The news is going from bad to worse for Republicans when it comes to working women. You know, the people who give birth to and raise children, take them to daycare and later soccer practice and piano lessons and care for elderly parents while juggling their careers, who pack lunches and cook meals, have to make tough reproductive decisions, balance the family checkbook, sometimes fight for their country and…oh yeah, vote.
There has been a gender gap in party identification for at least 30 years. In 1983, 43 percent of women identified themselves as Democrats and 21 percent as Republicans. In 2014, 40 percent of women identified themselves as Democrats and 20 percent as Republicans. Those numbers do not include Independents or swing voters, but that’s still bad news for the GOP as it struggles to remain relevant nationally against a deck that it alone has stacked.
And now there is worse news: Three elections ago, nearly half of all working mothers voted for George W. Bush. In 2008, that dropped to 40 percent for Senator John McCain. And by 2012, only 33 percent backed Mitt Romney, who tanked with women because, among his other smug anti-woman overtures to conservatives, he pledged to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood after supporting the lifeline organization as Massachusetts governor and having contributed to it personally.
I have written often (14 posts and counting) about what I call the Republican War on Women, and an excerpt from a March 2012 piece is typical:
Why would a political party go out of its way to alienate the key bloc of voters — in this case Independent women — in a presidential election year? In other words, why would Republicans oppose contraception and preventive health care, favor laws prohibiting abortions for even the victims of rape and incest, and now in essence come out in support of violence against women?
The answer is that some Republican politicians are so beholden to the right-wing and evangelical base that has taken over the party that they’d rather forsake votes that might help them recapture the White House, or end up with a loon like Rick Santorum as their nominee who couldn’t capture the White House with a Christo-sized net.
So what has changed since the last presidential election, a period during which some party officials soul searched and concluded that a preponderance of women, notably those all-important swing voters, view the GOP negatively?
And are any of the many Republicans who are running for president likely to attract women who might otherwise vote for Hillary Clinton or sit out the election? Absolutely not.
This has Sabrina Schaeffer worried, or although it’s not very womanly, perhaps really pissed off.
“For years now, Democrats have been saying: ‘We are focused on women in the workplace,’ ” said Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum, a nonprofit organization that promotes conservative policies. “For whatever reason, Republicans keep ignoring these issues. It’s the absolute worst thing they can do. They need to understand, engage and offer better solutions. They can’t be afraid.”
Some Republican strategists say that many of the party’s presidential wannabes are planning to wait until after the bruising primary season to take up such ideas. Translation: They’ll tack to the right so as to not alienate social conservatives and then suddenly morph into moderates a la Romney if they get the nomination. This rationale is pathetic, as well as unrealistic because many of the candidates make no secret of their view that the little woman should stay at home. Romneyesque flip-flopping won’t fool swing-voting women.
Only 13 percent of American workers, meanwhile, have access to paid family leave or time away from work to recover from a pregnancy and bond with a newborn, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. Hillary Clinton pledges to change that, as well as push for more affordable child-care options, but about the best Republican wannabes can come up with is expanding the child tax credit.
It’s also difficult to imagine any of them endorsing the Affordable Care Act, which has begun to address the disparity in the level of medical care women receive and, according to a new study, saved them $1.4 billion in contraception costs in the first year of Obamacare alone as the price of birth control pills has plummeted. In fact, under the ACA many women are able to fill a prescription for contraception without paying a cent, while easing financial barriers to birth control reduces unintended pregnancies and ultimately the taxpayer burden. This result is well documented by health economists but is anathema to Republican social conservatives, many of them fundamentalist Christians, who believe, in effect, that women should be kept barefoot and pregnant…and in the kitchen, as well. And staying at home sure would take care of daycare costs, wouldn’t it?
Republicans who acknowledge their woman problem say it’s not that they don’t want to help them, they just would rather help them “the conservative way.”
This enables them to fall back on the party’s tried-and-untrue free market mantra, which goes something like this: A rising economic tide raises all boats. But…and you knew there was going to be a but…considerations for working women should be balanced against the needs of small businesses.
“The Republican position is: There is only so much employers can bear before they stop hiring people and before the economy starts to suffer,” said Katie Packer Gage, a former Romney strategist in an outburst of candor. “Democrats are always going to hand out more tax dollars. But what is the breaking point?”
Some party strategists go so far as to claim candidates might be staying silent on work-life balance issues because “anything we offer, the Democrats will offer 10 times that,” as former senior McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin puts it. Translation: Why bother when we’ll be (pardon the pun) out trumped.
INMATES RUNNING THE ASYLUM — SENATE EDITION
Speaking of Obamacare, the Republicans are up to their old tricks.
Although their very own Supreme Court has validated two key elements of the Affordable Care Act as the law of the land and the House has voted over 50 times to repeal it, the Senate voted the other day to do exactly that on a 49-43 party-line vote, the august chamber’s first attempt to get rid of it since Republicans took control in January. Three-fifths of the Senate would have had to vote to add the repeal to a highway funding bill.
WHERE YOU BEEN, MARCO?
Marco Rubio has been absent from Capitol Hill more than any other senator seeking the Republican nomination, having been AWOL for 42 roll calls, or more than one-third, since announcing his run in mid-April. Senators Lindsay Graham (37 roll calls missed) and Ted Cruz (33 missed) are a close second and third.
Meanwhile, Senator Rand Paul has missed just two votes.
COJONES? WE AIN’T GOT NO STINKING COJONES
In 2010, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie singlehandedly killed a planned $8.7 billion commuter train tunnel under the Hudson River that virtually everyone else believed would ensure the future health of the New York region’s economy. Christie argued that it was just too damned expensive for the frugal times in which he governed, an argument that held little water then and has now sprung a ginormous leak as a series of severe commuter rail delays because of the two existing — and ancient and badly deteriorating — tunnels threaten to bring regional rail service to a halt.
What Christie planned to do all along was use New Jersey’s share of tunnel construction dough to bail out the state’s highway and bridge system, which under his “leadership” had been driven deeply into debt. And he did.
Now semi-chastened presidential candidate Christie is singing a different tune:
“If I am president of the United States, I [will] call a meeting between the president, my secretary of transportation, the governor of New York and the governor of New Jersey and say, ‘Listen, if we are all in this even Steven, if we are all going to put in an equal share, then let’s go build these tunnels under the Hudson River,’ ” said in a radio interview.
I would say that it took balls for Christie to even allude to his monumental screw-up, but he doesn’t have any.
ANOTHER CHEESESTEAK DIPLOMACY VICTIM
Scott Walker this week became the latest presidential wannabe to founder on the treacherous shoals of Philadelphia cheesesteak diplomacy. As John Kerry and many another visiting pol had found to their embarrassment, Walker’s faux pax was to order the wrong kind of cheese.
The governor of Wisconsin (the cheese state, right?), being careful to not play favorites, made obligatory stops at rival sandwich shops Pat’s and Geno’s during a campaign swing through the City of Brotherly Love. His crime was to order a steak wid, in Philly parlance, American cheese and not Cheez Whiz, the local favorite. He also opted against onions, another local must-have.
While Walker’s gaff had the locals clucking, his culinary sin was a far cry from John Kerry’s. In 2003, the then-Massachusetts senator asked for . . . get this, Swiss cheese, at Pat’s while running for president.
For the record, I preferred Pat’s over Geno’s back in my meat-eating days. Always wid Cheez Whiz, onions and sauteed mushrooms.
Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on July 29, 2015, on Kiko’s House, a website featuring commentary by journalist and author, Shaun Mullen. It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Mullen.