Much will be written about what led to the reelection of President Obama, in spite of his dismal economic record and failure to articulate any positive agenda for the next four years.
Yet here is something that’s pretty clear, even as the dust settles. Men would have elected Governor Romney president by a wide margin. Women, who cast about 53 percent of the votes, gave President Obama about a ten-point margin and another four years in the White House.
This should be a wakeup call for everyone on the right. I count myself among those who assumed — clearly wrongly in hindsight — that the “war on women” rhetoric wouldn’t work. From my perspective, the Democrats’ campaign for women was flatly insulting, treating women as sex objects (appealing to them to vote with their “lady parts”) and helpless wards of the state (Julia). The charge that Republicans want to restrict access to contraception — that is, beyond returning to the pre-Obamacare status quo when religious organizations were not forced to pay for others’ contraception — is so far-fetched that it’s almost hard to know how to counter, since just engaging in the discussion grants the question a legitimacy it doesn’t deserve.
Survey research leading up to the election consistently suggested that jobs and economy — not the so-called “women’s issues” — were top of mind for female voters (just as they were for male voters). This suggests that, in spite of the administration’s record of massive deficits, intractable unemployment, and rising cost-of-living, women believe that their prospects were worse under the more market-centered, limited-government approach advanced by Romney-Ryan. In other words, women remain unconvinced that Liberty Is No War on Women.
This election confirms that conservatives must, simply must, expand the coalition of those supporting our principles to include more women. This will require a lot of ground work to show women how the ideals of limited government and free markets do not threaten women’s basic security, but in fact can be the foundation of a healthier, more secure, safety net and greater prosperity and opportunities for women, as well as men. A more robust, sustained effort to start that conversation with new groups of women needs to start today.