“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
– William Shakespeare
I opened with this specific quote for two reasons. In the first place, it’s highly appropriate given the context. And in the second, I hate to miss an opportunity to leverage a little irony. The “lady” to whom I allude in this instance is everyone’s favorite backward looking political party. That’s right…the GOP!
It’s been difficult to ignore the Republican Party’s insistence, subsequent to its November 2012 shellacking at the national ballot box, that it offers modern appeal to female voters. 68 percent of single lady votes went Obama’s way, as did a plurality of the married variety. In an electorate where slightly more than 50 percent of the ballots cast are done so by people with uteri, it should not have taken the statistical genius of Nate Silver to predict a major defeat for Team Romney. And yet we were still treated to the spectacle of a stunned and sputtering Karl Rove melting down on Fox News in front of the entire nation.
The loss of feminine support in the run-up to 2012 was an entirely unforced error. As writer Allan Karlin observed the day after the election, “The Obama Campaign did not create Richard Mourdock or Todd Akin. Nor did the campaign employ ventriloquists to fill their mouths with stupid, insensitive, and misogynistic sound bites about women and rape. The campaign did not force Romney to challenge the inclusion of birth control in the Affordable Care Act or to persist in his cloistered silence on equal pay. To the extent women favored President Obama over Mr. Romney, their preference was grounded in facts.”
But then in March 2013, we read the now-infamous Growth and Opportunity Project report (affectionately known as “The Autopsy” in media circles), the GOP’s professed come to Jesus moment (pun intended). In it, researchers observed, “Women are not a ‘coalition.’ They represent more than half the voting population in the country, and our inability to win their votes is losing us elections.” In conjunction with this dose of common sense, a concerted effort was undertaken to train party incumbents and their aides in speaking to female voters. Comical, but apparently necessary. And yet the effort has completely failed – spectacularly so.
Our own Sarah Jones wrote last week of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s bizarro “Uncle Sugar” remarks pertaining to universal female access to birth control pills. Rather than opening the door to female moderates disgruntled with Democratic leadership, Huckabee may have shoved additional Republican women through the exits. But this is just one high-profile example of the GOP’s continued struggle with policy, messaging and the women who make up over 40 percent of household breadwinners.
In July of 2013, the website Addicting Info published a list of the 40 all-time dumbest Republican quotes about rape. This “greatest” hits compilation was a difficult piece of work given the enormous body of foolishness available, leading writer Stephen J. Foster Jr. to conclude, “Republicans are obsessed with rape…The foot-in-mouth disease carried by the party has revealed much about the current beliefs of conservatives and it has spread like a plague…and as Republicans have continued to attack rape victims, they have united women like never before against their extreme anti-abortion agenda.”
Facing such an overwhelming, continuing load of self-defeating sound bites, has party leadership ordered an immediate moratorium on public appeals to those carrying two X chromosomes? You know, until representatives find something intelligent to say? Nope. Instead, they have adopted a tactic rather similar to the right’s efforts to recast income inequality discussions as “class warfare” rhetoric from the left. This is why we have to put up with Rick Santorum appearing on CNN in a lame attempt to deflect responsibility. He told the hosts of the network’s Crossfire, “I think what Governor Huckabee was saying is we’ve seen an unprecedented assault by the Democrats against Republicans claiming there’s a war on women.”
The idea here is that if one denies a course of action loudly and often enough, perhaps the right people can be convinced that what they’re seeing and hearing is just an illusion. The Republican National Committee has held a series of very important meetings designed to consider ways to narrow the party’s gender gap. Unfortunately, they persist in inviting high-profile caucus leaders to speak at these events. And the cycle of repugnance and alienation from female voters continues.
I have learned the hard way over the years that when a person or group reveals something about themselves, repeatedly no less, you must believe them. There is simply no other logical option. Conserve your oxygen, Santorum. The jig is up.