How Not to Let Republicans Perpetuate their Ideas about Women

Maybe it’s just semantics, but the Republican Party should probably stop referring to women as prizes to “win.” The women in the GOP really should probably stop talking about “winning” other women. To be clear, they are generally speaking about votes, and the concept of winning or losing votes is nothing new and nothing to necessarily worry about. However, simply shifting the implication by taking the word “vote” out of the concept makes for some questionable statements.

“We’re not even suggesting that we have to win women to win,” said Katie Packer Gage, of Burning Glass Consulting firm and former deputy manager for the Romney 2012 campaign, in an interview for NPR’s Morning Edition broadcast on May 6. Well, that doesn’t sound so bad, one might think to oneself. Except then: “We just have to win more women.”

Rushing to Gage’s defense upon hearing the blunt juxtaposition of those phrases, one might try to argue that it’s not just about the votes, but about drawing women to truly, actively support the Republican Party between elections. That would be a stronger argument if it wasn’t clear that many a Republican agenda focus on rejecting the programs and policies that women rely on and believe support them, and that all they’re really trying to do is persuade women to see their position differently rather than adapt to the actual needs and interests of women.

Gage also seems to promote the idea that the GOP can just pull a quick one on female voters: she suggests in her interview with Morning Edition that women pay no attention to detail or fact, and that heartstring-tugging stories about the effects of rising gas prices and “Obamacare” are more likely to send women running into the arms of the Grand Old Party. The National Republican Congressional Committee has actually been holding training sessions to teach their members and candidates how to communicate with women–hopefully with more of an emphasis on how not to be insensitive and ignorant (a la Todd Akin).

Unfortunately for them, such appeal tactics—especially when it comes to tearing apart the Affordable Care Act—have fallen to pieces when scrutinized. As Ms. Gage surely knows, personal anecdotes are largely unrepresentative of the nation-wide statistics and research on any given subject.

Women are, statistically speaking, more educated than men, and arguably therefore just as competent—if not more so—in consuming and analyzing the raw data with which Gage implies they prefer not to be bothered. Certainly this is not to say that all appropriate methods of engaging any given woman at any given level of education with political information should not be used, but Gage calls rather specifically for a total wash of stories, over facts. As summed up by NPR: “If Republicans want women to listen, they need to stop bombarding them with data and focus on day-to-day concerns.”

Republican candidates already draw much stronger support from married women than do their Democratic counterparts (Romney held a 7-point margin of married women’s votes over Obama in the 2012 election). Studies in trends show, though, that marriage rates are on the decline—women are postponing marriage more frequently, often to prioritize the very education that allows them to be the informed, analytical voters whom Republicans don’t appear to be targeting—and single women are making an even bigger impact in the opposite direction: unmarried women carried a 36 percentage point advantage for Obama over Romney in 2012.

Women who do support and vote for Republicans are incredibly more reliable voters for their party than women are for the Democratic Party. Mara Liasson of NPR breaks it down as such:

“Single women make up about 25 percent of the electorate, and they’re growing fast as marriage rates decline. But while they are reliable supporters for the Democrats — that is, when they vote — they are not reliable voters: Between 2008 and 2010, the participation of unmarried women fell by about 20 points. And between 2012 and 2014, single women’s participation is expected to drop off by about the same rate.”

So what it comes down to is this: greater numbers of women support liberal candidates and social policies and services, but they are outnumbered by conservative-voting women when it comes to crucial midterm elections. These are often the elections that decide members of Congress and the Senate–the people who have huge amounts of power in passing or blocking those bills addressing topics most important to this great constituency.

There is a strong sentiment among young eligible voters especially that voting is pointless, makes little impact, or sustains a corrupt and narrow political system. Remember, though, that single (usually progressive-minded) women make up 25 percent of eligible voters, and that people ages 18-29 account for 21 percent of eligible voters. The collective power here to improve the political climate is immense.

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