If 2010 was the “Year of the Republican Woman,” 2011 will be the “Year of Gender-Free Politics.”
In 2010, 128 GOP women ran for seats in the House (twice the number as the 2008 cycle) and 17 for the Senate. Nine new Republican women won in the House, and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) won in the Senate. Every incumbent Republican woman won reelection. Three new Republican women were elected governor, and more than a dozen GOP women won statewide offices. Among these victories was the first Hispanic female governor and the first Indian-American governor.
As the year closes out, Rasmussen Reports finds that Republicans are running even with Democrats among female voters. That’s why in 2011 the GOP faces an interesting challenge: growing a female majority without playing gender politics.
Democrats lost female voters by appealing to women on “women’s issues” like workplace discrimination, domestic violence and birth control. With the assurance from national feminist organizations, the left has courted women through big-government, gender-specific programs and legislation that ignores the real concerns and values of mainstream American women.
But now, with Democrats and Republicans in a dead heat among women, we’re apt to see a definitive change in the way GOP lawmakers speak to female voters. Republican policymakers will begin appealing to women through ideas, values and legislation that reach across gender lines and speak to all Americans (e.g., the economy, job creation, healthcare reform), rather than through pandering and legislative loot.
As we count down to the new year, Republicans are gearing up with a battalion of new female officials and leaders at both the national and state level prepared to reach out to female voters on principles of limited government, individual rights, constitutional freedom and a robust economy.
After the champagne is put away and the holiday celebrating comes to an end, the GOP has an opportunity to make a decisive change to American politics by reversing – or at least slowing – the game of gender politics.
Sabrina L. Schaeffer is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and managing partner of Evolving Strategies.