Will the GOP 2.0 Finally Fix Its Woman Problem?
Recently, an extensive report detailing the lack of enthusiasm among young voters was released by the College Republican National Committee (CRNC). After months of polling and focus groups, the CRNC found that voters under 30 tended to hold fairly negative views of the party and many demographic groups felt party members "didn't care about them." Echoing similar statements by national Republican leaders and studies since the 2012 election, the sweeping losses experienced by the GOP last November were contributed to a disconnect between the party and young voters and voters of color. But another, perhaps more important, divide was also seen along gender lines. Women have on a whole tended to lean more Democratic than their male counterparts since the 80s, but the gender gap seen in 2012 was a historic high of 18 points.
Much of the turn off felt by women voters towards Republican candidates has been attributed towards the outrageous remarks made last year in regards to reproductive rights, rape, and women's rights — a "war on women." The CRNC report addresses this issue, citing it as the major reason why the GOP lost the female vote, suggesting that if the party's leaders could just maintain tighter control over extremist voices within the ranks then young female voters wouldn't conflate "the issue of protecting life" with "issues around the definition of rape, funding for Planned Parenthood, and …contraception." All in all, their study paints the problem as one of misconception rather than message.
However, censoring Republicans who publicly state beliefs that rape is "God's will" or that women have "natural defenses against rape" ignores the many GOP-backed policies that send just as strong anti-women messages to voters. With more women becoming sole or joint breadwinners for their households, the fact that a significant gender gap in wages persists is becoming more unacceptable; yet just last year Republican senators voted against legislation aimed at reducing such income inequality. Women also compose a majority of Medicaid enrollees across every age group, which would put them in line to suffer most from the heavy Medicaid and Medicare cuts proposed by GOP lawmakers. In the past year alone, thousands of state-level restrictions on abortion, such as mandatory ultrasounds and severe gestation limits have been introduced, almost all of which were sponsored by and received support from Republican lawmakers. In addition, House Republicans have previously attempted to pass legislation to reduce or eliminate federal and state funding for Planned Parenthood and similar clinics. Even when it comes to domestic violence, congressional Republicans demonstrated a lack of concern for women by voting against renewing the Violence Against Women Act.
If the GOP truly wishes to win back the support of women voters, they must do more than tone down claims of "legitimate rape." While such statements may indeed be distracting, they are no more antagonistic towards women than unanimous votes by (normally all-male) Republican committees to restrict women's reproductive options or to oppose efforts to combat gender based discrimination. Perhaps the GOP should consider "changing the pizza" after all.