2012 Scare Tactics on Women, Medicare Won't Work

Seniors and women are not terrified church mice, and shouldn't be treated as such by either party.

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Is there something about being female or over 65 that makes a person particularly and irrationally fearful?

That would be one (irrational) explanation for why candidates accuse each other of trying to "scare" either group of people.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

Both parties have been guilty of using the term "Mediscare" or even just the use of "scare" to describe how the other party is campaigning on Medicare and Social Security to people over 65. Actually, they're referred to as "seniors," which is a term that's getting a little patronizing as well. People over 65 are not elderly or doddering; many of them are still in the workforce, and most are smart enough to figure out what's going on with their retirement programs. They're not a pathetic group of simpletons who can be easily "scared" by talk of trimming Medicare or changing the eligibility rules for Social Security or Medicare. Nor do they vote singularly according to those issues. GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has offered a plan to dramatically restructure Medicare, but the Romney-Ryan ticket does better among the over-65 crowd in polling.

[See a collection of political cartoons on healthcare.]

Women, too, are not so easily frightened. GOP Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown may have lost a few female voters in liberal Massachusetts when he cosponsored a bill that would allow employers to deny certain kinds of coverage (like contraception) if they have moral misgivings about it. Brown sees it as a matter of religious freedom—not an unimportant matter, either, in Massachusetts, home to many Roman Catholics. But when the issue came up in Thursday night's Senate debate, he told Democratic foe Elizabeth Warren to "stop scaring women." The idea that Warren—or "Professor Warren," as Brown repeatedly called her, and the tone was not complimentary—actually frightens female voters in Massachusetts is questionable at best. But the idea that women—who serve in the military, undergo childbirth, and hold important jobs (even senator!)—are a bunch of simpering, fearful little church mice is not only inaccurate, but bad politics. Candidates can and should be defending their positions on the merits. Patronizing huge swaths of the voting public isn't the way to convince people.

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