Politics & Policy

Democrats Discover Women?

The feminists are mad about the DNC.

Today, most Democratic delegates are happily packing up their hats, cataloging their buttons, and heading home, well satisfied with their party’s convention. But not everyone is content. Some groups feel that their issues were shortchanged.

Martha Burk, president of the National Council of Women’s Organizations–the umbrella feminist group famous for protesting such earth-shaking outrages as the men-only membership policy at Augusta National Golf Club–complained: “I have been disappointed in the way women’s issues have been addressed at this convention…. Once again, the issues have been ghettoized.”

In other words, Democratic candidates failed to treat women like a special-interest group and instead assumed that women–like men–might be interested in topics that affect all of our lives, such as foreign policy, homeland security, and a broad economic agenda.

To feminists, this is an outrage. It’s been many moons since the feminists actually pursued the goals of equal treatment under the law and of equal opportunity for women. The modern feminist agenda has more in common with the special-interest wish list of the coal industry or the AARP. Each group wants targeted government programs and tax incentives that favor its specific constituency.

Feminist demands include government regulations to force businesses to provide child care and paid family and medical leave for working moms. The National Organization for Women continues to champion “pay equity” legislation, which would result in an expanded government bureaucracy to comb through the wage-setting policies used by companies throughout the country in hopes of rooting out anything that might smack of bias against women.

Items on this laundry list often end up at cross purposes. Making child care free of charge would push some women who would prefer to stay home with their children to enter the workforce, since their at-home services would become less valuable to the family. At the same time, other feminist groups push legislation to assign stay-at-home moms a “wage” for purposes of determining Social Security benefits. Working women paying taxes to Social Security would be getting nothing back for their trouble, creating an incentive for these women to quit their jobs and stay home.

But this kind of inconsistent flip-floppery can’t explain why feminist activists were marginalized at the convention. After all, Democratic strategists know that Al Gore enjoyed a 10 percentage-point margin among women voters, and if Kerry is to win the presidency, he will need a similarly strong margin.

Democratic strategists seem to have finally recognized a truth that feminists don’t want to accept: The feminist movement no longer represents mainstream American women. Less than one-third of women will self-identify as “feminists.” American women don’t share the feminist obsession with abortion. They don’t relate to the feminist victim mentality, which refuses to acknowledge the progress women have made in areas like education and in the workforce.

American women are concerned about issues like terror and the availability of good jobs. John Kerry, John Edwards, and the entire cast of primetime speakers focused on those issues. Of course, the Democratic recipe for the economy was big government across the board–with more regulations on business, a higher minimum wage, and more government spending on everything from after-school programs to technological innovation.

But women should be grateful that these speakers kept the pandering to feminist groups to a minimum. Feminists may complain that they’re being taken for granted–and their frustration with their party bosses may be justified. But taking feminists for granted is different from taking women for granted. After all, as the feminists once recognized, women are people too.

Carrie Lukas is the director of policy at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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