Republicans are jubilant after their electoral victories Tuesday night — but it might be that Democratic losses tell a more complete story than GOP gains.
While voters almost uniformly backed conservative candidates, they also supported ballot measures out of sync with the traditional Republican party platform. Sure, marijuana legalization — which passed in the nation’s capital and in Oregon — can be chalked up to a rise in libertarians (me included), lurking at the margins of the GOP like the outsiders we’ve been since high school. But voters also approved non-binding hikes in the minimum wage in four states and three major cities. That’s hardly a hardline conservative position. So what gives?
The easy answer is that Americans are, on the whole, idiots, who tune into elections at the last possible moment, when they simply can’t avoid it any longer. Hence the increase in television commercials the last two weeks, as the parties compete to see who can more effectively convince voters that the other guys are more likely to murder their grandmother, child, puppy, or cable television package — whichever they might find more important.
The hard answer is that Americans, though they might be the world’s most notorious audience for reality television and professional wrestling, don’t take kindly to being treated like they’re stupid.
Enter the War on Women, and its condescending notions of what female voters value. Across this great nation, Democrats entered the midterm arena eager to talk about one thing: how Republican control of Congress would lead to inevitable bans on chemical birth control, forced pregnancies, condom shortages, and mandatory uterus registration. Even now, noted experts on conservative ideology Sally Kohn and Lizz Winstead claim that the GOP’s gains have empowered Republicans to chain millions of women to stoves and fertility monitors — though most longtime supporters know the fractious Republican party could never accomplish anything so ambitious.
The fact is that women weren’t as enthusiastic as Democrats thought to hear about imaginary Republican Congressmen hell bent on their oppression. They showed up at the polls, instead, with other things on their mind: foreign policy, the economy, immigration, and Ebola. Handing out free birth control like candy might have worked when voters had nothing else to worry about, but after a summer of cable news meltdowns, women were more interested in how candidates proposed to handle bloodsucking terrorists and rare, foreign communicable diseases. As with many voters, in times of great trouble and limited trust in their fearless leaders, women shifted their focus to more pressing matters. And while they weren’t sure the Republicans weren’t going to make a mess of things once they were handed the baton, they certainly didn’t trust the Democratic Party. Dems simply missed the message.
It didn’t help that the War on Women morphed into an improv comedy sketch. In Colorado, where Democrat Mark Udall lost his Senate seat to Republican Cory Gardner, the campaign ended with a radio ad suggesting that the GOP would ban birth control, which would cause a statewide shortage of condoms, which would force the state’s nameless girlfriends to rely on their boyfriends for condescending political advice. Cosmopolitan magazine, which has made giving questionable information to its readership an editorial policy, launched a campaign aimed at educating low-information single female voters, starting with a complaint about terming young women “Beyoncé voters” paired with a kickoff graphic of Beyoncé, and ending with a party bus full of male models carting college students to the polls. Wendy Davis, the candidate who was going to finally give late-term abortion the platform marquee it so richly deserves, shied away from any mention of women’s issues on the campaign trail, preferring instead to lampoon her opponent’s disability.
What happened? Mark Udall ended up looking like a creeper, more concerned with his constituents sex lives than with their concerns. Wendy Davis lost women by a wide margin. Sandra Fluke, the patron saint of the contraception mandate, couldn’t even get 40 percent of the vote in her California state senate campaign. And despite Cosmo‘s best efforts, male strippers didn’t make an impact on the female youth vote. At least, not an electoral one.
The left put the feminists in their vanguard, and the whole mess went off a cliff. Women got the message that all the Democrats think about is their vaginas (when they think about women at all).
Republicans should take this disaster to heart — along with the understanding that in many places where they made miraculous gains, those gains were won by ladies. Joni Ernst, Elise Stefanik, and Mia Love all made history on Tuesday. And while they may not believe it was because they are of the female persuasion, there’s no denying that the Republican caucus will look very different come January.
Perhaps this trio can keep reminding the Republican caucus how to speak to women — and let the Democrats keep rolling on the uterus express.
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