Politics & Policy

The Triumph of De-Demonization

Iowa’s senator-elect Joni Ernst celebrates her win in Des Moines Tuesday night. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)
The Democrats’ sex-race-and-ethnicity gambit is sounding forced, stale, and desperate.

A prayer has been answered — not for a massive Republican victory at the polls, though that, too. No, I’m thinking of the perennial prayer of losers: “Oh Lord, let my enemies go too far.”

The results of the 2014 midterms will be chewed over for weeks and months. One bit of data that hasn’t received much attention so far is the exit-poll result showing that 71 percent of voters are somewhat or very worried about another major terrorist attack in the United States. Such is the Republican reputation for hard-headedness on national security that the party benefits from this concern without breaking a sweat.

Another takeaway: The Democrats’ tactic of demonizing Republicans has not just run its course, but it’s also beginning to boomerang. Three groups have been particularly invited to believe that Republicans are a menace to them – women, Hispanics, and blacks.

The war-on-women theme worked as recently as the Virginia governor’s race in 2013. Terry McAuliffe won single women voters by 42 points.

Democrats hoped to reprise the theme this year. Here’s what went wrong: 1) Republicans got savvy about choosing candidates; 2) they refused to be lured onto the Democrats’ playing field, where the insulting assumption is that women voters are motivated solely by gynecological concerns; and 3) Democrats overplayed their hand.

Every Republican who opposed abortion was depicted as attempting to outlaw birth control. Republicans turned this aside by touting over-the-counter sale of contraceptive pills. Republicans were accused of opposing equal pay. They responded, archly, by noting that women were frequently paid less than men on their opponents’ staffs. DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman Shultz said Wisconsin GOP governor Scott Walker and other Republicans like him were “attempting to pull us back by our hair.”

When the votes were counted, women preferred Democrats, but only by four points, whereas men chose Republicans by 16 points. Shultz will be rubbing elbows on Capitol Hill with Barbara Comstock, Mia Love, Shelley Moore Capito, and Elise Stefanik, among other newly elected Republican women. If she bumps into Iraq War veteran Joni Ernst, the latter can explain what real war is like. Sandra Fluke, “war on women” pin-up, was defeated, along with abortion warriors Wendy Davis and Mark Udall.

Just as Democrats assume that women voters care principally about below-the-waist issues, they believe that Hispanic voters can be corralled by immigration reform. The 2014 results suggest that they may have taken this too far as well. In state after state, including Texas, Georgia, Kansas, and Colorado, Republicans gained ground with Hispanic voters. According to Mark Hugo Lopez of Pew, “Latinos identified less with the Democratic party and a growing share identified with Republicans.” Greg Abbott spent money and time campaigning in heavily Hispanic districts and was rewarded with 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. Kansas governor Sam Brownback pocketed 47 percent, as against 46 percent for his Democratic opponent. In Colorado, Gardner soft-pedaled immigration in favor of jobs and smaller government, while Senator Mark Udall was preoccupied with abortion. Showing up on Spanish radio and TV has helped Republicans to convince a growing number of Hispanics that they’re not the deporting ogres Democrats have conjured. It didn’t hurt that Abbott’s Hispanic mother-in-law cut ads for him. The party’s image is also burnished by the reelection of governors Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval.

Finally, even the great, pernicious constant in American political life — the race card — seemed a little worn around the edges this year. The Democrats trotted out their election-year one-trick pony: In Arkansas, leaflets distributed in black neighborhoods referenced Ferguson and said “Republicans are targeting our kids, silencing our voices, and even trying to impeach our president.” In North Carolina, a radio ad attempted to link Thom Tillis to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The ads had no effect.

It would be ludicrously optimistic to predict the imminent demise of solid Democratic voting by African Americans. But note these straws in the wind: Liberal black commentators such as Tavis Smiley, Juan Williams, and Charles Ellison have questioned both the Democrats’ race-baiting and the Obama administration’s record on jobs, incomes, and other measures of well-being for blacks and all Americans. Videos like “Rebel Pundit” denouncing Democrats for the state of cities like Detroit are making the rounds. This is . . . new.

Democrats went too far. The sex, race, and ethnicity gambit is sounding forced, stale, and desperate. Republicans should make efforts to win every constituency: women, men, Hispanics, blacks, Asians — everybody. Let the Democrats be content with their base: NARAL, ACORN, and the press.

— Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. © 2014 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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