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“Policies And Attitudes, That’s Just How They Roll”: Why Republicans Can’t Solve Their Problem With Women Voters

I’ll give Republicans credit for this: they keep trying to figure out why their party remains unappealing to large and important groups of voters. They’ve been mulling over their problem with Latino voters for some time, and now Politico has gotten a hold of a study commissioned by some GOP bigwigs to figure out why women keep giving more of their votes to Democrats:

But in Washington, Republican policies have failed to sway women — in fact, they appear to have turned women off. For example, the focus groups and polls found that women “believe that ‘enforcing equal pay for equal work’ is the policy that would ‘help women the most.'”

“Republicans who openly deny the legitimacy of the issue will be seen as out of touch with women’s life experiences,” the report warned, hinting at GOP opposition to pay-equity legislation. It’s the policy item independents and Democrats believe will help women the most.

The groups suggest a three-pronged approach to turning around their relationship with women. First, they suggest the GOP “neutralize the Democrats'” attack that Republicans don’t support fairness for women. They suggest Republican lawmakers criticize Democrats for “growing government programs that encourage dependency rather than opportunities to get ahead.” That message tested better than explaining that the GOP supports a number of policies that could help fairness for women.

The last time a Republican presidential candidate won a majority of women’s votes was 1988, and it’s hard to see it happening again soon unless there’s a huge blowout. While it’s all well and good to investigate the issue to try to understand it in as much detail as possible, I have some bad news for Republicans: This isn’t a problem they’re going to be able to solve.

That’s because both their policies and their attitudes are working against them. It isn’t just that Republicans oppose reproductive rights, though that doesn’t help. And it isn’t just that they oppose mandating contraceptive coverage in insurance, though that doesn’t help either. It’s that when they articulate those policy positions and others like them, they can’t keep themselves from doing so in the most hostile, contemptuous ways imaginable. That doesn’t apply to all of them, of course; maybe not even most of them. But any debate about an issue affecting women in particular is 100-percent guaranteed to feature at least a few prominent conservatives, including those who have their own radio and television programs, saying loudly that the women who disagree with the Republican position are sluts and whores. That’s just how they roll.

Karl Rove can say to his compatriots, “Let’s ease up on the ‘legitimate rape’ stuff, fellas,” but unfortunately for him and the other people who spend time thinking about the GOP’s challenges, a party can’t speak with one voice. Whenever a discussion starts about an issue like equal pay, everybody gets to weigh in, from the most sober senator to the most rabid Tea Partier to the most hateful talk radio host. And since we now have a highly developed outrage industrial complex, the appalling comments will be repeated and distributed, ensuring that everyone hears them. And even when they aren’t being outright offensive, Republicans are more likely to communicate their believe in condescending, outdated gender norms.

All of which means that the idea that Republicans are none too friendly to women is constantly reinforced, in ways both substantive and emotional. If you’re a woman, you’re not happy when the Republican party blocks equal pay legislation. But when you then hear some of them try to argue that the wage gap isn’t really a problem in the first place, and maybe you should just be staying at home with your kids anyway, well that’s going to really piss you off. And having a bunch of GOP bros tell you that they’re the real pro-women party because they don’t want people to depend on government isn’t going to go too far to change that.

Now take all that, and imagine what the atmosphere will be like if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee in 2016. There will be a tsunami of misogynistic hate directed at Clinton, which we know because she’s always generated a particularly ugly brand of male sexual panic in conservatives. If she’s actually threatening to become president, it’ll be worse than ever. In the face of that, the Republicans who try to argue that their party has something to offer women voters are going to get laughed right out of the voting booth.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 28, 2014

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Republicans, War On Women, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Increasingly Out Of Touch”: Hobby Lobby Shows The Need For A More Diverse Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court ended its most recent judicial term this week in a characteristically dramatic fashion. The Court often leaves the most contentious and controversial cases to be decided last, and this year was no exception. A deeply divided Court split 5-4 over the hashtag-friendly Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case, an innocuous name that perhaps doesn’t accurately reflect the polemical questions which lie at the heart of the Justices’ deliberations, namely striking the appropriate balance between religious conviction and access to contraception.

The impact of the decision cannot really be known until the United States’ relatively new national health insurance scheme (aka ‘Obamacare‘) has been fully implemented. In essence, the Justices ruled that a specific subset of corporations — those that are ‘closely-held,’ which often means small and family-owned — could not be compelled to provide insurance coverage for certain methods of birth control if the owners of such companies judged such coverage to be ‘incompatible’ with ‘sincerely-held’ religious beliefs. However, the Court suggested that United States government could step into the breach and provide coverage as necessary.

