February 27 2014
National Review Online
Carrie L. Lukas
The Democrats’ 2014 campaign strategy should surprise no one: They don’t want voters dwelling on Obamacare’s broken promises or our unabating economic doldrums, so they are doubling down on the War on Women campaign tactic that worked so well in 2012 and in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial contest.
The substance of the Democrats’ women agenda is an afterthought, and for good reason. There will be the expected hand wringing about the wage gap and calls for yet another round of “equal pay” legislation. Never mind that honest liberals admit the wage gap is a product of women and men’s different choices, which is why the White House itself has a “wage gap” of 12 percent. The minimum wage hike will be repackaged as a women’s issue, and progressives will trumpet new benefit mandates and childcare proposals, ignoring how these policies won’t solve – and in some cases will exacerbate – the biggest problem facing American men and women alike: the chronic lack of job opportunties.
Republicans should take particular note that the FAMILY Act – a massive expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act – is poised to be a major Democratic priority. Conservatives may hope that Americans will be wary of another massive new federal entitlement program after the Obamacare disaster, but they’ll have to actually be ready to make that case and expose the proposal for what it is, rather than just ignoring it — and letting it serve as a feel-good sound bite of how Democrats want to help new moms and parents with sick kids, if only those nasty Republicans would let them.
And that’s really what this exercise is about. Democrats seek to remind single women that they simply don’t like Republicans and think the GOP is “out of touch.” And Democrats are banking on these voters being sufficiently out of touch that they don’t recognize the “War on Women” push as pure campaign manipulation.
The only thing more frustrating than the misleading campaign itself is Republicans’ flatfootedness in responding to it. Conservatives know that an economic-opportunity agenda is best for women, as well as men, and believe that message should appeal across the board. Yet more effort needs to go into directly countering the absurd, but sadly effective, war-on-women messaging. The Left has long showered support on women’s groups that are continually conducting outreach and message testing. In contrast, the GOP seems too often to see women as a small interest group that just needs periodic attention a few weeks before November.
Hoping that members avoid super-sized gaffes in talking about women isn’t enough. Conservatives have a positive story to tell about how their policy proposals will really improve women’s lives by creating more opportunity. The challenge is getting that story out in a way that women will actually hear and believe.
— Carrie Lukas is a vice president at the Independent Women’s Voice and managing director of the Independent Women’s Forum.
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