This election season, there are really only a handful of House Republican incumbents who are in real trouble. Freshman Rep. Steve Southerland (R), who narrowly won in his North Florida district in 2012, is one of them.
In a district in which registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, it seems Southerland would be smart to play it safe and try to avoid alienating key constituencies. And yet, the GOP congressman seems to have a knack for pushing women voters away.
For example, Southerland was recently caught misleading voters about his vote on the Violence Against Women Act. Making matters worse, voters recently learned the conservative lawmaker hosted a men-only fundraising event a few months ago. The invitation, obtained by BuzzFeed, encouraged attendees to “tell the misses not to wait up” because “the after dinner whiskey and cigars will be smooth & the issues to discuss are many.”
Southerland’s opponent, school administrator Gwen Graham (D), criticized the fundraiser, prompting the congressman to make matters just a little worse.
Asked to respond to the Democrats’ criticism that he’s anti-women, Southerland laughed and said: “I live with five women. That’s all I’m saying. I live with five women. Listen: Has Gwen Graham ever been to a lingerie shower? Ask her. And how many men were there?”
He didn’t appear to be kidding. In Southerland’s mind, a sitting congressman hosting a policy discussion with donors is comparable to women hosting a “lingerie shower.”
Just as an aside, I’ll confess to having the exact same reaction to this as the Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo: “What’s a ‘lingerie shower?’ Most people know what baby showers are. And a few are probably familiar with lingerie shows. To combine the two is kinda creepy.” When a reader noted that “lingerie showers” are usually held for brides to be, Caputo added, “And that makes Southerland’s comment even less helpful to his cause.”
MSNBC’s Anna Brand talked to Gwen Graham’s campaign manager about Southerland’s comments.
Graham’s campaign manager Julia Gill Woodward responded to the comparison to msnbc, saying “This isn’t just stuff Steve Southerland says; given his pattern of troubling actions and disturbing comments, it is obviously what Steve Southerland believes. Southerland says these things out of a fundamental disrespect for women.”
“Only if Southerland disrespects women could he hold an official, Men-Only Southerland campaign fundraiser and laugh it off after the fact,” Woodward continued. “Only if Southerland disrespects women could he air TV ads claiming to have voted for The Violence Against Women Act while he actually voted against it in Congress. Only if Southerland disrespects women could he make this insulting ‘lingerie party’ comment about a woman like Gwen Graham.”
The DCCC’s interest in this race was strong before. I have a hunch it just got stronger.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 15, 2014
This question has stymied political strategists and pundits for a long time. As an expert in the women’s market, I too am baffled by the way people, especially women, vote against those who share their ideals and values in lieu of voting for those who don’t.
I have frequently been asked and often pondered the question: “Why would a woman vote Republican when they clearly have a war on women?” I wish I had a great answer for this. Perhaps they have always voted Republican, and thus continue down this path. Perhaps they are wealthy and the tax breaks the Republicans fight for, that primarily benefit the rich, is the most important reason. Perhaps they believe the falsehoods and phony rhetoric of the Republican Party. Whatever the reason, I find it truly disturbing.
Both women and men should vote for elected officials whose actions show that they have the best interests of the citizens and country in mind, but for some reason, they don’t.
While I acknowledge that many Republican women are pro-life, offering choice, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, just makes good sense. I’m not advocating abortion; I am saying that I should have the choice to decide what is best for me and my family.
Equally troubling is why Republican women support a party who barely passed the Violence Against Women Act, who don’t support legislation to guarantee that a women receives equal pay for equal work, and who think women’s bosses should have the right to determine her health care and reproductive decisions.
As Republican governors refuse to accept billions of dollars in free federal money to expand Medicaid, hundreds of thousands of people are going without medical care and are dying needlessly. As the GOP continues to cut billions from food stamps, many women and children are going hungry.
Men are also hurt by the policies of the Republican Party. Many men support the party because they are pro-gun, but Republicans also vote to keep the minimum wage at poverty levels and are against extending unemployment benefits. These policies hurt the working class.
Republicans want to reduce government spending and control, but I wonder if the populace realizes that many solidly red states that they live in receive a huge percentage of their income from the federal government? In actuality, the amount many red states pay in federal taxes is small compared to the amount they receive back from the government.
Do they think about how the government spends this money building the roads they drive on daily, or providing funds for the fire department that comes to their home if there is an emergency? When a natural disaster strikes them, do they accept F.E.M.A’s help? These and many more necessities are government-funded programs.
To cut spending on these and other projects as the Republicans suggest, would greatly impact both the men and women in these states in a very destructive way. It reminds me of the old saying, “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” It makes no sense.
In reality, the Republicans don’t want to cut spending, just redistribute it from the poor and middle class to the wealthy. The Republican budget once again gives massive tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, while it cuts programs and safety nets that help many of the people who vote Republican. I don’t understand why people vote against their own best interests, especially when it hurts their family, the economy and the principles on which America was founded.
I respect the two-party system and believe it is healthy for a democracy to have differences that exist in many areas of fiscal and social governance. But the right-wing fringe has hijacked the sanity of the Republican Party, and the GOP needs to get back on track. Gerrymandering, suppressing the vote, allowing unrestricted funds and unlimited terms have led to undemocratic practices which will destroy America if voters don’t stand up and fight for what is right.
Citizens, whether Republicans, Democrats or Independents, all have much to gain by voting for politicians who are interested in the good of the country: working together, listening to each other, and compromising. If they continue to choose representatives who do not support our fragile Democratic Process, citizens will soon have more reasons to fear Washington D.C. than foreign terrorists.
By: Gerry Meyers, CEO, President and Co-founder of Advisory Link;The Huffington Post Blog, April 21, 2014
“Another Case Of Willful Deception”: Mitch McConnell Shouldn’t Brag About Supporting Bills He Opposed
Several weeks ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) got caught misleading Kentucky voters about his record on the Violence Against Women Act. This morning, he was even more brazen on the subject (via Joe Sonka).
