Why GOP should be terrified of the gender gap and the marriage gap in 2014

2012 marriage and gender gaps, Credit: Democracy Corps.

2012 marriage and gender gaps, Credit: Democracy Corps.

In 2012, Mitt Romney won the vote of married women by a margin of 53 to 46 percent. Yet, he lost the election by just about the same margin. How did that happen? President Obama decimated Romney among single women, 67 to 31 percent. No binder full of women - regardless of how thick - could rescue Mitt Romney from that disaster. In 2012, unmarried women were nearly a quarter of the electorate, up from a fifth in 2008.

When unmarried women were asked in a survey the most important reason they voted for Barack Obama and against Mitt Romney, they named Romney's opposition to birth control (specifically Planned Parenthood and preventive health services) and President Obama's support for it at essentially the same rate as economic positions, the top reason.

2012's Congressional race told the same story. Republican candidates for Congress won married women by low double digits, but Democrats cleaned up among single women by some 40 points. One could say that this alone accounted for the Democrats' 500,000 Congressional popular vote advantage despite the fact that a Republican remains Speaker of the House.

Democrats, it seems, have not forgotten this. When women vote, Democrats win. This is as much a truism in American politics as any, and it is especially true for single women, concerned about the glass ceiling as well as the GOP's open war against women'e health care and reproductive choices. Senate and House Democrats plan to remind American women why it's so important to vote this November, particularly in light of the Supreme Court's disastrous decision to allow employers dominion over the health care choices over their female employees.

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats said Tuesday that they had developed legislation to override the Supreme Court decision on contraceptives. The bill would ensure that women have access to coverage for birth control even if they work for businesses that have religious objections.

The bill, developed in consultation with the Obama administration, would require for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby Stores to provide and pay for contraceptive coverage, along with other preventive services, under the Affordable Care Act.
— New York Times, 7/8/14

House Democrats are also writing a companion bill.

As I wrote in my analysis of the Hobby Lobby decision, while five conservative men on the Supreme Court decided that women's employers have the right to substitute their own religious beliefs for that of their female employees, they did so based on a 1993 law, not on the Constitution. Therein lies the silver-lining: what Congress has done, Congress can (technically) undo.

No one expects John Boehner to allow a vote on this bill on the House, of course, and even fewer people expect it to pass the current House should a vote miraculously happen.

Nonetheless, this is a much needed attempt to remind voters the extremism of the Republican party - the same extremism voters rejected in two landslide presidential elections. It is a way to remind voters - not just women but anyone who cares about women's health and freedom - that horrific Supreme Court decisions like Hobby Lobby do not have to be the law of the land. The only reason it is now is a Republican party that wishes to return women's health to the 1950s. We can change that, but only if we give this president a Congress that will work for women's rights, not against it.

This is not a mere political stunt. This president has put himself on the line to defend women's right to basic reproductive health care such as birth control as well as the broader right to reproductive freedom time and again. And his party, should they gain back control of Congress, will do so again.

This is good policy and good politics. Something is happening in America right now that is flying far under the radar of the main stream media. While they are busy asking the architects of the Iraq war what to do about it now, there is deep anger about what the Republican party has done with the power it gained in 2010 both in Congress and in state houses. Whether with voting rights or workers' rights or with denying health insurance to 5 million Americans with no reason whatsoever other than to hurt the president, while people may be down on the political system as a whole, Americans are palpably contemptuous of the Republican party.

And on no issue is that anger as potent an electoral game changer as the rising vote of women, and even more so unmarried women. Not because the votes of minorities aren't as potent as those of women, but Republicans have already largely written off the minority vote. But even by their own calculations about turnout, they cannot afford a large gender gap this year. For all the huffing and puffing about the Tea Party in 2010, a big part of the reason Republicans won in 2010 was because they fought Democrats to a draw - or even edged a little - among women.

The pendulum did swing back in 2012, and the president and Democrats are making sure women remember that the GOP has only grown more hostile to women since November of 2012. The war on women is not a euphemism. The Republican attack on women's rights is a true danger to the kind of country we all want to see. And in this war, women will ultimately slay the GOP dragon.

Let's make sure of that in November.

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