By Robert Schlesinger |
Two months ago, there were two war memes claiming legitimacy and competing for media buy-in: "the War on Women" versus the "War on Religion." The "War on Women" outlasted and knocked out its contender relatively easily because the Republican-contrived "War on Religion" was based purely on political spin, while antiwomen's health legislation had real-world consequences and tentacles that had been growing for years.
Fueled by large conservative margins in statehouses after the 2010 elections, Republican legislators went on an unprecedented and relentless bill writing spree to: limit women's access to the healthcare; restrict a woman's right to make personal, private decisions about what's best for her own health; and even ban contraception through "personhood" amendments. Not to be left behind, conservatives in Congress briefly tried to redefine the meaning of rape and zoned in on Planned Parenthood as right-wing enemy Number One by voting to defund the clinics that 5 million women depend on for vital health services each year.
Though Republicans continue to try to lay blame on Democrats and the media, the coordinated attack—aimed at the most important voting block—was sealed in the hearts and minds of women voters through a series of back-to-back prominent missteps. This "storm" was perfected by Susan G. Komen's misguided decision to listen to a former Republican gubernatorial candidate and sever its relationship with Planned Parenthood, the state of Virginia's attempt to force transvaginal ultrasounds on women seeking abortions, Rush Limbaugh's cowardly, misogynistic attack on Sandra Fluke, and former Gov. Mitt Romney's hypocritical attempt to lure conservative primary voters that led him to declare he would "get rid of Planned Parenthood." Add it all up, and you get a meme that is bolstered by numerous facts—a shockingly real and legit war on women's health.
And just when many women probably thought it couldn't get any worse, last week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker—a visible Romney surrogate—joined the battle by repealing his state's equal pay statue. Recent polls illustrate how much damage has been done to the Republican Party brand, with President Obama now leading Governor Romney among women voters in swing states by 18 points.
As more and more women continue to flee the GOP, Governor Romney and the Republican elite are scrambling to figure out how to get them back. The problem for Republicans is that much like the failed economic policies behind the recession, the critical role women voters will play in 2012 elections didn't trickle down to conservative lawmakers in state legislatures when the "War on Women" was first seeded, and like an ex-boyfriend who has cheated on you for the last time, there's not much that Governor Romney can say to convince women he should be trusted.
About Jehmu Greene Owner of JSG Strategies
Sharon Day Co-chair of the Republican National Committee
Zerlina Maxwell Political Analyst and Contributing Writer for EBONY.com, theGrio.com, and Feministing.com
Stephanie Slade Project Director at the Winston Group