We all know 2010 is expected to be the “Year of the Republican Woman.” Usually we’re just referring to the rise in GOP female candidates. But now it appears there’s more: Democrats cannot depend on the female vote in 2010.
According to a recent AP-GfK poll, Democrats hold only a five-point advantage among likely female voters in November – the same edge Democrats had in 1994 when Republicans took back Congress.
Political analysts love to talk about the election gender gap – the notion that women support Democrats disproportionately over Republicans. But as Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute has explained, the most important issue that contributes to voting differences between men and women is over the proper role of government. And this is where things have changed.
More and more women today are interested in restoring our constitutionally limited government and defending individual rights. And as a result, growing numbers of women are moving toward the GOP ticket. Women are increasingly frustrated by the top-down, Keynesian economic policies that characterize the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress. So the midterm elections are not about support for Republicans over Democrats so much as support for smaller government.
Too often Democrats are busy playing identity politics rather than considering how sweeping pieces of legislation like healthcare reform or cap-and-trade are going to affect women’s lives. Since President Obama came to office, the White House signed the Lilly Ledbetter legislation, intended to improve equality in the workplace. The president recommended increasing spending – even during the recession – on a select number of “women’s” issues. And they handed out some legislative candy, for instance, by giving female military personnel serving overseas access to the morning-after pill.
Catering to national feminist organizations like NOW or Emily’s List, however, is not the way to win over female voters. Too often these organizations fail to consider the consequences of how major pieces of legislation will affect women and their families. When groups like NOW try to negotiate specific advantages for women – whether it’s in the workplace or in healthcare legislation – they lose sight of the bigger picture. They don’t consider the concrete effects of growing government in terms of the economy, taxes and financial burdens on families, and workplace flexibility.
This year, more than ever before, for women, it’s not about the number of women in office; it’s about what they stand for.