“Raised by two mothers…Wow, most of us barely survive one.”—Woody Allen, in “Manhattan”
In the above case, Allen was talking about Meryl Streep’s character—who had left him and was raising his child with another woman. But for me it summarizes the feeling I get watching the extremes of the Left and Right trying to tell women what they should do.
The latest survey commissioned by Republican interests confirms the need to close the gap with female voters. Most disheartening was this conclusion, as reported in Politico: “Female voters who care about the top four issues—the economy, health care, education and jobs—vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Most striking, Democrats hold a 35-point advantage with female voters who care about jobs and a 26 percent advantage when asked which party is willing to compromise. House Republicans say jobs and the economy are their top priorities.”
Another portion of the survey pinpoints the likely cause for this disconnect: “Republicans ‘fail to speak to women in the different circumstances in which they live’—as breadwinners, for example. ‘This lack of understanding and acknowledgment closes many minds to Republican policy solutions,’ the report says. The groups urge Republicans to embrace policies that ‘are not easily framed as driven by a desire to aid employers or “the rich.”’ This challenge becomes more monumental when you realize, courtesy of Bloomberg Businessweek, “Single Americans now are more than half of the adult population for the first time since the government began compiling such statistics in 1976.”
Stop Making Me Crazy
Single women live in a world where this woman is considered a “plus-size” model, where no matter how much they excel athletically the truth they’re still unable to top men can hurt, where they want to get married but the game has changed, where it’s trendy to vacillate between victim and superhero while reality often means feeling somewhere in between. “Ban bossy,” stop saying sorry,” this, that, the other thing, and then you’ll have it all. At some point, the contradictions, the chiding, the deriding, and manipulation of it all are too much.
Then there’s the politics of the winning the “female voter.” The Left says things that ignore women have their own agency—like “you need to ask women several times to run for office”— while insisting colleges are rape factories and marching around with signs saying “no means no.” Woman should be leaders, but they need more than 20 weeks to make up their mind whether to have an abortion. Women are more compassionate than men, so they have unique qualities that make them valuable assets in business. These same compassionate women are proudly screaming for the “right” to take the life of their own babies. I could go on but, as you can see, it’s a muddled mess.
The problem is that despite the incoherence of the message, Democrats demonstrate effort and time crafting messages to court single female voters. Meanwhile, the Right has constructed well-meaning bubbles about what’s best for women. While getting married and having kids is the best choice I ever made, there is a perception gap on the Right that these things are easily obtained. There’s the relentless drumbeat against men and women deferring marriage, while statistics show marriages that start when the couple are aged 25 or older are less likely to end in divorce.
Then there’s the big one, the one I smile through and tacitly agree with but know not everyone is that lucky, because I wasn’t. It’s the “have kids when you are young or you will never have them because you are barren” thing. Yes, I know science says women are most fertile in their twenties, and in a perfect world we’d all act accordingly. But no one lives in the world where everything always works out according to plan. We are also living in a world where people defer marriage and children.
Do I wish I had met my husband in my twenties? Yes, I married him for a reason, and would love to have had even more time with him. But I can’t go back in time and force an earlier meeting. Was I being too picky or not doing the right things to meet a husband? Maybe I was. Who knows. But then I might be married to someone else right now and I sure would miss the family I have now. Does that make me a failure? I don’t believe so, but I do have to nod and fake-smile through an awful lot of rhetoric that tells me I didn’t do things “right.” That I have forever missed the boat because I sequenced my life events differently than” the perfect plan.” I understand it would be “easier” to have kids earlier, but it would be pretty hard change history to make my life fit that preference. My grandmother had her third child, my dad, when she was 40, and I’m pretty happy about that considering how it contributed to my existence.
The Myth of the Rational Female Voter
I know what you’re thinking, “Don’t be so sensitive. This clearly isn’t about you.” Well, sometimes people aren’t entirely rational. Occasionally, they do things like personalize statements made by people and apply them to their own circumstances. We also sometimes call this group of people “voters.”
To win more female votes, implying women have failed out the gate if they are approaching 30 and are either unmarried or don’t have children may not the best approach. And, yes, I KNOW this isn’t what “the Right” is saying, but it’s what the Right often sounds like and in the end what people hear is more important than what you say. The Left is actively interested in talking to single women, while the Right can be framed as only being interesting in hoping they get married. It makes sense if you look at the electoral breakdowns and recognize politicians are lazy and like winning elections. The Republicans don’t have a woman problem, they have a single-woman problem, and the Democrats exploit it endlessly.
The Republican reaction has been to push for marriage (for very good reasons), but the electoral game also works in their favor if people marry and have kids. The Democrats conversely enjoy framing policy that’s divisive and support nonsensical faux-feminist ideology that increases the likelihood more women will remain single. Americans can always be counted on to be cynical about politician’s intentions, especially if they are already disinclined to listen to a certain party affiliation.