To non-American audiences, the outrage that this decision has provoked may seem bewildering. Yet the ruling affects three things that are cultural touchstones in the United States: access to health insurance (or the lack thereof), religious freedom, and reproductive rights. The dissenting justices opined that it was a decision of ‘startling breadth’, which might essentially legalise future discriminatory practices by corporations, so long as they claimed a violation of their convictions. This may or may not prove to be the case; nonetheless, additional legal challenges to Obamacare’s provisions are a foregone conclusion.

Of perhaps more immediate relevance than trying to guess at the decision’s eventual impact is speculative analysis of the Justices’ motivations. The companies which brought suit in the Hobby Lobby case are run by people who identify with conservative Christian ideologies. The five male Justices who made up the majority in the case all identify as Roman Catholic, and are 59 years of age or older. There is no way to know how much their personal beliefs inform their decisionmaking in this particular case, but it’s not implausible to suggest a correlation. It is reasonable to wonder if the Court would have split on similar lines had the religious convictions under examination been Muslim, Jewish or Mormon.

The Court’s three female Justices found themselves in the liberal minority on the case, as they often do with decisions that touch upon hot-button cultural issues. It was predicted that they would vote in favour of unimpeded access to contraception, and it’s easy to dismiss their votes as influenced simply by gender — after all, birth control is still seen largely as a woman’s responsibility, however inequitable this may be. This is unquestionably an over-simplified analysis, and yet it is sure to be expressed. More interesting by far is to hypothesise how the case might have been decided differently if the medication at the heart of the controversy were indicated for treatment of a distinctly male condition. If someone’s ‘sincerely-held’ religious beliefs prevented them from providing insurance coverage to treat erectile dysfunction, would the Court’s majority have been similarly composed?

Such provocative questions matter. Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life. While this is supposed to save them from the undignified political posturing and short-term thinking that Americans have come to loathe in their Congressmen and Senators, it can also saddle the Court with Justices whose personal opinions have not kept pace with the ever-evolving beliefs of its citizens. Nevertheless, as there are septuagenarians on both sides of the Court’s ideological divide, both conservatives and liberals have an incentive to keep their favourites around as long as possible.

America’s demographics are changing rapidly, and its younger generations do not generally hold one easily identifiable set of beliefs marking them as either ‘progressive’ or ‘traditional’. Going forward, the Supreme Court will find itself increasingly out of touch if it continues to make decisions that primarily reflect the viewpoint of Christian Caucasian males nearing retirement age. Justices would do well to consider that as they begin their summer vacations. The world may look very different by the time the Court begins again in October.


By: Hilary Stauffer, Visiting Fellow, London School of Economics, Centre for the Study of Human Rights; The Huffington Post Blog, July 4, 2014

July 6, 2014 Posted by | Hobby Lobby, Supreme Court | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Supreme Court Opens The Floodgates”: Hobby Lobby Ruling Is Infinitely Flexible, Based On Your Religion — Provided It’s The Right Religion

It didn’t take long for the conservatives on the Supreme Court to show that their decision in the Hobby Lobby case goes farther than Justice Alito professed when he wrote it — just as the liberal dissenters charged. Yesterday the Court granted an “emergency” injunction to Wheaton College, a Christian college in Illinois, so that the college wouldn’t have to endure the burden of filling out a form certifying their objections to contraception. The move sparked a blistering dissent from the Court’s three female justices, in which they wrote, “Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today.”

On its surface, this case appears to be a rather dull dispute about paperwork. But it actually gets to a much more fundamental question about what kinds of demands for special privileges people and organizations can make of the government on the basis of their religious beliefs.

One of the central points Alito made in the Hobby Lobby decision was that the company could be exempted from the law’s requirement that insurance plans cover contraception because there was a less restrictive means for the government to achieve its goal. This less restrictive means, he said, was the procedure the government had set up for religious non-profits: the group signs a form stating its objection and gives a copy to the government and to its third-party insurance administrator, which will then arrange for people to get contraception without the non-profit’s involvement or money. The fact that this procedure exists is what Justice Alito himself cited in the Hobby Lobby decision as proof that there was a less restrictive means for the government to accomplish its goal of guaranteeing preventive care, and for Hobby Lobby to keep clear of any involvement in contraception.

Yet in yesterday’s order, the conservative justices said this procedure — signing a form — is itself an unacceptable “burden” on Wheaton College’s religious freedom.

