Politics & Policy

The Other War on Women

Jeane Shaheen shills for the Paycheck Fairness Act, April 1, 2014. (Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

The Democrats’ “war on women” strategy has always been frivolous and intellectually dishonest, and it is now being revealed as ineffective, too.

Let us call the roll: Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state hoping to oust Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is trailing in the polls in spite of being a cause célèbre for the Hollywood Left — Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Katzenberg have lavished Manhattan and Beverly Hills money upon her race — even after having engaged in such questionable shenanigans as attempting to portray Senator McConnell, an original cosponsor of the Violence Against Women Act, as an opponent of the law. In New Hampshire, where incumbent senator Jeanne Shaheen leads Republican challenger Scott Brown by a hair, Democrats have been reduced to braying that Brown is a sexist because he keeps running against female opponents, as though he had somehow ensured that Elizabeth Warren secured the Democratic nomination in his lost 2012 Massachusetts race. Colorado’s Senator Mark Udall, not content to let the ladies enjoy all the ill-gotten benefits of the so-called war on women, has deployed similar measures against his Republican challenger, Representative Cory Gardner, but is trailing in the polls and just witnessed the Denver Post, no Republican stronghold, endorsing his opponent. In Texas, Wendy Davis’s increasingly distasteful abortion-based hate parade is making the wheelchair from which Republican Greg Abbott performs his public duties the central image of its attack ads, and Davis is at the moment positioned to suffer a resounding rejection.

There are many reasons for the declining efficacy of the WOW strategy. One is that it is built on false premises: Senator Udall’s case against Representative Gardner is based on the fact that Gardner has cast pro-life votes and endorsed pro-life legislation, ignoring the fact that polls have long shown that women are generally as likely as men, and sometimes more likely than men, to support protections for unborn life; most women, like most men, support the protections that are on the table, such as a ban on abortion after 20 weeks. Kentucky mirrors national trends in that the majority of women — just like the majority of men — tell pollsters that their top concerns are economic, with anxiety about jobs and wages trumping concerns about whether Hobby Lobby should be compelled by federal police authorities to offer insurance coverage for contraceptives other than those the firm’s insurance already covers. Gas-rich Colorado seems to be less concerned about Gardner’s alleged war on women than about Udall’s well-documented cold war on the American energy industry, including the Keystone XL pipeline.

The idea that there exists a meaningful subset of “women’s issues” has always failed to account for the fact that “women” is a category that in the American context contains both Condoleezza Rice and Rachel Maddow, both Republican governor Susana Martinez and Democratic gadfly Eva Longoria. Jeane Kirkpatrick was arguably the most powerful American woman of her time, and her issue was fighting totalitarianism at a time when Democrats were not much inclined to do so. Was that a women’s issue? It certainly was in Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Germany . . . 

One has to squint with some dishonest intent to conclude that the political tendency that represents women’s interests obviously is the one associated with Bill Clinton and Teddy Kennedy rather than the one associated with Margaret Thatcher and Nikki Haley.

The Democrats’ attitude toward women — from the pity-party celebrity of Sandra Fluke to multi-millionaire Lena Dunham’s demands for subsidized birth-control pills — has always been based on a handful of strategies linguistically related to the word “patriarchy”: patronizing, patronage, paternalism, etc., something you would think that their feminist supporters might have noticed. But women, like African Americans and other minority groups, are for the Left a means to power, and the Democrats’ treatment of them is every bit as instrumentalist as was Bill Clinton’s treatment of the White House intern pool.

Meanwhile, the Democrats’ war on women — women who own or desire to own their own businesses, who are looking for decent jobs, who wish there were a way to get their children out of failing schools, who are concerned about the flood of illegal immigrants across our borders, who pay more in taxes than they do for housing or health care or for housing and health care combined, who own guns, who pay utility bills, who wish for credible responses to Ebola and the Islamic State, who resent being reduced to their genitals as a matter of political calculation — that war continues, as pitilessly and remorselessly as any Levantine jihad.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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