Monday, August 10, 2015

Trump Is Not The Problem for Republicans. Republican Loathing For Women Is.

So this popped up on my Twitter feed yesterday, and I hunted it back down today to talk about it.

For more detail, to the Politifact article:

Heather McGhee, president of the liberal economic think tank Demos, said on Meet the Press that the Republican Party has both institutional and structural biases against women.
"I think it’s important to remember the Republican presidential nominee hasn’t won women since 1988, so this is a very deep problem for the party," McGhee said Aug. 9, 2015. "It’s not going to be enough for anyone, a commentator or one of the candidates, to just disavow Trump’s sort of interpersonal sexist comments."

The researchers note there's no direct statistical evidence except this: actual women's vote tallies for each Presidential cycle from 1992 to 2012.  There's a chart for it:

To be fair about 1992 and 1996, the chart does not show the impact of a Third Party candidate - Ross Perot - taking away some of the percentages for the Republicans.  However, notice the Democratic line goes back over 50 percent for 1996, showing they'd rebounded nicely with the women's vote that election cycle where the Republicans didn't.  So Perot isn't the only reason for that drop.

Thing to note: our gender split between men and women in this nation is roughly even - about 51 percent female to 49 percent male, give or take a year - so we're talking about a sizable voting bloc.  And according to the US Census for 2014 the numbers of registered voters was 115 million for men and 124 million for women.

There are more registered women voters than men voters.  Let that sink in.

For all the talk about the Republicans trying to woo Hispanic voters as a bloc to compete for the Presidential election, the real objective for winning over enough support to win national elections ought to focus on getting the biggest voting bloc of all.  Hispanic voters - both men and women - merely total up to 36 million: Black voters total up to 29 million.  Asian voters total around 13 million.  If you create any voting bloc over identity politics - White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, then Man/Women - if you can't live with just the White Male voting bloc (92 million) you'd want the White Female voting bloc (96 million).

And yet here's the Republican Party pretty much failing to secure women overall as a voting bloc for the last 20-24 years.  The closest they got to getting a majority of women to back their candidate was 2004, and even then they didn't break 50 percent while the Democrats did.  Given the post-9/11 mood, supporting Dubya and the Republican Party overall was the general mindset for American voters... and they STILL couldn't win over women voters.  Look what happened by 2008: clear voting advantages to the Democrats...

So what's going on here?  Why are Republicans failing to secure enough votes from women voters?

Take a look back at the 1992 downturn.  Both parties drop in women voters, but Republicans practically take a nosedive.  Perot may have happened to split votes away, but something worse hit the Republicans that year.

It was the Culture War.

That year was when Pat Buchanan infamously presented his call to arms at the 1992 Republican convention, railing against "Clinton and Clinton" in a "struggle for the soul of America."  In particular, abortion became a major campaign topic with a stark division between Republican and Democrat taking sides.

Democrats won: Republicans lost.  As I recall, 1992 was also a year a lot of women candidates were running for offices up and down the ballot: not many won, but it was supposed to be a turning point in electoral cycles.

What happened then was that Republicans retooled their message.  As Bill Scher wrote over at Politico, they took a "pragmatic approach":

They hammered on abortion scenarios that Democrats would have to uncomfortably explain at length to defend. They crafted legislation to both restrict abortion access and divide Democrats...
During the subsequent Bush presidency, conservatives stayed on this path, albeit more aggressively. The federal “Partial Birth Abortion Act” was signed into law and upheld by Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices. The number of states with onerous regulations stifling abortion providers more than doubled... By 2004, Mississippi managed to shut down every abortion clinic within its borders save for one...

It still didn't win back women voters but it eased the poor polling numbers.  With 2008 however, with the Great Recession causing distress among families, those gains disappeared regardless of the Culture War.  What happened next according to Scher was pretty stupid on the Republicans' part: they stopped being pragmatic.

Yet when the ideological pendulum swung back to the left with the 2008 election of Barack Obama, Republicans failed to stick with the incremental, sometimes stealthy, approach that allowed social conservatives to make advancements despite a Democratic White House in the 1990s. Conservative state legislators turned “informed consent” into “mandated transvaginal ultrasounds.” Primary voters eagerly elevated candidates opposed to all abortions without exception, including two 2012 Senate nominees who explicitly defended forcing rape victims to carry out their pregnancies. Both proceeded to lose in states that Mitt Romney won.
The Republicans got even worse on birth control.  The Culture War - with its basis in hard Right Christian ideology of "Sexxx=Bad except if you're married and even then you better not enjoy it you lust-driven heathens" - cannot abide any concept of consensual relationships outside of abstinence.  It's a position that fully disregards how birth control from the Pill to IUDs can reduce unwanted pregnancies down to near-zero - which would reduce demand for abortion - and fully accepts the insane agenda of invading people's privacy and attacking women who use birth control (even married women do by the by) as shameful sluts.

Blame it on the GOP's overall gameplan to ruin Obama at all hazards.  The obstructionist agenda meant pushing against anything Obama was for and putting up issues Obama would be against.  The Republican campaign managers seem to think voters have short-term attention spans and won't remember the last 6-8 years of the Far Right throwing conniptions over issues that would actually matter to said voters.

How much trouble are Republicans in this cycle, heading into 2016?

