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“Outreach To ‘Lady People’ Campaign”: The GOP Wants The Ladies To Love Them, (Just Not Enough To Need Birth Control)

So, the announcement that Republicans had formed yet another political action committee targeting female voters – a lady-centric Super Pac named the Unlocking Potential Project – came just as America was digesting the supreme court’s decision to allow certain corporations to deny women birth control coverage based on religious objections. Did Republicans think this was genius counter-programming, or what?

Forget the obvious irony that limiting access to birth control is the definition of denying women their full potential: could launching a women’s outreach program the day we’re reminded of just where the GOP stands on women’s issues – on top of them, stomping down, mostly – ever be genius, or is it just run-of-the-mill tone-deafness?

It is nearly impossible to keep track of the number of times the GOP has rebooted this “outreach to lady people” campaign – there’s already an entirely separate Pac, called RightNOW, aimed at recruiting female candidates (launched this year), and a parallel effort by the National Republican Congressional Committee, Project GROW (from 2013). The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) launched yet another, similar recruitment project this summer – 14 in ’14 – primarily because the number of Republican women running for Congress actually shrank between 2012 and 2014. One presumes the party will keep holding recruitment drives until the number of female Republican candidates reaches zero.

(Republicans’ time and money is probably better spent on the other NRCC project relating to female candidates: workshops for male candidates on how to not to sound like dumbasses when running against them.)

GOP voters have stymied the NRCC’s efforts by rejecting women at the polls almost as fast as the party leadership can put them on stages and point to them as evidence that the party has no problem with women. In the 2012 primary season, female Democratic candidates won their races about 50% of the time, but female Republicans did just 31% of the time. This House primary season doesn’t look to be turning out much better: female Democratic candidates are winning their races about twice as often as Republicans, and some of those losses have been particularly nasty.

Former Miss America and Harvard Law School graduate Erika Harold, running as a Republican against incumbent Rodney Davis in Illinois, found herself the object of dirty tricks and vile slurs: “Rodney Davis will win,” wrote the chair of the county Republicans in an email to a GOP newsletter, “and the love child of the DNC will be back in Shitcago by May of 2014 working for some law firm that needs to meet their quota for minority hires.” Denied access to GOP voter data by the party – an invaluable source of information for both fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts – she lost, 55-41%. In other words, a female Republican candidate straight out of We Are the New GOP central casting got slimed by the kind of racist nonsense Republicans continually declare to be a vicious stereotype about Republicans.

But it’s not a stereotype if the examples just keep on coming.

The most charitable interpretation of Republican outreach efforts to women is “at least they know it’s a problem!”. But the truth is that they’ve known about the political gender gap since 1984, when it first emerged as a potential problem for the party. And, sadder still, they’ve been trying to address it explicitly for at least 20 years – a Quixotic crusade that’s given them the largest gender gap ever (20 points) in the 2012 election and, looking forward to this year’s elections, a double-digit deficit among women in generic congressional preference (50-38%).

The seeds of the party’s failure are clear in a dusty piece in The Atlantic from 1996, “In the Land of Conservative Women”: change a few names and dates and it could run in, say, Politico – tomorrow. The author, Elinor Burkett, spent half her time marvelling at the audaciousness of female Republican staffers wearing short skirts and enjoying rock-n-roll music (said one such rebel: “One girl told me I was the first girl she’d ever met who was pro-life and still cool”). The other half of the story was an earnest appraisal of kitchen-table-bound, pocket-book-cautious moms: “Overwhelmed by bills, worried about their kids, afraid of violence.” Surveying that vein of potential Republicans, she wondered, “If 1994 was the year of the angry white male, 1996 may turn out to be the year of the anxious white female.” (Nope! The Clinton-Dole gender gap was 14 points.)

What Republicans were really hoping to do in 1996, Burkett wrote, was “appeal to female voters by persuading them that a balanced budget, lower taxes, and school choice will do more to improve their lives than will affirmative action, abortion, and funding for rape-crisis centers.”

Well, that’s worked out great. (This strategy’s dismal chances can also be seen in the politician presented as female Republicans’ biggest ally: Newt Gingrich, described as “determined to help women come together”.)

Flash forward to more recent times and the right is still promoting fun-loving gals who like guns and God while writing positioning memos that urge candidates to address “the economic anxiety women feel” and making this familiar argument:

Women tell us their top issues are the economy, jobs, health care, spending. When we start buying into the Democrats’ definition that it’s all about reproductive issues, then we are not playing to our strengths.

That reproductive rights are an economic issue is a stubborn truth that will keep the GOP stumbling for as long as they choose to ignore it.

I’ll give you one hint about the problem with believing that your female compatriots are either lusty libertarian-leaning pixies or Xanax-seeking helpmeets: it starts with “virgin” ends with “complex” and has a “whore” in the middle.

Don Draper’s psyche is not anything upon which to base a political strategy – and if you require Pac upon strategic plan upon public statement to affirmatively appeal to women, you’re confirming the fact that your policies alone no longer do. Maybe work on that.


By: Ana Marie Cox, The Guardian, July 1, 2014

July 2, 2014 - Posted by | Contraception, GOP, Women Voters | , , , , ,

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