Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Gender Gap: Why Women Voters will Reject the GOP in the Midterm Elections

by Nomad

In red states like Kentucky, women voters may just turn these states to blue in the upcoming election.  If that state is any to go by, Republicans are going to be in big trouble. And when it comes with women voters, the party has nobody to blame but itself.

According to an article in the LA Progressive, a recent non-partisan poll shows that Democratic candidate Alison Grimes has a four-point advantage over Mitch McConnell, the senate minority leader and long time incumbent. While four points may not make Grimes a sure thing, the poll also reveals something that must be even more disturbing for Republican strategists. Grimes has a 12 point lead among women surveyed. That's right, a full twelve points.
And women- as a voting block- make up a full 53 percent of all registered voters in Kentucky. 
The bottom line is: Losing women voters means losing an election.
That doesnt guarantee Grimes an easy victory, of course. Naturally, she has done her best to highlight McConnell's poor record on issues women care about.
Said a Grimes spokesperson Charly Norton,
“McConnell’s votes against the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, and the Violence Against Women Act appear to be a serious drag on his ability to win over Kentucky women. Unless McConnell explains why he has voted against women’s interests time and time again, he will fail to gain an ounce more of support.”
States like Missouri and Indiana have also shown that Republican candidates have lost women voters by a wide margin. 
It's hard not to see that when it comes to women voters, the Republican Party is still in disarray. They may know what the problem is but is it possible that the Republican Party cannot change? Is its attitudes toward women, toward gays and lesbians, toward the poor actually the cold heart of the GOP?  

Growth and Opportunity
In 2012 Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced the Growth and Opportunity Project (GOP, get it?). It was a post-mortem of the disastrous Mitt Romney campaign, an attempt to understand how to resuscitate the Republican corpse.
One section addressed its failure to appeal to women voters. The conclusions found in the report seem to show that Priebus, at least, understood the importance of dealing with the problem.
Communicating, organizing and winning the women’s vote should be part of all activities that the RNC undertakes. Women are not a “coalition.” They represent more than half the voting population in the country, and our inability to win their votes is losing us elections.
However, the same month that Priebus launched the initiative, Sharon Day, co-chair of the Republican National Committee, simply dismissed the whole "war on women" idea altogether. It was, she said, all Obama's fault for putting that nonsense in women's heads.
President Obama's desperate quest for re-election has led Democrats to embrace some cynical and offensive tactics. One is perpetuating the myth of a "war on women." It's time for the insulting and disingenuous rhetoric to end.
The Republican Party is absolutely committed to the policies and priorities that improve the lives of women. In contrast, President Obama's economic policies have taken us in the wrong the direction. In the Obama economy, women are decidedly worse off.
She goes on to call the whole idea "insulting" and "disingenuous."   

It appears the only solution the Republican Party can give to the allegation is to have a woman spokesman simply claim that the war on women doesn't exist at all. That would have been like having Sammy Davis Jr. come out to Alabama in 1963 and tell the black protesters there was no such thing as racial discrimination. It was all a plot by that Kennedy fellow! 

Telling women that they are imagining things, that they are not smart enough to know when their own interests are under threat is hardly going to lure women voters. As Priebus said:
Too often, female voters feel like no one listens to them. They feel like they are smart, engaged and strong decision makers but that their opinions are often ignored. Many female voters feel that Washington, D.C., is a city full of politicians that simply don’t listen and don’t understand what their daily lives are like.
If anything, Day's dismissive remarks is a good example of what Priebus is talking about. Name-calling and attacks on the opposition simply will no longer work with women.  

The Priebus report goes on:
Republicans should develop a more aggressive response to Democrat rhetoric regarding a so-called “war on women.” In 2012, the Republican response to this attack was muddled, and too often the attack went undefended altogether. ... There are plenty of liberal policies that negatively impact women, and it is incumbent upon the party to expose those and relentlessly attack Democrats using that framework.
It is not really a change of policy. It is a change of tactics. In fact, the message that Republicans sent women voters has been extremely clear.

And that's exactly the problem.

The Toxic Issue of Abortion
Here's one prominent example. Since the days of Reagan, the Republican party has led a divisive crusade to restrict women's constitutional right to an abortion. However you personally feel about the subject, the law allowing abortion has been endorsed by the Supreme Court. Yet in state after state, that right has been denied women through abortion ban laws and restricting the financial support that organizations like Planned Parenthood receives.
In their zeal to rid the nation of abortion, they have also negatively affected all women. Planned Parenthood is the largest U.S. provider of reproductive health services, including cancer screening, HIV screening and counseling and contraception. Abortion accounts for only 3% of its total services.

Closing Planned Parenthood clinics has been a disaster for women seeking information and affordable screenings among the other critical services. Republican legislators in Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Georgia, South Dakota, New Jersey, Louisiana and other states have all launched attacks on the right of women to make their own reproductive choices.

The effect of this quixotic crusade has been damaging for the GOP. Rather than succeeding, it has led to a growth in the numbers of voters who now claim to be pro-choice. It was already an overwhelming majority but now, according to one survey,  70 percent of Americans say that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned, with 57 percent of Americans feeling strongly about it.
That's a five point jump from 2005. Clearly Republicans are willing to defend its anti-choice principles even though it is a toxic subject for women voters.

