Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer recently reflected on Republican politicians who insist upon wading into gender politics: “What is it about women that causes leading Republicans to grow clumsy, if not stupid?” he wondered in the Jan. 31 edition of the Orange County Register in “How to Debunk the ‘War on Women:’”
Citing the most recent example — former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s Jan. 23 comment, “If the Democrats want to insult women by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it….[W]omen across America need to stand up and say ‘Enough of that nonsense.’”
Krauthammer writes, “When even savvy, fluent, attractively populist Mike Huckabee stumbles, you know you’ve got trouble.”
This moved me to put down my cup of green tea and consider the “trouble.” The difference between Huckabee and other Republicans who have spoken out in recent decades in favor of limiting women’s access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, is that Huckabee is usually smoother (more “fluent”) than his colleagues about it.
But overall, such Republicans have grown increasingly confident in their virulence. Why? Because they believe their core constituents approve of such rhetoric. Apparently they’re correct: According to a Jan. 29 national poll of Republican primary voters, in the wake of his remarks Huckabee has jumped ahead of other GOP presidential hopefuls like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who has his own troubles these days) and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Yet as the 2013 election showed, Barack Obama won unmarried women’s votes by a 36% margin, which is why Krauthammer advocates that Republicans “avoid gender politics” and “stick to policy.”
This is unlikely to happen because Republican leaders who support women’s access to full reproductive healthcare – even contraception –and who might actually engage in a sane discussion of public policy have been winnowed out of power since about 1980.
Tanya Melich documents it all in her 1996 book, “The Republican War Against Women.” Melich grew up in an activist Republican family that respected such values as, “Lincolnian compassion and championing of equal opportunity for all Americans; Theodore Roosevelt’s vision of a responsible capitalism held in check by a caring government.”
She charges the national party with abandoning those principles in favor of “a misogynist strategy” that played on the unsettling changes inspired by the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Women in America have been paying the price ever since.
Why should we in Newport Beach care?
If you too hold to Melich’s traditional Republican values (values now found in the Democratic Party), I challenge you to find a local Republican official who sees the wisdom keeping politics out of the bedroom.
In 2010, the Orange County Board of Supervisors would not fund $290,000 for breast cancer health care run by Planned Parenthood. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher consistently votes against all manner of reproductive freedom.
Why has it come to this? Because for years Republican voters have looked the other way in the name of fiscal conservatism, despite the fact that many see the fiscal and moral value of fostering women’s reproductive healthcare. It’s time for such women – and, in particular, men – to put some muscle on our GOP politicians to end their war on women.
The war is real and cannot be “debunked,” as Krauthammer proposes. I’m interested in hearing from men and women of any political persuasion, but particularly Republicans, who have spoken with any local GOP politician regarding their willingness to reconsider this issue.
Please send me your comments and we’ll continue the conversation, and of course I’ll keep your name out of the paper if you prefer.
The writer can be reached at [email protected]