VAWA Reauthorization: Reduced to Political Fodder For Both Sides


The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which has enjoyed bipartisan support since its inception in 1994, is currently under fire for provisions added by Democrats that help curtail domestic violence on tribal lands and that provide extra protection to LGBT victims.

However, what began with good intentions of protecting marginalized groups that weren’t included in the original VAWA has now been reduced to nothing more than partisan bickering, dragging the “war on women” into the mess as well.

Feeling steamrolled by the left, Republicans have asserted that Democrats have warped the bill into a partisan issue by adding these provisions. This is not to say that all of the Republicans against the VAWA hate Native American women or LGBT people; this is not true. Instead, they feel that these provisions will infringe upon the rights of American citizens. Therefore, they feel unduly lambasted by the media as “anti-women” for their disapproval of the VAWA. However, in the eyes of the public and the media, this has turned into a finger-pointing, mud-slinging fight over seemingly trivial details.

Republican critics have asserted that, with the VAWA, Democrats have perfected the cynical exercise of titling a bill that appeals to the vast majority of Americans that won’t take the time to learn what the bill is about. Critics have also said that this is part of a ruthless [Democrat] offensive to hold their Senate majority, and possibly to retake the House, in 2014.

These critics are correct: the titling of the VAWA is blatantly strategic and gives the Democrats a positive edge in the public eye. However, this critique is hypocritical to pin upon one party because, let’s face it, both parties do the same thing. Politicians constantly give bills seemingly innocuous titles in order to pander to a large base and to create headlines, it’s how politics works in our sensationalized, media-powered world today.

Moreover, making statements that the Democrats are using the war on women as part of a “ruthless offensive” is equally as divisive and sensationalist as Democrats asserting that all Republicans and conservatives hate women and want to promote domestic violence by voting against the VAWA. While we cannot ignore the obvious strategy in the naming of the VAWA, by constantly accusing Democrats of using the war on women as political fodder without taking the time to defend and explain their own position on the issue, the Republicans cement its status as partisan political fodder, encouraging the mindless and mundane banter that ensues.

These hypocritical statements made by both sides of the debate are the kind of mud-slinging political fodder that the War on Women has been turned into within Washington. Both sides have been reduced to blaming the other for the cause of the partisanship, only widening the gulf between Democrats and Republicans on the issue. This diminishes the war on women to witless political chatter, and makes the very real issues surrounding this debate meaningless.

The House GOP will probably end up passing the VAWA, and Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA) has made it very clear that renewal is a priority. Unfortunately, the Republican party will probably be the hardest hit by the endless partisan bickering over the renewal that has been covered by the media, as people will assume that its passage was due to the GOP's need to avoid being criticized as "anti-women".

Politics regarding women's issues cannot continue this way if any meaningful progress is to move foward. What both sides need to do is stop the mud-slinging and realize that this isn’t supposed to be the partisan issue that it has become.