Reince Priebus Says GOP Has "Branding" Problem, But It Really Has a Women Problem


In addition to the strong weather system barreling toward Florida, there's a bigger, much more problematic proverbial storm heading in the direction of the Republican National Convention.

The GOP is well aware that a major portion of its lost November votes were cast by women. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, on Meet the Press this past weekend, said, "We've done a really lousy job of branding and marketing who we are." But, who, exactly are you and your party, Mr. Priebus, and what do you have to offer women?

Politico posted the party's platforms online last fall. It's difficult to think of marketing tactics that would mitigate the reality of the GOP's stances on women's issues. Regarding abortion: "We … affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it." I think female voters, no matter their political persuasion, would love to see these "numerous studies." And how does affirmation of women's dignity protect their ability to decide what happens with their bodies?

This isn't the last word on abortion in the platform, either: "Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we ... affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children."

How can the party that opposes social welfare programs support pro-life rulings, for all, on abortion? If a room full of stuffy old guys are legislating family planning decisions for single and/or socioeconomically disadvantaged parents, they should think twice about lambasting/abolishing programs which help these groups raise their children.

And the GOP is indeed a room full of stuffy old men: in November Congressional Republicans announced a list of all-male recommendations for committee chairmanships. This list included a proposal to waive the six year term limit for Rep. Paul Ryan's return to the budget committee. There are no women in the top three Republican posts in either chamber of Congress. I'm sure the party employs analysts who tell them this, but when women/minorities don't see themselves represented in a party vying for their votes, whether to get someone into or retain an office, they hesitate at the polls.

I'm not certain what strategy could soften the blow of the following GOP platform, however, which takes great pains to demonize single mothers and clarify marriage,  the only way to raise healthy, happy productive children, as that between a man and a woman: "Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, engage in crime, or get pregnant outside of marriage … we believe that marriage, the union of one and one woman, must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage."

To which urban and/or educated population of women is this POV palatable? According to this statement children raised in intact marriages have less access to/impulse to use drugs and alcohol, are physically fit, or have an unplanned pregnancy. No one benefiting from suburban stability ever abused drugs or alcohol. And certainly none of these abstinent children could ever be overweight/obese. It's precisely these kinds of assessments which help the GOP seem clueless about modern public and private trends in human behavior.

The best way forward for the GOP, at this point, is to continue prevailing upon its solid base of conservative evangelical women, soccer/hockey moms, as they've been referred to in recent elections, who vote in droves, energized by the influence of their religious beliefs on their politics. And given Sarah Palin's rousing speech at CPAC last week, this return to a reliable strategy shouldn't be too difficult, nor will it have disappointing results.