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Monday, April 15, 2013

War on Women May Be More Wide-Ranging Than the GOP Realizes

Ballons reading, 'Votes for Women'
I'm not a big fan of the headline Mother Jones chose for Kate Sheppard's piece on the GOP's ongoing attacks on reproductive freedom. "Progressives Advise GOP: Back Off On the War on Women" has the distinct flavor of concern trolling. But it turns out to be accurate; two progressive groups have advised the Republican Party to knock off the War on Women, because it's losing them elections.

It was clear in both the lead up to and the aftermath of the November 2012 election that Republican candidates are not faring well among women voters. From Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin to Mitt Romney's 11-point loss among women voters, it became painfully clear that the GOP has a lady problem. A new memo from a pair of liberal groups that pulls together some of the polling figures makes a strong case for paying more attention to this divide.

The memo, from Stephanie Schriock of EMILY’s List and Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, notes that even the Republican National Committee's own post-election report found that, "[Women] represent more than half the voting population in the country, and our inability to win their votes is losing us elections." But while Republicans have made some effort to soften the party's positioning on issues like immigration and LGBT rights, the party has not moderated its stance on reproductive rights or other issues of interest to many women voters.

The memo points to the unprecedented attack on access to abortion underway in states like North Dakota and Arkansas, the 160 Republicans that voted against the Violence Against Women Act at the federal level, and the ongoing fights over both contraception coverage and cuts to the federal family planning budget.


"If the GOP wants to move forward, help its image and win elections, it should halt its embrace of extreme and out-of-touch policies that attack women and their families," the memo states [pdf]. "Ending attacks on abortion rights in the states would be a start."

But the fact is that these attacks on reproductive freedom hurt more than just the shortsighted party launching them. They hurt the women in those states. Even in the best-case scenario, 2014 isn't going to be a Democratic march to victory in all 50 state legislatures and governorships, getting them to realize their folly is at least worth a shot. If we can get the GOP to stop attacking women's health, there would be a lot less misery in this country.

And the issue is killing them.

"NARAL Pro-Choice America's polling right after the election found that Romney's view on abortion was the top reason for voting against him that swing-voting women cited in their survey," Sheppard reports. "Planned Parenthood also used this issue to attack anti-choice politicians. Another post-election poll from Democracy Corps found that 33 percent of unmarried women listed the attacks on Planned Parenthood and women's preventative health services as a top reason for voting against Romney."

But it's not just reproductive rights, it's pretty much the GOP ideology in general that's hurting them with woman voters.

First Read, NBC News: Women are a key driver of support for legislation overhauling the nation's gun and immigration laws, according to new data in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, just as Congress prepares to take up major legislation on both of those issues.

Women outpace men in their support for stricter gun laws and immigration reform that provides undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, data which becomes more salient in light of the Republican Party’s effort to regain its footing with women voters after last fall’s elections.

The gender gap is most pronounced when it comes to the issue of stricter gun controls, legislation on which the Senate voted to begin consideration this Thursday.
65% of women (including 70% of self-identified mothers) want stricter laws on gun sales, compared with 44% of men. The War on Women is spreading to gun laws; not because Republicans are choosing to attack women over the issue, but because women are the ones showing up to fight.

And still doesn't end there. Women are also more likely to be environmentalists and are more likely to support the idea of an "activist government" -- i.e., to "say that government should do more for the poor, children and the elderly."

If the GOP wants to win over more woman voters, they'll need to realize that their problems with women are a lot deeper than just traditional "women's issues" like reproductive health and freedom, equality, and education. To listen solely on choice issues and to ignore everything else would be to make the same mistake the party's currently making with Latinos -- that is, assuming that they're single issue voters and that immigration is all they care about. Each demographic has a wide range of concerns and focusing solely one is to focus all your energy on merely making a dent. It's a simpleminded 2D approach to intelligent people living in a complex 3D world.

Of course, it's always possible that the GOP has just given up on women for precisely these reasons. That they've seen the same numbers and have decided they'd have to give up too much. Or that they think listening to what women have to say is just "pandering." But this would be foolish. The Republican base is rapidly shrinking and the focus has to be on expanding that base. They're going to have to give up some of their most cherished wedge issues.

If not, then they resign themselves to becoming a party of crackpots, cranks, and anachronisms. So far, that seems to be their preferred route.


[photo by League of Women Voters of California]

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