I recently highlighted the campaign season’s most repugnantly dishonest ad; today, I’m singling out the most insultingly sexist ad.
Seriously, when I first saw it online earlier this month, I literally felt my jaw drop. Leave it to the Republicans to screw up their latest attempt to woo young women voters.
Republicans are tired of getting hammered by those voters in election after election – in 2012, women aged 18 to 29 supported Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a 2-1 margin – and party leaders are woefully aware that a paltry 25 percent of those voters define themselves as conservative. So, as always, Republicans have been vowing to do better, by crafting messages that are “relevant” to young women’s lives.
And yet, this piffle is what they came up with: A massive online ad campaign – $1 million in 16 states – that depicts young women as flibbertigibbets who are jonesing to get married. The not-so-subliminal gist is that gals shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about big complicated issues, because the GOP is here to make things simple by comparing candidates to wedding dresses. Tee hee, like, totally!
The ads are a riff on a TV reality show called Say Yes To The Dress (where the median age of the audience is 44, so most young women aren’t watching it anyway). The dialogue is tailored for the races in each state (here’s Florida). And in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial ad, which I linked above, we find blonde bride-to-be Brittany modeling the “Tom Corbett” wedding dress, but silly old mom wants Brittany to choose the “Tom Wolf” dress.
“The Tom Corbett is perfect!” gushes Brittany. “Tom Corbett is becoming a trusted brand.” (Huh? Since when?) And when mom argues for the Wolf dress, brave Brittany sets her straight: “Mom! This is my decision!”
Wow. Leave it to the GOP to depict female empowerment as a fashion choice on the eve of becoming somebody’s wife.
Yeesh, even Elle magazine fashion writer Sally Homes is insulted. It’s “highly offensive,” she writes, “to assume I want my politics delivered in a dedazzled, dumbed down, and completely nonsensical fashion.”
Leave it to the GOP to reduce issues to gowns and wedding veils. (Tom Corbett as a dress option?) The admakers – employed by the College Republican National Committee – apparently think that young women are all about getting married. The admakers apparently didn’t get the memo that, here in the second decade of the 21st century, only 29 percent of white women aged 18 to 29, and only 22 percent of black women aged 18 to 29, are actually married.
And yet, College Republican chairwoman Alex Smith has been telling the press, “It’s our goal to start the conversation by presenting ourselves in a culturally relevant way.” She would be right on the mark if young American women were still hewing to the culturally relevant mores of 1954.
The deficit among young women probably won’t hurt the GOP in ’14; the key races, especially for the Senate, are being played out in red states, and President Obama is a likely drag on Democratic turnout. But the ’16 presidential race will be a different story – as the GOP is well aware. Which is why two conservative organizations recently sought to find out, with polling and focus groups, what makes women tick. The final report, leaked this summer, concluded that Republicans “fail to speak to women in the different circumstances in which they live,” and that women perceive the GOP as “stuck in the past.”
And how has the GOP responded to this report? By crafting new ads that define only one circumstance (getting married), and doubling down on the perception that the party is stuck in the past.
Yet the party keeps wondering why young women won’t vote Republican. Even though the answer is obvious:
The GOP has worse than a tin ear. It’s deaf to its own advice.
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