Here’s What to Do
The funny thing is, conservatives have a weapon they rarely brandish in this war. What if they framed their message of free enterprise and prosperity as empowering single women—or, heck, just women? A big tent should theoretically have room for single and married women who both stand to benefit from a free and prosperous country. A group that is swayed by fears of economic insecurity should have an appetite for more prosperity. Here are some talking points.
Getting men stable employment. Single women who may want to marry have a stake in wanting single men working. Men typically settle down when they feel they have something to contribute to a partnership. You want more options, ladies? Be concerned about economic prospects for men. Democrats prefer to divide the sexes instead of collaborate.
Reshaping the abortion debate. A pro-life message should empower women to value their bodies. Ambitious women should value themselves and their time. Safe, legal, and rare used to imply that abortion was to be avoided if at all possible. The new “abortion on demand and without apology” is grotesque, disturbing to most Americans, and does nothing to empower women. Instead, it reduces women to a screaming mass obsessed with vacating basic adult responsibilities and diminishing their own value. The average female voter, while often turned off by the frame of the GOP as gynecologist, has little empathy for left-leaning extremists either.
Talk more about lowering shopping costs. The wage gap argument influences female voters because they fear they are underpaid. Legislation the Democrats proposed to address this would likely suppress wages for more people in the name of fairness and take flexibility away from working mothers. Instead of getting trapped into detailed back and forth where conservatives can be painted as against fair wages, describe how you can put more money in women’s purses. Might I suggest regulatory reform to lower the costs of just about everything women buy? Remember that most Democrat proposals to “help” women are more about framing Republicans as “against” women than making any particular difference. The upside is they are doing free-market research that discloses what women worry about.
Target corporate welfare. Ending corporate welfare and various forms of cronyism taps into women’s innate sense of fairness. While debates on the confidence gap continue to rage, they have yielded some interesting data that indicate language about “fairness” and “following the rules” may be more persuasive with women.
Take a study that analyzed why women don’t apply for jobs unless they feel they have 100 percent of the qualifications: “15% of women indicated the top reason they didn’t apply was because ‘I was following the guidelines about who should apply.’ Only 8% of men indicated this as their top answer. Unsurprisingly, given how much girls are socialized to follow the rules, a habit of ‘following the guidelines’ was a more significant barrier to applying for women than men.”
Consider What Women Care About
This suggests women may be more open to the rule of law argument on immigration and be more opposed to corporate welfare, which are certainly two things gaining popularity within the GOP but not currently being used to target women. Even the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted that the politics of Obama acting alone on immigration could harm single women turnout for the Democrats.
Economics impacts everyone, and there’s no shame in “pinking up” policy and using Republican women to speak about women’s pocketbooks and future prospects. Regulations prevent women from starting businesses, interacting in their communities, and following their passions. Yet try this out. Do a Google search on “regulations harming women” and watch as almost every result is about abortion, when it should be as full of women being economically harmed by the unfairness of regulations. Small stories like this don’t appear: “On April 30, Zoning Administrator Kimberley Johnson sent Martha Boneta an official cease-and-desist notice for selling farm products and hosting a birthday party for her best friend’s 10-year-old daughter on her 70-acre Paris, Va., farm without a special administrative permit.” Or this story:
A 55-year-old woman who earns less than minimum wage caring for her disabled son could unravel decades of labor law and strike a blow against one of the most powerful political lobbies in the nation. Pamela Harris is fighting an Illinois law crafted by imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D.) and enforced by his successor Pat Quinn (D.) that forces her and other home healthcare workers to pay union dues. Her case, Harris v. Quinn, begins oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Tuesday morning.
‘I don’t want to be the face and name associated with anti-union campaign, but this is at its heart a mother doing what she thinks is right for her son,’ she told the Washington Free Beacon. ‘I don’t see this as a union issue, but the current administration in Illinois has an unhealthy relationship with public sector unions. We got swept up in that.’
Time after time, Democrat policies unfairly harm women. Worse, their rhetoric is both ridiculous and disempowering for women. But the Democrats’ war on women necessarily thrives on economic insecurity. After the survey I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s impossible to ignore the Right needs to improve. I know everyone means well with all of their super-helpful advice about how what they did is what everyone should do, but take a moment and remember what it felt like when you were single. If you are in a happy marriage, you are a truly blessed person. Try not to do to marriage what the Kardashians do to capitalism. Calm confidence is much more inviting. I’m hardly advocating that the positive benefits of marriage shouldn’t be heralded, but don’t forget the single ladies. A world with a brighter future is the kind of world that makes people feel like there’s room for marriage and children.
A party willing engage people regardless of their marital status is necessary given current demographics. Single people are well aware they aren’t married yet and hear about it all the time. The last thing they need is politicians hectoring about whether they’ve met a nice young man. Republicans should welcome the Bridget Jones voter with open arms. After all, everyone has been single before.