Since we’re already jonesing for holiday weekend fun, let’s end August with a belly laugh: Republicans have just discovered, courtesy of their own confidential polling, that most women dislike them.
Actually, that’s an understatement. According to the GOP’s numbers, most women detest them.
What’s funny is that, for Republicans, it’s always Groundhog Day. They’ve lost the majority of women voters – usually, by double-digit percentages – in every presidential election since 1992, and they keep trying to figure out why. (It’s obvious why; keep reading.) They know they need to do better – after all, women voters typically comprise 53 percent of the electorate – and so they keep vowing to do better. And whenever they fail to do better, they launch another poll to figure out why.
So here they go again. Chastened by the presidential election of 2012, when they lost women by 11 percentage points (in some swing states, the gender chasm was far wider), they’re pondering their old problem anew. One of Karl Rove’s groups, Crossroads GPS, has partnered with the conservative American Action Network, to probe the mind of the American female – via eight focus groups and a national poll – and the results are as devastating as ever.
We know this because somebody leaked the key stats to Politico. For instance, when women were asked which party “looks out for the interests of women,” Democrats got the nod by a whopping 40 percentage points. When women were asked whch party “wants to make health care more affordable,” Democrats got the nod by 39 points. When women were asked which party “is tolerant of people’s lifestyles,” Democrats were again favored by 39 points. Women who care deeply about jobs favored the Democrats by 35 points.
Meanwhile, when women in the eight focus groups were asked to describe the GOP, the typical responses were “lacking in compassion,” “intolerant,” and “stuck in the past.” (Gee. I wonder why.)
According to the report, women are “barely receptive” to GOP policies, largely because Republicans “fail to speak to women in the different circumstances in which they live.” Republicans can’t win the women unless they craft policies that “are not easily framed as driven by a desire to aid employers or ‘the rich.'” For instance, said the report, women care deeply about equal pay for equal work: “Republicans who openly deny the legitimacy of the issue will be seen as out of touch with women’s life experiences.”
As a spokesman for the American Action Network tells Politico, “It’s important for conservatives to identify what policies best engage women…conservatives have more work to do with women.”
Gee. Where have I heard this kind of talk before?
“We had a landslide of women against us, and this is a problem the party needs to address.” That’s what Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio told me, a few days after the presidential election…of 1996.
“There is clearly a recognition that the party needs to do a better job with women.” That’s what Republican pollster Linda DiVall told me…in 2001.
“We need to sound the horn out there, and talk in ways that are relevant to women’s lives.” That’s what Reublican National Committee official Ann Wagner told me…in 2001.
“We need to talk about the top issues that matter to women.” That’s what Republican pollster David Winston told me…in 2001.
But the problem – then and now – is that Republicans are shackled to an ideology that most women cannot abide. Women (aside from high-powered breadwinners, and traditional housewives with affluent husbands) are more economically vulnerable than men; they’re sensitive about pay inequity, and they believe in a government safety net. Whereas Republicans don’t give a hoot about pay inequity – in April, the Senate GOP predictably blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act – and they’re determined to loosen the safety net. And to find more tax breaks for the top brackets, as envisioned in Paul Ryan’s various budget plans.
So on the one hand, year after year, decade after decade, Republicans vow to connect with women’s lives; on the other hand, we now have Mitch McConnell, captured on audio toadying to the party’s billionaire donors at a June meeting – vowing that if he becomes majority leader in 2015, the GOP will block “all these gosh darn proposals” that are relevant to women’s lives. “Gosh darn stuff” like extending unemployment benefits, and raising the minimum wage.
Plus, McConnell told his masters, “we’re going to go after (Democrats) on health care.” Hey, that’s brilliant; according to Karl Rove’s poll, women already favor the Democrats by 39 percentage points on affordable health care. If Democrats aspire to boost that number even higher, a new round of GOP obstructionism would be just what the doctor ordered.
In other words, Republicans can keep cranking out their female-friendly promises, but at the end of the day, on matters of policy, they’re destined to be who they really are – as Hillary Clinton will likely remind women in 2016.
One last flashback: A few days after the election of 1996 – Bill Clinton had just won women by 16 points – I discussed the gender chasm with Republican pollster Alex Castellanos. He lamented, “Things were simpler back when the daddy bears brought home the income, and the mommy bears were the caregivers and interior decorators.”
Yup, things were simpler in the past. And the Republicans are still stuck there.
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