Friday, March 16, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But...

Special War On Women Edition
We on the left often chide Democrats for not being more aggressive in counterpunching the right-wing attempts to drag the country kicking and screaming back to the 19th Century. It is pretty annoying to watch President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and, to a lesser degree, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi placate and wheedle Republicans, all to no great benefits.
Part of that, of course, is the intransigence of the far-right Teabaggers, and part of that is partisan politics designed to either win back power or burn the fields and sow salt in the furrows of the nation. Combined, there's no momentum for compromise from the right, and yet the Democrats seem slow to recognize this.
Or are they?
I've looked on with a soupçon of rage, confusion, and hilarity at the way Republicans have tried to make an issue of women's rights: reproductive rights, of course, but also to try to paint women as some sort of helpmeet designed to make a man's life easier, and to be seen and not heard.
I speak, of course, about the current battle over the Violence Against Women Act forming in the Senate, but also the state-level battles in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, among others.
From a strategic standpoint, this war on women makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Let's look at a little recent history for some perspective.
In recent elections, there was a deliberate electoral strategy on the parts of Republicans nationwide to boost turnout of the base by incorporating issues that the base finds repugnant into a broader, more national campaign.
Karl Rove was a master at this, encouraging states to place initiatives on abortion, gay marriage and other sundry social issues that inflame passions on both sides, and then smear such a nasty campaign over the course of the election season that those who would be in favor of, say, gay marriage were actually DIScouraged from voting, thus sealing a smaller electorate of which the Republican base would be a larger proportion.
From a strategic standpoint, it was brilliant. From a political dialogue standpoint, it was a desperate, last-ditch effort to salvage power.
The breadth of this current dust-up, though, brings me pause: could Republican leadership be that stupid, that dense, that they'd be willing to take on the majority gender in this country?
I mean, you take on gays, you take on maybe 10% of the population, tops. You take on abortion, you take on a nominal plurality and that includes people who are wishy-washy on the matter of choice (i.e. who believe in limited choices for women seekign abortions.)
Most people in the heartland don't know many openly gay people, and possibly may have blinkers on when it comes to women in their family circles who have needed an abortion. That makes these abstract figures, easily caricatured and mocked.
But everyone knows at least one woman. And even a Neanderthal knows that women are smaller than men and probably need some protection from a minority of us. He may be in denial that it's he that should be kept away, true.
So why is this the election year strategy of the Republicans? Could it be as simple as the far right hijacking the party agenda and the leadership just shrugging their shoulders and deciding which island nation is best for exile?
Cui bono?
And then it hit me...what if, and I admit this is pure speculation but it sure wouldn't surprise me, the Democrats decided to pull a ninja double-back strategy on the Republican party: turn the tables on them and force an issue front and center that they cannot possibly win on and could only possibly prevent a hemmorage with complete capitulation to the Democratic platform?
And what more appropriate group to focus on than women?
After all, women have decided elections in the past: soccer moms and then security moms. Working moms would be the ideal demographic to sculpt the Obama re-election strategy around because it would provide an huge base to launch campaigns in all 50 states that would secure votes, and possibly recapture the House and Senate.
For example, by including domestic partnerships and same-sex couples under the banner of domestic abuse-- and make no mistake, that's not a political pandering manuever: domestic violence happens in any family-type arrangement, even among roommates-- it turns an old issue the Republican love to throw against the wall, same-sex marriage, into a cudgel to brandish in the interparty battles. It forces Republicans to either acknowledge that same-sex couples are legitimate vehicles (thus paving the way for marriage) or to decide that violence is OK against anyone in any relationship.
Meaning those women you see on Cops hanging out the trailer door in tube tops, screaming at the police to "put that [bleeep] away for the rest of his [bleeeeep]ing life!" will be terrified at the prospect that, indeed, Earl will be getting out a little earlier now.
Not that domestic violence is a problem for the poor only, but that's a very different story.
Note too the inclusion of undocumented immigrants in the bill, too. If Republicans decline to approve this measure, any hope of winning the Latino vote goes pretty much right out the window. You can tell voters things said in the heat of a primary are different than what you'd do, but a vote is forever.
Especially coming on the heels of the Blunt amendment, the attempt to exempt employers who, as a matter of conscience refuse to provide health insurance coverage for birth control, you're talking about a very large number of very angry people.
Put it this way: the current bill for re-authorization as composed and passed in committee has 59 co-signers, which means at least 6 Republican senators have co-signed the bill.
You know what that means? Any opposition to the bill will either have to be quick and polite or the Republicans in general stand to face a very dismal prospect in November, since the bill will flat-out pass.
In truth, this is not the issue the Republicans want to run on, but if the Democrats have decided this is the issue, women's rights, they'll raise over and over again this summer and fall, the Republicans will lose the women's vote and lose miserably. They'll throw it out there and hey, if the Republicans pick it up and play with it, they had it coming, right?