A press release distributed by Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) campaign at a “Women for Team Mitch” event on Friday brags about the Senate Minority Leader’s support for the Violence Against Women Act, even though McConnell voted against the measure in 1994, 2012, and 2013.
“Mitch was the co-sponsor of the original Violence Against Women Act — and continues to advocate for stronger polices to protect women. I am proud to call him my senator,” the document quotes a voter as saying.
For months, a variety of congressional Republicans have pretended to support the Violence Against Women Act, even after they voted against it, hoping voters and reporters wouldn’t know the difference.
But the fact that McConnell has a lot of company doesn’t make this any better. His campaign is now trying to give voters the impression that he’s championed VAWA, but in reality, McConnell has voted against it repeatedly. Indeed, he voted against it even when he knew with certainty it would pass — suggesting he opposed the law just to make a point about the depth and seriousness of his opposition.
As for the notion that McConnell “continues to advocate for stronger polices to protect women,” let’s also not forget that the Senate Minority Leader voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.
If McConnell wants to defend his record, fine. If he wants Kentuckians to find merit in the votes he cast, the senator is welcome to make his case. But the fact that he sees willful deception as the appropriate course is a problem.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 30, 2013
President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act into law on Thursday.
“All women deserve the right to live free from fear,” the president told those in attendance. “That’s what today is about.”
In 2011, VAWA lapsed for the first time since 1994, when House Republicans balked at enhanced protections for undocumented immigrants, Native Americans and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Studies have shown that the law — written by then-senator Joe Biden — dramatically reduced domestic violence by as much as 67 percent (PDF).
The law previously had been expanded and renewed twice with broad bipartisan support.
“This is your day. This is the day of the advocates, the day of the survivors. This is your victory,” Obama said. “This victory shows that when the American people make their voices heard, Washington listens.”
The bipartisan Senate bill that included the expanded protections was not even put up for a vote in the House last year. A GOP “civil war” that led to Speaker Boehner breaking the Hastert Rule — which requires a majority of the House majority to support any bill that gets a vote — was required before the bill was finally passed 288-138 earlier in February.
House Republicans also voted on their own version of the law without the new provisions, which failed to win majority support.
The law is so popular that Republican congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI) recently claimed he voted for the law even though he only supported the failed Republican version.
“One of the great legacies of this law is it didn’t just change the rules, it changed our culture. It empowered people to start speaking out,” Obama said.
Despite the continued effectiveness of the law — violence against women is down 64 percent just in the last decade – 1 in 5 women will be raped during their lifetime, the president noted.
“There are still too many women in this country who live in fear of violence,” Biden said in his introduction of President Obama.
Not only does the law improve the criminal justice system’s response to crimes against women, it authorizes about $659 million a year over five years to fund grants for transitional housing, legal assistance, law enforcement training and hotlines.
It also reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, adding stalking to the list of crimes that make immigrants eligible for protection, along with authorizing programs that help college campuses deal with sexual violence.
The president dedicated the victory to the victims of domestic violence.
By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, March 7, 2013
Last week, Congress passed a bill with bipartisan support and sent it to the president. Even though the bill essentially reauthorized a law that has been on the books for nearly 20 years, in this era of gridlock, despite a fair amount of Republican resistance, it was a noteworthy result because of its largely bipartisan support. President Obama will sign the bill on Thursday, once again enacting the law.
It was legislation that reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, a statute first championed by then-senator Joe Biden and originally signed into law in 1994. Since then, the law has been reauthorized twice, in 2000 and 2005, with overwhelming bipartisan support until the House Republicans let it expire at the end of last year.
One has to wonder why, when the evidence has been crystal-clear that the law has worked effectively, that it was ever allowed to expire. Since 1994, the rate of intimate partner violence has declined by 67 percent. From 1993 to 2007, the rate of intimate partner homicides of females decreased 35 percent and the rate of intimate partner homicides of males decreased 46 percent.
So, what made this reauthorization process different? Was it opposition to the added provisions that help eliminate the backlog of unprocessed rape kits to allow law enforcement officers the ability to apprehend and convict more rapists? Was it the added provisions requiring colleges to collect and disclose information about sexual assault and provide greater services to protect students against dating violence and stalking?
Neither is the answer; the opposition came from 168 Republicans including Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who joined 10 other GOP women in voting against the measure, and said: ” I didn’t like the way it was expanded to include other different groups.”
Who might be those “other different groups”? One word: women.
The Senate added provisions to enhance protections for Native Americans, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, and undocumented women who have been victims of domestic violence. Those are the women that Blackburn considers “other different groups” and therefore should not be afforded the same protections under the law.
The Justice Department reports that 1 in 3 Native American women is raped over their lifetime and that non-Indian men, who are immune from prosecution by tribal courts, commit more than 80 percent of sex crimes on reservations. The new provision included language to close this loophole allowing for the prosecution of these men while protecting their right to effective counsel and trial by an impartial jury.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, almost half of bisexual women have been raped in their lifetimes and nearly 1 in 3 lesbians has experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner.
In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney lost the women’s vote by 18 points, in part, by failing to connect with women on issues that matter to them most. Going forward, if the GOP ever hopes to bridge that gap, perhaps it should start by defining and treating all women equally as women and not “other different groups.”
It is incumbent that our lawmakers work to protect all victims of domestic and dating violence and sexual assault, and not exclude those women who might not fit ones traditional definitions. Let’s allow the reauthorization of this legislation to act as a guide for our country in continuing to be a cutting-edge proponent for women victim rights in the world.
By: Penny Lee, U. S. News and World Report, March 6, 2013