Not-so-little Things Mean a Lot
Besides the hot topic of abortion there are numerous examples to prove that the GOP is not the party for women. In so many ways, women are given the message: with statements about their libidos and to vaginal probes, remarks about rape. This is the party, after all, who cannot even call out the openly sexist Rush Limbaugh for his many offensive and degrading remarks toward women.

MoveOn.org has a partial list of the little things that mean a lot to women.
A state legislator in Georgia wants to change the legal term for victims of rape, stalking, and domestic violence to "accuser." But victims of other less gendered crimes, like burglary, would remain "victims."

Maryland Republicans ended all county money for a low-income kids' preschool program. Why? No need, they said. Women should really be home with the kids, not out working.
And there are also sub-groups for women too. Like the elderly, the poor, students and single parents.
Two-thirds of the elderly poor are women, and Republicans are taking aim at them too. A spending bill would cut funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens.
And at the federal level, Republicans want to cut that same program, Head Start, by $1 billion. That means over 200,000 kids could lose their spots in preschool.
Last year's shutdown was proof that that Republicans have failed to consider   women voters. Government support for essential services to American women and their families, such as shelters for women fleeing domestic violence and sexual assault, for were cut all for the sake of Republican principles and one man's egotistical grandstanding.

Even when Republican policies are not directly targeting women, as a group that represents more than 50% of the population, Republican policies on all issues have an impact on women voters. And amazingly, for some reason, women voters are still thought of as a minority y Republican strategists.

Larger Issues, More Failure
One thing that the GOP consistently fails to take into account is that women are not male voters in drag. Women often have different opinions than their male counterparts about general issues. And where there is a so-called gender gap, those are the very issues that conservative Republicans seem to focus on. Apart from the perceived war on women, there are a lot of other issues where women tend to take a much more progressive view. Here's a short list.

Climate Change
In general, climate change has been a troublesome issue for Republicans. It requires the party to reject the opinions of 97 percent of all climate change scientists. It requires, if nothing else, a very very good reason to plunge our grandchildren into a hellishly uncomfortable world.
Simply accepting that climate change exists has been a step forward for GOP politicians.Taking action with a serious and committed policy? Forget it. 

And yet, according to one study, while men are more likely to think they know more on the subject of climate change, women are much more willing to accept the overwhelming consensus of climate change scientists.
Women express more concern about climate change than men do. A greater percentage of women than men worry about global warming a great deal (35% to 29%), believe global warming will threaten their way of life during their lifetime (37% to 28%), and believe the seriousness of global warming is underestimated in the news (35% to 28%).
While the percentages do not show a vast difference between genders, they do show that flat-out denial or that climate change is a liberal myth will not work with women voters. It is a no-winner for the women's vote.

Gun Control
Gun control is another topic in which women voters tend to take a very different view than their male counterpoints. Last year, a poll on gun control showed something that should have sounded warning bells among party leaders.  
The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll .. found a majority of Americans -- 55 percent -- expressing support for tougher gun measures. That finding is mostly par for the course, as polls conducted since the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. have consistently shown majority support for stricter gun laws. But dig deeper in the post-Newtown polling, and a similarly consistent trend emerges: women are far more receptive to gun control than men.
The NBC/WSJ poll was no exception. It found that while 65 percent of female respondents favor stricter gun laws, only 44 percent of male respondents felt the same way.
Instead taking a long re-think about its stand on gun policy, the Republican party has remained firmly under the control of the NRA lobbyists.

The gender gap holds true for same-sex marriage. According to a Gallup poll from last year, when it came to same-sex marriage women were more supportive (56 percent) than men (48 percent). Whether their feelings on this subject are strong enough to affect their vote, it's hard to say. But it would certainly be one of many reasons not vote for a Republican.

Austerity and Cutting Social Programs for the Poor
As far as the economy, the Republican platform and its belief that austerity through budget cuts to social programs is definitely unwinnable with women. There's a very good reason for that.
Women still make up three out of five adults living in poverty, as well as two-thirds of minimum wage workers and two-thirds of food stamp recipients. Women are twice as likely as men (23 percent vs. 12 percent) to rely on food stamps over the course of their lives.
(To rephrase the last line from the film "It's a Wonderful Life," every time a Republican talks about cutting a government program for the poor, a Democrat gets a woman's vote.)
*   *   *  
So Priebus' strategy is simply wrong. It's not about re-branding the message. And it's not about finding more female Republicans to smooth things over. It runs much deeper than that. The problem is the message itself. The Republican Party is simply not appealing to women voters, war or no war.

To bring women back into the party, it would require a complete overhaul of the platform. It would require a divorce from corporate lobbyists, the Koch brothers and other special interests groups. 
Nobody is ready to talk about that. 
Not yet anyway.

When it comes to the women voters of Kentucky, Senator Mitch McConnell is paying the price for a general failure of the Republican party to reach women voters.
It is having a hard enough time just not insulting them.


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