On Wednesday morning after the November 5 election, a hard Right outlet, The Washington Times, headlined with the following caption: “Christie’s win, Cuccinelli’s loss: Two playbooks for defending against the ‘war on women.’”
For any woman who wants the freedom to manage her own life, health, and family, having the words war on women at the top of such a partisan news purveyor, even in quotes, is reason to crow. It means that the war metaphor has become broad shorthand for Republican vagina politics. It means the Right has failed to replace the “war” tag with one that puts Conservative goals in a positive light.
More significantly, it means that even old men who yearn for 1950’s gender hierarchy are on notice that pissing off female voters may not be a path to victory. Last fall, Romney’s binders full of women turned on him; he lost the female vote 44 percent to Obama’s 55, but after the election, the Republican self-critique focused largely on how badly they had alienated Hispanics. Conservatives offered up Cruz and Rubio as the fresh face of the party. That’s Ted Cruz, who can’t tell the difference between a contraceptive and an abortifacient and Marco Rubio who opposed the Violence Against Women Act, supports a 20-week abortion ban, and thinks equal pay is a legal headache.
Now, according to exit polls, Cuccinelli lost women by half again Romney’s margin, 37 to 63. Have they finally gotten the message? Republican spin doctors are not conceding much. The story line? It’s all about tone:
“One of the key planks in the Democrats’ ‘win at all costs’ playbook is the ‘war on women’ maneuver,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist. “While both Cuccinelli and Christie are pro-life, only Cuccinelli fell headlong into this hyper-emotional trap. Christie’s strong favorability with female voters is a testament to his understanding the importance of tone, rhetoric, outreach and personal favorability when conveying one’s views. Cuccinelli, on the other hand, is a textbook example of how not to handle the [Democrats’] propaganda slime.”
O’Connell is not altogether wrong. Mr. Christie has opposed abortion, marriage equality, and fair pay, yet won 57 percent of female voters in New Jersey. But he also came through for New Jersey families after Superstorm Sandy, setting aside partisan posturing to provide rapid relief for those who needed it. He is credited with having secured tens of billions in federal relief funds. He behaved like an old school Republican, one who has an honest difference in opinion with Democrats about how we get to a better future, but who understands that public servants are paid to serve the public, not the party.
Virginia Republican and former congressman Thomas M. Davis III acknowledges another difference, saying that Mr. Cuccinelli has sponsored some “goofy bills” during his political career. But he too, expresses the hope that a smarter communications approach may solve the problem: “It is a question of how you present it. You don’t have to be pro-choice to win statewide in New Jersey and Virginia, but you have to handle the issue appropriately.”
Are women suckers for tone? Republican analysts aren’t the only culture warriors who hope so. In a provocative opinion piece, “Are We Being Bamboozled by This Charming Pope?” commentator Terry Sanders points out that even though favorability ratings of the Vatican have improved dramatically this year, Pope Ratzinger’s most harmful policies are being upheld by the kinder, gentler Francis. Sanderson argues that the new pope is merely rebranding Catholicism rather than engaging in substantive change, and in fact, the Vatican seems intent on reassuring the conservative loyalists that this is the case.
In September, Pope Francis made headlines around the world by saying that the Church should “drop its obsession with divisive issues,” but just a day later, in front of a Catholic audience he pontificated about the evils of abortion, saying that every pregnancy aborted “bears the face of Jesus.” An Australian priest who supported gay marriage and ordination of women was defrocked, and in fact became the first person excommunicated under Francis. When asked by PBS host Bonnie Erbé whether the pope has been flip-flopping, Conservative Catholic and former Bush advisor, Mercedes Viana Schlapp put it bluntly, “Look, I’m a communicator, and I’ve got to tell you, the Pope’s got the right tone.”
The third biggest force in the U.S. culture wars after the Vatican and Republican Party has been the Southern Baptist Convention, with almost 16 million members including Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Under former director Richard Land, the SBC booted female faculty out of seminaries, halted ordination of women, and threw its full weight into vagina politics. Land lead the charge against the “radical homosexual agenda” and lobbied for a national ban on gay marriage.
But like their Catholic and Republican allies, the Baptists had a come-to-Jesus trauma that triggered an epiphany: They realized they were losing, and in particular losing young people who were fleeing their institutions in droves. Russell Moore, who inherited Land’s role, has warned Baptists that they shouldn’t be “mascots for any political faction.” His answer to how Baptists can respond to advancing gay rights? Love your gay and lesbian neighbours.
And yet, behind the conciliatory surface Moore offers little real change on the issues that divide us. He equates the evils of abortion and slavery, says the church will never support gay marriage, and clings to the tired distinction between loving the (homosexual) sinner and hating the sin. Southern Baptists owners are well represented among the for profit companies seeking corporate conscience exemptions to the contraceptive mandate, and Falwell’s American Center for Law and Justice is providing the legal muscle for Catholic and Protestant ACA opponents alike. Almost every week, Moore travels to D.C., where he works to turn conservative theological priorities into law.
