Super Tuesday: It's the Women's Vote, Stupid!
Today is Super Tuesday. Are we excited yet?
To be honest, a week ago I was so distressed about the Republicans' prehistoric attitudes toward women I considered ignoring it all and hiking the Appalachian Trail. Only that would require going to Virginia, one of the 10 primary and caucus states, and which just passed a mandatory ultrasound bill for women seeking an abortion after amending it so that women didn't have to have their vaginas probed.
It's a piece of legislation so appalling that even conservative columnist Megan McCain, daughter of 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain, told NBC: "I'm just horrified by this bill ... As a Republican woman, I'm just horrified."
So. I guess I won't be going to Virginia.
But, oh! The difference a week can make in politics! After months of seeing attacks by the GOP candidates on contraception, abortion, health care, even the fitness and commitment of mothers who work or -- good heavens! -- have careers, women are finally pissed off. Women are finally pushing back.
Remember when Democratic pundit James Carville said of the 1992 presidential race, "It's the economy, stupid!"? In the span of a week, the 2012 campaign has suddenly morphed into "It's the women, stupid!" Which, as far as Super Tuesday goes, is probably not great if you're Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney, who are about as popular right now with women as that charming slut-talker Rush Limbaugh.
The GOP Losing the Women's Vote
It's not just me who thinks Republicans are alienating women.
According to the Washington Post:
"Polling, too, bears out Republicans' struggles with women -- particularly those who identify themselves as independents. Among that critical voting bloc, just 25 percent had a favorable opinion of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in a Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this week. Just 30 percent of female independents saw Santorum in a favorable light. By contrast, 53 percent of independent women viewed President Obama favorably."
Which leads me to conclude: You know things are bad for conservatives when Rush Limbaugh has to apologize, weak and insincere as it was, for calling a college student a prostitute. Because his advertisers -- the latest being AOL -- are bailing faster than you can say Viagra.
"Republicans are making a big mistake with this contraception talk, and I'm pretty sure that they are giving [the election] to Obama," Patricia Speyerer, 87, of Macomb, Miss., a GOP-leaning independent, told the AP. "It's a stupid thing."
Speaking of stupid, Santorum didn't help himself any by remarking that a speech by John F. Kennedy made him want to vomit. I'm happy to say that Santorum, an evangelical Catholic, has since repented. Still, if you're desperately trying to woo female voters, it's not very bright to trash a president universally adored by female voters. Especially when you're notorious for railing against contraception, women working instead of staying home with the kids, and think college is for brainwashed, liberal, sexually craven snobs who use birth control.
It's kind of a no-brainer, as we say here in hedonistic California.
Candidates Backpedaling But Still Clueless
Santorum has been furiously backpedaling about women now that he seems to realize he needs their votes. I hate to use the word duh, but duh! In his concession speech in Michigan, he went all out praising his 93-year-old mother, who worked outside the home and was a trailblazer in her time, and his wife, who went to college and law school, and his brilliant daughters. Feel better now, women's libbers?
As for Mitt Romney, despite his use of wife Ann to bolster his appeal with women, he hasn't been exactly consistent on women's issues. When asked by a reporter in Ohio for his position on the much-loathed Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed employers and insurance companies to deny women birth control coverage on religious or moral grounds, Romney didn't hesitate.
"I'm not for the bill," he said. "But look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I'm not going there."
An hour later, he was going there. His campaign issued a statement. Romney hadn't understood the reporter's question. The reporter had confused him. He did support the Blunt Amendment. Absolutely!
Too bad for Romney the measure failed. All that twisting in the wind for nothing.
Strike Force and HERVotes: Women Flexing Their Muscle
Last week women finally got fed up with all the slut talk, having their voices ignored and their rights trashed, and responded with some pretty heavy political firepower of their own. In Virginia, a new bipartisan women's PAC calling itself Women’s Strike Force popped up in response to the state's odious transvaginal ultrasound bill.
The group, which is made up of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents -- many of them former members of Virginia's legislature -- say their goal is to vote out of office those who supported the anti-abortion bill and to elect more women candidates who'll protect women's rights.
Talk about clarity. Talk about unequivocal. Women's Strike Force! Don't you just love it? Teresa Champion, a member whose father was a Marine, came up with the group's name. And you thought the Mama Grizzlies were fierce!
As the Fairfax Timesreported:
"This has really become a black eye on Virginia," said Rebecca Geller of Fairfax Station, spokeswoman for the group. Geller, who also is a lawyer and mother, said she pulled an all-nighter Sunday trying to create a website for the PAC. The response since its launch on Monday, she said, has been unexpected.
"We've had thousands of people contact us interested in what we're doing," Geller said. "Within the first 60 minutes, we raised $1,600. ... We launched a really aggressive press campaign. We were on the Washington Post [website] within the first couple hours."
The Times story goes on to note:
"I had someone ask me 'Are you a women's libber?'" said Teresa Champion of Springfield, who also is president of the Virginia Autism Project, a nonprofit that educates and advocates on insurance reform. "To their mind, that has a negative connotation. To me, it's like 'When did it become negative to protect women’s rights?'"
I don't know, but I'm thrilled to announce that women aren't taking it anymore. And not just your usual so-called rabid Nazi feminists -- but women who are independents and moderates.
Last week a coalition of 51 women's organizations, HERVotes, ranging from the moderate American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters to the more progressive MomsRising and NOW, launched a campaign to rally women voters around health and economic issues and to protect government programs like the federal health care law that benefit families and women.
I went on their website, and here's what they say:
Angered by the onslaught of attacks on access to contraception and 11 key gains of women in the 20th century, we are determined to protect the gains women have made in the workplace, health care, education and basic individual rights and to continue moving forward an equality agenda.
I can't remember an election when I've seen women voters this energized in response to dreadful legislation!
As Eleanor Smeal, the publisher of Ms. magazine and the president of the Feminist Majority Foundation said in a press conference at the National Press Club: "We're here to express the outrage of literally millions of American women."
What's Next for Women This Election?
How this will play out on Super Tuesday is anybody's guess. But according to the latest polls, Romney is having a tiny surge in all-important, delegate-heavy Ohio against Santorum, and now they're tied for the lead. Gingrich is likely to win his home state of Georgia, and that's it. And do I really need to talk about Ron Paul? I thought so.
No matter what happens, what really matters is that women are engaged in the election, and using their power to organize and protest and to shape the political landscape in their own image.
And the men who need their votes are finally realizing it and running scared.
Note: BlogHer is nonpartisan, but our bloggers (and editors!) are not! Follow our coverage of Election 2012 -- and look for more posts from a variety of perspectives as we head into Super Tuesday.
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