Women and the GOP
By Emily Theroux
Tuesday turned out to be another “scarlet-letter” day for American women fighting their way through the humiliating cultural thicket of the GOP “war on women.”
In Arizona, the state’s august Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 to endorse a bill that would enable employers to require proof from women who work for them that any contraceptives covered by company health insurance policies are not being prescribed for them to prevent pregnancy. “Law Will Allow Employers to Fire Women for Using Whore Pills,” the Gawker website Jezebel.com proclaimed. This dubious act was proposed by Republican Senator Debbie Lesko, who insisted that her bill would enable us to keep our freedoms, because “we live in America; we don’t live in the Soviet Union.” The catch — and there’s always a catch — is that the “freedoms” she extolled are the religious freedoms of authoritarian men to oversee women’s reproductive health choices. (You can always tell, by the use of the word “freedom” in its plural form, exactly whose freedom is being preserved; the “s,” in the estimation of the Republican presidential candidates and their legislative cohorts, probably stands for “subservient.”)
In Missouri, Mitt Romney, who came up short in the two presidential primaries he hoped to win by pandering to Southern voters about “cheesy (sic) grits,” blurted out to a reporter, when asked how he would reduce the national debt, “Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that.” It’s going to be really entertaining to watch how the gaffe-prone Romney wiggles out of that admission. If he says he only meant getting rid of government funding for Planned Parenthood, wily “socialist” Rick Santorum is lying in wait to trip him up (and it’s true – Santorum really did use that terrible epithet, thereby violating Ronald Reagan’s cherished Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican”). Rick will claim that Mitt doesn’t loathe Planned Parenthood enough to wipe out the entire institution and every last one of its affiliates with Predator drones. If Romney lets his foolish proclamation stand, then women all over the country will rise up, just as they did during Komen-gate, and smite him at the ballot box.
In New York, where Newsweek/Daily Beast editor Tina Brown hosted her third “Women in the World” summit this past weekend, Hillary Clinton told the crowd that “extremists” are out to control women, “even here at home” in the United States. That caused agita Tuesday night at Fox News, where Megyn Kelly clashed with former Hillary adviser Jehmu Greene over the secretary’s remarks. Greene ticked off the rest of Kelly’s conservative panel by citing Rick Perry’s “vicious, vicious attacks on women’s health” (e.g., the Texas bill requiring that women seeking abortions first undergo mandatory ultrasounds) as evidence that a “war on women” really is being waged right here at home.
In additional “fair and balanced” news, Peter Doocy carped, in a story predictably titled “The Fairer Half,” about President Obama’s 2012 battle plan to woo women voters, a majority of whom helped elect him in 2008, back from the clutches of the valiant Republicans who spirited so many of them away during the strident Tea Party jousts of 2010. “Women are the ultimate swing voter,” Doocy quoted Republican political analyst Tony Sayegh. “They’re less ideologically rigid and they make very pragmatic decisions when it comes to who to vote for.”
Doocy added that Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant predicted before Tuesday’s primary that because women liked Romney so much, he would emerge the victor in the Southern primaries! “Fifty percent of the people voting in this primary will be women,” Bryant told Fox News. “Governor Romney has a great favorability rating with women, and I think a southern female professional woman is going to say: ‘That’s who I want to vote for.’ ”
So much for pre-game prognostication. A very different result on Tuesday night astonished Romney cheerleaders and cable news pundits alike. At 30 Rock, during the surprising aftermath of that day’s Republican primaries in dear old Dixie, poor Karen Finney found herself in a progressive pickle. After Santorum, the champion of the hour, figuratively told Mitt Romney to “kiss his grits” by winning both Deep South primaries, the ugly truth came out. Some 49 percent of the working women who voted in Alabama gave their electoral blessings not to Romney but to Santorum, who has been roundly excoriated by Democratic pundits like Finney, as well as much of the public, for his anti-feminist views and policy proposals. (Romney won only 20 percent of the votes cast by women who are employed full-time in Alabama, while Newt Gingrich won 23 percent.)
Finney’s reaction? She “shared her pain” on the air – something a woman is never supposed to do in public, as Hillary Clinton discovered just before the New Hampshire primary in 2008. During an exit poll analysis broadcast Tuesday night on MSNBC after both Southern primaries had been called for Rick Santorum, Finney declared, “This woman vote really hurts me!” – a sentiment for which she was pilloried the following morning all over the right-wing blogosphere.
A recent New York Times story indicates that the tide against right-wing misogyny may already be turning among women in America’s heartland. The reporter interviewed moderate Republican and centrist women in various regions of the country about whether they were still planning to vote for a Republican in the 2012 general election, as they did in prior years.
“ ‘We all agreed that this seemed like a throwback to 40 years ago’ said [Mary] Russell, 57, a retired teacher from Iowa City who describes herself as an evangelical Christian and ‘old school’ Republican of the moderate ‘ mold,” wrote Susan Saulny.” ‘If they’re going to decide on women’s reproductive issues, I’m not going to vote for any of them. Women’s reproduction is our own business.’ ”
There’s at least one problem with this hopeful outlook: As Saulny points out, not many of the women who turn out for Republican primaries call themselves “moderate” or “centrist.” In “flyover country,” do “wingnuts” truly rule the roost? I’m not sure, but you can count on this “lefty” to ruffle feathers about it until the day primary season is over.
Emily Theroux, a Middletown resident and former magazine editor at The Times Herald-Record, writes occasional political commentary on social media sites.