What kind of welcome will he get there in coming months? That depends in part on how the divisions in the Republican party play out: Will traditional conservatives or tea party activists gain the upper hand? It also depends on how party leaders interpret their recent wins and losses: Is the difference between Cuccinelli and Christie one of form or substance? And it depends on whether free thinking, free living women (and the men who love them) are finally mad enough to be scary. _______________________________________
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Subscribe to her articles at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.
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It boggles my mind that our government rewards religious institutions, promoting misogyny, with tax exempt status. As if that’s not bad enough, republican legislation is strategically putting obstacles in the path of women voters.
It boggles my mind too. What it means, effectively, is that all of us who are nonreligious are subsidizing religion, just like those without kids subsidize the Duggars.
Come on. The Right has long recognized that women vote–just the way their husbands tell them to, presumably.
You laugh, but I remember a time in my young life when that was a hot topic. In some quarters it was fairly well expected that a wife would vote like her husband.
Exactly, and that mentality is still prevalent today. Any woman who votes against her own best interests may be experiencing a form of Stockholm Syndrome.
Maybe, those who allegedly vote the way the husband tells them to vote, are starting to use their own minds and think for themselves. It’s about time too. I remember I started this early. I was 18, ready to vote for the first time, and my grandfather, a Fundamngelical, tried to tell me to vote for Reagan. I told him, that I thanked him for his advice, but when I get into the voting both, I will vote for the person I think best. He was furious and told me I was being disrespectful. I got into that voting both and voted Democrat, I vote for the first woman running for vice president (Ferraro), I voted for who I wanted to be president (Mondale). I lost, but I can’t remember a time I ever voted Republican and I never told anyone in my family, until recently, who I voted for. Up until my grandfather died, my grandmother, mother (divorced), and her sister (a widow) voted for who my grandfather told them to vote for, most often Republican, and even after he died, they continued to vote Republican. Except for my sons, I am the only one on my side of the family, who most often if not always, votes Democrat. Heck, if Roseanne Barr had been on the ballot in my state, I would have voted for her this past election, but I realized writing her in would have been a throw away vote, risking who I most definitely did not want in office, so I stuck to my usual pattern. Even so, I really wish the parties were not the only two that had the greatest chance in winning and other parties had more of a chance.
Of course, I’d like to think that, at least generally speaking, a husband and wife would be enough on the same page politically that they’d vote alike, anyway. But that would only be because they actually agree.
This is true and sometimes that happens, but not always, because in some families, women being told how to vote starts early and they are even shielded from politics. They aren’t given a chance to even see or hear the other side, in order to think or learn to think for themselves. How I got lucky and managed to think for myself, I don’t know. I can only speculate.
Why would you think couples would vote the same way and even manage agree on politics? Certainly hasn’t worked that way in our marriage. We try not to let it bother one another and talk civilly or just agree to disagree and drop whatever political topic we are on if necessary:)
I am certain that we voted for different people in the last several presidential elections. When it comes to local politics, we generally come to a consensus after discussing the stance of the candidates since these are issues that count in our day to day lives but we are free to vote for whom we choose to.
Here’s a recent article about the hypocrisy of Texas calling itself “pro-life.” Lots laws protect people defending their castle, and the article gives examples of innocent people getting shot.
Wendy Davis had a great response to the “pro-life” hypocrisy: “I am pro-life. I care about the life of every child: every child that goes to bed hungry, every child that goes to bed without a proper education, every child that goes to bed without being able to be a part of the Texas dream, every woman and man who worry about their children’s future and their ability to provide for that future. I care about life and I have a record of fighting for people above all else.”
Here, where I now “reply.” On the: “Women Vote? Really? You Sure?” post today 11/17. First-where can I get one of those round, red-white-blue Buttons at the top? I want to wear one! Spouse Merry and I are totally on the same wavelength, with one exception: She- “The Human species is not going to survive. Unfortunate, Indeed. But not going to happen. So just let me do my 72 yo retired Nurse, 5, 6 or 7 days a week volunteer work in peace. I’m doing what I can do.” Me: “But we Gott’a Do More! Somehow! There’s still a shot, isn’t there??” Well maybe, or not. I did various volunteer nonprofit funding search, Community FoodBank, and such myself for decades. Now I don’t stand or walk so well anymore; so I sit and read: science, “ecosphere defense,” and public affairs periodicals. Weep, and try to think of something new. How to get all of us with “opposing” viewpoints to start listening and hearing one another. Oh, and FL Senator Marco Rubio? And ethically challanged Governor Rick Scott? Please! We’ve personally got some roots down there. Their very names me into a bad funk. Any Floridians out there: Vote VOTE Charlie Crist!!! :-) So, Valerie, how do you even keep with the “Comments,” with folks like me out there? Just 400 Waypoint Followers? We must get you 4 Million. PLATINUM are Platinum!
Thanks, Allan. Alas, I have no idea where to buy one of those buttons. I just found the image online.