In the wake of the 2014 midterm losses for the Democrats, there has been some soul-searching on what went wrong on their side. In a nutshell, they failed to address the concerns and anxieties of middle class voters by (1) ignoring many economic themes, (2) spending too much time running from Obama and his record, and (3) focusing too much on women’s issues in certain races. This article focuses on the last point.
After the election, many Democrats quietly complained that the party had ignored fiscal issues in favor of social issues and they became the party of the “culture wars-” an image they carefully crafted as being a linchpin of the Republican Party for years. Perhaps the most obvious example occurred in Colorado where Republican [mc_name name=’Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’G000562′ ] defeated Democratic incumbent [mc_name name=’Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’U000038′ ] who, along the way, attained the derogatory name, “Mark Uterus.” Udall, using a tactic from the feminist playbook, tried to portray Gardner as out of the mainstream on the touchy topics of abortion and contraception. Republicans in 2016 need to adopt the Gardner strategy of letting your position be known and thwarting the feminist accusations through benign ignorance. Let the feminist Left do their thing because they are only playing to the choir. In Colorado, Gardner won 73% of the vote of those who said they were very concerned about the economy and 54% of those who said they were somewhat concerned. He also won the following demographics: married men and women and unmarried men and lost only the unmarried female vote. However, that latter class makes up only 16% of the electorate in Colorado. The feminist Left’s message plays only to a small percentage of the electorate in any state. In other words, they are “unconvincing” to over 80% of any state’s electorate.
Which brings me to EMILY’s List- a Leftist organization that endorses pro-choice female candidates for office at all levels. Founded in 1985 by Ellen Malcolm, it is a moniker for “Early Money Is Like Yeast,” whatever the hell that means. Malcolm is about as far Left as one can go and has hooked up with Harold Ickes and George Soros through America Coming Together (ACT), an organization dedicated against the “extremist policies of the Bush administration.” In the 2014 cycle, they spent almost $6 million on candidates, most in a losing cause.
For 2016, they are establishing an Insult and Injury Initiative which will target Republican presidential hopefuls and document examples of what they perceive to be insults against women in general. For example, they already list [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ]’s “shushing” of a female CNBC reporter as one example. They also cite Mike Huckabee’s characterization of women who curse in the workplace as being “trashy.” They are delving into candidate records and policy positions on abortion, contraception and pay equity. Specifically, they will look at one’s position in opposition to Planned Parenthood and defunding that organization and opposition to minimum wage increases. In short, they are focusing their criticisms on the precise issues that cost the Democrats in 2014- social issues.
They note that economic issues drive women to the polls, yet they focus on the non-economic issues which illustrates their hypocritical agenda. First, equal pay for equal work is the law of the land and has been since 1963. Most states have a minimum wage in excess of the federal rate already while many states already allow for paid sick leave for employees without it becoming federal law.
Recently, they note that both Scott Walker and Chris Christie, as governors of their respective states, vetoed legislation that would have advanced women’s rights in the workplace. Walker vetoed a law that would have allowed state courts to hear pay discrimination cases. Mind you- there is an EEOC for this very reason along with access to the federal courts without opening the state courthouse doors to these often frivolous lawsuits that cost businesses money. In New Jersey, Christie vetoed a notification law, although he later signed another less stringent bill into law.
The tactics being offered by EMILY’s List have been tried before against Scott Walker. They were tried in the recall election where they ran ads against Walker based on his abortion stance. We all know how that election turned out. Also recall that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a key recipient of EMILY’s List largesse, made some incendiary remarks about Scott Walker which his opponent, Mary Burke, was forced to distance herself from.
Furthermore, one has to proceed as if the Democratic opponent will be Hillary Clinton and plan for that inevitability. Undoubtedly, any “attack” on Clinton herself will be portrayed as an attack on women in general by groups like EMILY’s List who are honing their ears for “dog whistle” comments. One needs to see what Clinton’s views are on issues like abortion and contraception and whether, if they are personal choices, are they “not that personal enough” that the government has to pay for them? Regarding pay equity, she will have to explain why she historically pays women staffers 63 cents on a male’s dollar. If it is due to differing backgrounds, skills, resume and accomplishments, then she will have to admit those same dynamics in the real world.
In fact, we saw a small example of how Hillary plays in this area when she campaigned for Allison Lundergan-Grimes in Kentucky. The same dynamics that were seen in Colorado were also seen in Kentucky with Hillary on the campaign trail- a Democratic loss and McConnell winning all the gender/marital status categories except unmarried women which comprise only 20% of the electorate in Kentucky (slightly higher than in Colorado). In short, the war on women meme plays only to a small segment of voters- single females.
Thus, if EMILY’s List wants to invest heavily in the 2016 race through endorsing Hillary Clinton and/or tearing down male Republican candidates, all the more power to them. Try as they might to refocus their message on economic issues as they apply to women, that message is heard only by a minority segment of the actual voting pool. And try as they might, they will inevitably stray into the social issues of abortion and contraception- two issues that, quite frankly, most voters really care little about. In the end, EMILY’s List and their Insult and Injury Initiative will fall on increasingly deaf ears to the point that “dog whistles” will become a phrase of political derision.