Without exact data, it's hard to say.  The best evidence is recent history: the last time the Republicans went full-in on an anti-abortion anti-birth control anti-women platform - 1992 - they got clobbered.  When the Republicans even hinted at banning abortion for every reason including rape - when Todd Akin had his moment and the voters recoiled in 2012 - it pretty much killed two of their Senatorial campaigns, indirectly affected other campaigns, and prevented them from regaining the Senate during an election cycle they were predicted to win.

It does not help the Republicans that the Democratic Party has quietly - without the Beltway media even making note of it - become pro-woman on issues up and down the agenda under the Obama administration, even with the Republicans blocking his efforts every step of the way.

For all the talk about Obama's work on issues of race for better or worse, nobody seems to have picked up on Obama doing a lot for women and doing what he can to stand for them.  Under his administration he sign the Lilly Ledbetter Act trying to enforce equal pay.  He nominated and hired women for key executive positions throughout his Cabinet (including political rival Hillary Clinton).  Obama's Supreme Court nominations - a key part of any President's legacy - were both (so far) women: rather than have just a token female on the Bench, Obama moved to make the lineup of nine Justices better reflect the gender balance of the nation itself.  Now it wouldn't even be surprising if more women do reach the Supreme Court to share in judicial duties.

Even actions that aren't directly women's issues play towards that side of the voting population.  Obamacare's health care reforms bring with it improved access to health care for women.

And yet, the Republicans are convinced they need to fight Obamacare policies that support women's health.

And yet, the Republicans cheered a Hobby Lobby court ruling that gave companies the right to deny women any birth-control coverage.  Republicans are eagerly blocking access to birth control wherever they can.

And yet, the Republicans are happily starting up a war to defund Planned Parenthood over dubiously edited video clips over abortion procedures: even though Planned Parenthood covers general women's health coverage especially for cancer treatments.  Not just taking away funding to stop Parenthood's abortion services: the Republicans are looking to take away ALL funding, just to shut that whole thing down.

It's part of the overall voter revolt among the GOP base that has been strung along by a party leadership that pandered to them on the issues and then never delivered once in office.  All that talk about Obama destroying the nation?  Obama's still in office and most of his accomplishments are still on the books.  All that talk about shutting down the government to get what THEY want?  Never really panned out, and the Republican leadership mostly enjoyed more success despite those failures.  Bringing GOD back to government and smiting all heathens?  Chirping noises as gay marriage wins out in the courts and the mood of the nation turns away from the Thou Shalt Not mindset of the evangelical.

The GOP voting base is finally pissed.  Look at what happened to Eric Cantor.  One of the most powerful Republicans in Congress.  Grooming himself for the Speakership or even greater heights.  And he took his gerrymandered district for granted, and got booted out during a primary in 2014 where the election cycle - the midterms when voter turnout dies - favored Republicans in general.  The warning was clear: do not piss off the base.  And this election cycle, we're seeing the results as the Presidential candidates - and the Republicans in general - are pandering to that Far Right base on every conceivable issue, including abortion.

For all the weekend's news about Trump attacking Megyn Kelly with sexist diatribes, the real scandal out of the GOP August debate was how every candidate at the podium agreed to a Republican platform that would ban abortion without exception.  As WaPo puts it, the Republicans have backed themselves behind a deeply unpopular position.

That drop in 1992 among women voters?  That went down to 38 percent.  In 2012, Romney and the Republicans got 44 percent of the women's vote, with total actual turnout of 57 million voters for the GOP that would be 25 million women voted for Romney.

In 2016, if there were 57 million women showing up to vote again, and what if that was at 38 percent like in 1992?  That's 21 million women voting for whoever runs as a Republican on a full anti-abortion platform.  They are going DOWN in the numbers they need to win a general election backing a platform like that.  A platform that would go against 80 percent of voters who back exceptions for rape/incest and the health risk to the mother.  Part of me wonders if the number of women voters would drop from 38 percent to 20 percent in that situation... it's not likely, but there is NO WAY a Republican candidate could win with just 20 percent of the largest voting bloc among American voters...

The Republicans have been campaigning since 2000 on a short-term agenda of pandering to White voters in general, and they're still going full-storm following that track despite calls from within that they really need to start attracting more diverse groups.  But how far are the Republicans going to get if their platform becomes so anti-woman that the treasured White Vote base gets splintered by gender and White women flee in droves to a more open-minded Democratic candidate?  Are there going to be enough Men voters willing to shift to the Republicans on such a harsh anti-abortion platform?  It's unlikely, because not enough men really think that way...

What Trump is saying about women in general is sexist and tends towards abuse and sheer cluelessness.  But he's not doing this in a vacuum: given the Republican Party's recent history of dismissing women's issues - and given the current attacks against birth control, women's health, and access to abortion - the GOP seems convinced they can win without women as much as they can win without Hispanics or Blacks or college students or lower-income families or pretty much anybody who are not Angry White Males over 50.

I'd call it a suicide mission, but given the nature of the two-party system in the United States, the Republicans can easily take the rest of us over that cliff when they drive over it.

This isn't pretty.


1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

Gee, not only are women not "things" that you can own, but they have had the right to vote in the US since 1920. It sort of makes sense to me that women would vote against someone in favor of forcing them to have their rapist's baby. But what do I know, I'm just a crazy liberal...

-Doug in Oakland