We don’t have to get into the administrative nightmare this could cause. (The dissent describes it well.) But the point is that there is seemingly no length this Court says the government shouldn’t go to accommodate this particular religious belief. A company or a university doesn’t want to follow the law? Well, we have to respect that — they can just sign a form stating their objection. Oh, they don’t want to sign the form? Well never mind, they don’t have to do that either.

When the Hobby Lobby decision came down on Monday, liberals warned that it was going to open the floodgates to all kinds of claims in which people would say that their “sincerely held” religious beliefs should excuse them from following the law. “My religion tells me I shouldn’t serve black people in my restaurant.” “My religion tells me not to pay sales taxes.” “My religion tells me that I should operate a brothel on my suburban cul de sac.”

But Alito wrote that that wouldn’t be a problem because in those kinds of cases the government was already employing the least restrictive means available to accomplish its legitimate goals, whether it’s stopping discrimination or collecting taxes or preventing prostitution. What the Wheaton College injunction shows, however, is that it matters very much who’s claiming that the law doesn’t apply to them. As much as the Court’s majority might want to believe their rulings are based in abstract principles that would apply to anyone, if you think they’d be working so hard to accommodate the claims for privilege of Muslims or Hindus or members of religious groups that the five conservatives on the Court do not have such an affinity for, you’re fooling yourself.

For some time now, conservatives have been claiming there’s a “war on religion” in America, but what they really want is special privileges, not for religion in general but for certain religions. They want government meetings to start with their prayers, they want their scriptures pinned on the walls of courthouses, they want everyone to celebrate their holidays and when they find the law displeasing — whether it’s a law about health care or discrimination or anything else — they want an exemption carved out just for them.

As important as the Hobby Lobby case is, it may be the seemingly small Wheaton College injunction that has the real effects. That’s because it’s a clear signal to everyone that the Hobby Lobby decision is infinitely flexible. As long as you liked the ruling, you don’t have to worry about whether the Court’s reasoning actually applies to your situation, because the Court doesn’t care. Go ahead and say the law doesn’t apply to you. As long as you say it’s because of your religion — provided it’s the right religion, and a belief like an abhorrence of contraception that the Court’s conservative majority shares — you’ll probably get away with it. And make no mistake: There are going to be a huge number of organizations, businesses, and individuals — probably thousands — that are going to try.


By: Paul Waldman, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, July 4, 2014

July 6, 2014 Posted by | Contraception, Hobby Lobby, Religious Beliefs, SCOTUS | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Battleground 2014”: Better Not Gloat Too Much Over Hobby Lobby, Republicans

At TNR John Judis reminds us that the last time Republicans embraced a Supreme Court decision restricting reproductive rights, it bit ’em in the butt:

In July 1989, the court handed down Webster v. Reproductive Health Services upholding Missouri’s right to restrict the use of state funds and employees in performing, funding, or even counseling on abortions. It was the first court decision restricting the rights bestowed under Roe v. Wade.

The nation, of course, was divided on the issue of abortion. How the issue played politically depended on which side of the debate saw itself under attack, and in this case the Webster decision mobilized pro-choice supporters. The right to abortion became a hot issue in the 1990 elections, and in the final results, abortion-rights supporters came out ahead. There were several telltale races. In Florida, Democrat Lawton Chiles defeated incumbent Republican Governor Bob Martinez, who, in the wake of Webster, had championed restrictive laws for Florida.

In the Texas governor’s race, Democrat Ann Richards defeated Republican incumbent Clayton Williams. According to polls, Richards, who made opposition to Webster a centerpiece of her campaign, garnered over 60 percent of the women’s vote, including 25 percent of Republican women. In the final tally, abortion-rights supporters, running against or replacing anti-abortion candidates, secured a net gain of eight seats in the House of Representatives, two Senate seats, and four statehouses.

What was also striking was the overall size of the gender gap. According to the National Election Studies survey, there was no gender gap between male and female supporters of Democratic congressional candidates in 1988. In 1990, gender gap was ten percentage points—the highest ever. All in all, 69 percent of women voters backed Democratic congressional candidates that year. Of course, there were other issues than Webster that were moving votes, but there is no doubt that the court ruling played an important role that year.

Now it’s true Webster turned on state abortion retrictions and thus was directly relevant to state election battles. But on the other hand, Hobby Lobby involves the elevation of corporate rights over reproductive rights, which is not exactly alien to the political battleground of 2014.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, Jul7 2, 2014

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Contraception, GOP, Hobby Lobby | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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