For most of 2014, the Democrats looked on the looming congressional elections with considerable dread. All of the standard indicators portend an unhappy outcome for their party. The voters are deeply dissatisfied with the direction in which the country is headed, the President’s popularity—an important gauge of a party’s prospects in any midterm—is at rock bottom, and most competitive seats are in places where Mitt Romney performed well in 2012. Consequently, the Democrats had abandoned hope of winning back the House and stood in real fear of losing their Senate majority. Then came last week’s Hobby Lobby ruling.
In that imminently sensible Supreme Court decision, the Democrats found an unhoped-for opportunity for shameless demagoguery. Indulging their gift for Orwellian rhetoric, they declared that the Court had re-opened hostilities in the fabled “war on women.” They began depicting a ruling that merely precluded the government from forcing business owners to violate deeply held religious beliefs as an outrageous attack on the reproductive rights of women everywhere. Millions of American women, they thundered, will now be denied access to birth control because five male justices sided with the closet theocrats who own Hobby Lobby.
Such carefully calibrated outrage notwithstanding, Democrat strategists openly admit that they are planning to exploit this alleged tragedy for women: “Leading Democrats on Monday vehemently disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision… but some also saw in the ruling a political opportunity to galvanize female voters, whom they view as crucial to keeping the Senate majority in November.” In other words, the Democrats are worried about the very real enthusiasm gap caused by general voter dissatisfaction and the President’s sagging popularity. And, if recent public surveys are even remotely accurate, their base may sit the midterms out.
A recent CNN/ORC poll highlights the Democrat turnout problem: “When looking only at those who say they voted in the 2010 midterms—when the GOP won back the House thanks to a historic 63-seat pick up and narrowed the Democrats’ control of the Senate—Republicans have a four-point 49%-45% edge.” And it gets worse. Democrats can sometimes depend on female voters to pull them across the finish line ahead of their Republican opponents, but this CNN/ORC survey suggests that structural advantage has evaporated. “On questions about how interested they are in the 2014 elections, women are not much different than men.”
That’s the deadly apathy the Democrats hope to transform into fear. How much are they willing to distort the facts concerning the Hobby Lobby ruling to accomplish that? The comments of Massachusetts congresswoman Niki Tsongas provide a predictable example: “The ruling by an all-male majority of the Court diminishes the rights of women in the workplace and sets a dangerous precedent that could lead to corporations denying coverage of other health-care services.” This is hysterical nonsense, of course. No one’s rights have been diminished, nor will the Hobby Lobby ruling lead to any woman being denied access to birth control.
But the facts don’t matter in this battle. The Democrats are desperate to hold on to the Senate, at any price, and they are perfectly willing to tell any lie necessary to accomplish that goal. The New York Times provides a preview: “With their Senate majority at stake in November, Democrats and allied groups are now stepping up an aggressive push to woo single women.… This week they seized on the ruling by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, five men, that family-owned corporations do not have to provide birth control in their insurance coverage, to buttress their arguments that Democrats better represent women’s interests.”
You’ll notice that both Tsongas and the Times discuss this ruling in terms of men versus women. This will be a recurring theme until November. Indeed, this was obviously a rhetorical device that was concocted by the Democrats and their accomplices well before the Court handed down its ruling. Within an hour of the decision, the President of NARAL (formerly the National Abortion Rights Action league) claimed: “What we saw today was five male justices essentially rule that discrimination against women is not discrimination at all.… They said it’s OK for bosses to make personal decisions about health care which we pay for with our labor.”
Will this deliberately divisive tactic work? A just released survey of likely voters conducted by Rasmussen reveals the following: “Half of voters agree with the U.S. Supreme Court that a business owner should be able to opt out of Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate if it violates his or her religious beliefs.” Moreover, many don’t even give the issue much weight when deciding where to work: “Most also say a company’s level of contraceptive coverage is not that important to their decision to work there.” Why not? Paul Kengor provided the answer in this space last week: “Women all over America remain fully free to buy contraceptives.”
Carly Fiorina captured the essence of the Hobby Lobby ploy yesterday morning on CNN: “A lot of women, me included, are sick of the ‘war on women.’ And we saw it in spades on Monday after the Hobby Lobby case.… The ‘war on women’ is shameless, baseless propaganda.” Fiorina’s view will probably be shared by most of the voters in November. No matter how much they lie about Hobby Lobby, the Democrats are almost certainly going to take another midterm shellacking, a shellacking they richly deserve.