in America in the 2008 presidential election. According to the Pew Research center:
The voter turnout rate among eligible Black female voters increased 5.1 percentage points, from 63.7% in 2004 to 68.8% in 2008. Overall, among all racial, ethnic and gender groups, Black women had the highest voter turnout rate in November’s election — a first.
High turnout amongst Black women, specifically older Black women, was the main reason for Barack Obama’s electoral success in key swing states like North Carolina and Virginia. Let that sink in: Africa American women, while not nearly as vocally sought after by Republicans, or even Democrats, are the key to winning swing states like North Carolina, Virginia and the Ohio suburbs in 2012. While still decidedly working class, Black women are still the tipping point in major cities and electoral districts across the nation.
While Cougar hunting remains focused on older White women with cash, Black women in large part are left out of the crosshairs, for both good and bad reasons. On the bad side African American women don’t get Cougar love because they are generally ignored by popular culture, and are generally more working class and poor thus making them less valuable to Hollywood and often candidates. On the positive side, African American women aren’t Cougars because they are valued longer – and at older ages – than White women, as well as more likely to still have children regardless of a high education and the overall African American population is still stable. But in the end, while the Cougar vote may get more love, the Black women’s vote may prove to be just as crucial certainly to the chances of President Barack Obama. The question will be if he is as serious about courting those voters as he was Cougars way back in the 2008 election.
DR. JASON JOHNSON, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at www.drjasonjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson