Another Perspective

The Real ‘War on Women’

Republicans need to talk about it.

By 11.15.13

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There is a war on women. It’s the one that Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn chronicle in great detail in 2009’s heartbreaking “Half the Sky.” The one where a Kurdish girl who is suspected of sleeping with a man before she is married is stoned to death in Iraq. The one where baby daughters are murdered for being girls in Pakistan. The one where girls are kidnapped and raped with impunity in Ethiopia. The one where young girls are sold into sexual slavery in India. The book has many more horror stories of women being brutalized throughout the world.

When Terry McAuliffe, the governor-elect of Virginia,  relentlessly battered his Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli for waging a “war on women,”  these innocent babies, teenagers and wives often attacked by their families and given no protection under the law throughout many countries in the world were not on his mind, however.

Not even remotely. He was obsessed with making his opponent seem like “Virginia’s Todd Akin,” the Republican from Missouri who said women can’t get pregnant if it is “legitimate rape,” to win the pivotal women’s vote that ushered Barack Obama and then him into office.

Never mind that Mr. Cuccinelli, who opposes abortion, never said anything to link him with the misinformed Missourian who lost his election for U.S. Senate last year. And never mind that women are almost evenly split between pro-life and pro-choice camps according to Gallup, and polling shows a strong majority of women support restrictions on late term abortions -- two of the key issues in the so-called “war.”

It really didn’t matter what Mr. Cuccinelli believed or what Republicans throughout the country running for office believe, because framing the GOP as anti-women works.

It doesn’t matter if it is true. What matters is that the execution of the strategy makes women think Republicans are tone deaf to their struggles and combined with comments like Mr. Akin’s and Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” during his presidential campaign last year, helps to send them to the polls to vote for Democrats.

And not only does it work in the sense of pumping up the women’s vote, it serves as a black hole for issues including the IRS scandal, Benghazi, and Obamacare that could lead voters to question the leadership ability of Democrats.

It also fits in nicely with the progressive narrative that history is moving irrevocably forward to some ideal – which does not include stodgy white men. As President Barack Obama likes to repeat, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

To believe that requires an education American public schools are uniquely qualified to provide and ignorance of world history and current events.

As Karl Popper argued so well in “The Poverty of Historicism,” no one and no government can “predict the future course of human history.” He dedicated his classic work published in 1957 to “the countless men, women and children of all creeds or nations or races who fell victims to the fascist and communist belief in Inexorable Laws of Historical Destiny.”

Being right about the real motivations behind Democrats’ political strategy doesn’t win elections, though. The success of the “war on women” trope should make Republicans realize that they are fighting progressives for whom the idea of truth is an outdated relic of a racist, homophobic, misogynist past to be discarded in favor of tactics that allow them to win elections and sway opinion. They must also realize that progressives are remarkably effective at telling a compelling story about their vision for the nation and like them, start talking directly to women instead of trying to convince a hostile media of the validity of their message.

I’m not suggesting Republicans disregard principle, but they need to speak to women as if they were human beings and understood their struggles. As noted earlier, polling shows the Republican pro-life stance is shared by half of women. Republican candidates just have a bad habit of undermining those common bonds with bad storytelling.

Talking about the real “war on women” might be a good place to start.

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About the Author
Marta H. Mossburg writes frequently about national affairs and about politics in Maryland, where she lives.  Write her at marta@martamossburg.com. Follow her on Twitter at @mmossburg.