“They seem to understand the problem, at least on a national level. But they seem to think this problem is simply one of tone and messaging. It goes way beyond. It’s a problem of policy.”
File under “O”, for obvious; Emma Margolin strikes a nearly Revolutionary tone†:
RNC Chair Reince Priebus tried to do some damage control on Thursday, telling msnbc host Chuck Todd that neither “party can do a victory lap here.”
“The poll’s gist wasn’t, ‘Oh, the Republicans are stuck in the past,'” he said. “The gist of the poll was, 50% of women are saying they have a negative view of the Republican Party and 40% of the women are saying they have a negative view of the Democratic Party.”
But any way you spin it, the message is clear: Republicans haven’t done enough to close the gender gap that’s plagued their party since the Reagan Administration. And that could spell trouble for their hopes to take over the Senate in November and win the White House in 2016 – especially if Hillary Clinton throws her hat into the ring.
“This is a ‘good news’ story for the Democrats – period,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University. “It becomes even more of an issue if Hillary Clinton is running for president. She will mobilize women to be engaged.”
Alcoholics Anonymous teaches that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. With the gender gap, the GOP can certainly cross that one off the list, having published a comprehensive “autopsy” report last year that prioritized female voters, who chose President Obama over Mitt Romney 56% to 44%.
But if recovering the women’s vote – and in turn, the White House – involves its own 12-step program, it’s steps two through 12 that pose a bit more of a challenge for the GOP.
(Boldface accent added)
The gap between Reince Priebus’ excuses and Debbie Walsh’s justifications is not nearly so large as it seems. It is true, indeed, that the poll numbers do not suggest the best of outlooks for Democrats, but the underlying message for President Obama and Congressional Democrats is clear: Stop backing up.
The cause of the Democrats’ troubles is their willingness to bend and strike bizarre compromises with Republican policies.
The cause of the Republicans’ troubles is their policies.
Or, as Steve Benen explains:
There’s no denying that incidents like Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” rhetoric take a toll on GOP support. But the fact remains that Republicans have chosen to present themselves as the party of requiring medically-unnecessary ultrasounds; fighting equal-pay laws; restricting contraception access, closing women’s health clinics, combating reproductive rights, and targeting Planned Parenthood.
The party wants to change how women see the GOP, but at the same time, the party has no interest in changing its policy agenda in the slightest. They shouldn’t be surprised, then, when the polls remain the same.
The issue plaguing the party isn’t spin, it’s substance. The party doesn’t have to be seen as “intolerant” and “stuck in the past,” but to see a shift in “tone” as the solution is to miss what’s actually driving the gender gap.
And this is a fundamental difference.
Sometimes the mobilization required to light a fire under the Democratic Party is ridiculous, but the bottom line remains: If the Democrats ever manage to pull their heads out and do their jobs, life gets better for the overwhelming majority of Americans. When Republicans actually manage to do their jobs, well, yeah, there you go.
† An inside joke, shared with nobody in particular.
Margolin, Emma. “Poll finds Republicans still struggling with women voters”. msnbc. 28 August 2014.
Benen, Steve. “GOP poll: women see Republicans as ‘intolerant,’ ‘stuck in the past'”. msnbc. 28 August 2014.
Image credit: Detail of cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Gazette, 20 April 2014.