Republicans' latest antics are repelling women

Amid the shutdown and attacks on contraception coverage, a new poll shows women see the GOP moving away from them

Published October 4, 2013 11:44AM (EDT)

Mitch McConnell                                              (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)
Mitch McConnell (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

While Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus demagogues over the World War II memorial, promising vets he’ll use Republican National Committee funds to keep it open after Republican intransigence shut it, he might want to find some women he can spend his cash on.

Remember his “autopsy” of the 2012 race and his commitment to remake his party? One key component involved reaching out to women, who are deserting his party in droves, to “address concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them.” Better check on how that’s going, Reince. A National Journal poll released Thursday found that a growing number of American women believe the Republican Party has moved farther away from their concerns since the election.

A third of all women polled said the party had drifted away from them; only 14 percent said it had moved closer (46 percent said the party hadn’t moved). But the most striking change took place among college-educated white women. For some reason, Mitt Romney made inroads with that group last year; Obama had won them in 2008 but lost them narrowly last year. Almost half (45 percent) of college-educated white women say the Republican Party has moved away from them, and of that group, two-thirds say it’s because the party has become more conservative.

The news is bad among younger women, as well. Among women under 50, 29 percent said the party had moved away from them, to 11 percent who said it had moved closer.  Reince Priebus, call your rebranding office.

This polling data gives me an excuse to revisit one of the most farcical chapters in the fast-moving government shutdown crisis – last Saturday night, when House Republicans decided to attach the so-called conscience clause to the continuing resolution, preventing regulations providing contraception without a co-pay from taking effect.

When I first saw the news on Twitter, while I was at dinner, I was sure it was satire: Who could possibly think such a move would bring the two sides closer to compromise? It had to be some Lizz Winstead hashtag game: #insaneGOPamendmentstoCR. But of course it was for real. Bringing the two sides closer to compromise wasn’t the point: Republicans have been using the continuing resolution debate to reward their most extreme and demented constituencies. As written, the measure apparently would have denied women other preventive services, like mammograms, without a co-pay. Why not deny us dental care? Or attach a rider making it illegal to wear shoes?

Luckily it went nowhere – which is where it seems our country is going, right now.

Unbelievably, GOP women (apart from Michele Bachmann) have been mostly off camera during the shutdown debate. Did you see that cute photo House Majority Leader Eric Cantor tweeted, of his House colleagues waiting in vain for a conference with the Senate? All white men, nobody of color, no women (unless those were binders full of women on that table).

Targeting Obamacare, which is popular with women, and specifically going after the contraception provision -- that wasn’t in Reince Priebus’ rebranding report, I don’t think. But they knew these policies would be unpopular with women: Polling for Republican members on the politics of a government shutdown to defund Obamacare found a huge gender gap, with 61 percent of Republican women opposed to the idea, while 48 percent of men favored it. The GOP keeps digging an electoral hole for itself with women, and they don’t seem to care.

By Joan Walsh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Contraceptions Gender Gap Gop Government Shutdown Reince Priebus Republican Party Women Women's Vote