The XX Factor

Republicans Plan to Fight Back on the Democrats’ “War on Women” Narrative. Good Luck, Gentlemen.

You’ve got this, guys. Just a few more sentences without saying anything about rape, and you are good to go.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Edward-Isaac Dovere has a piece up at Politico examining the Democrats’ “war on women” messaging, ramping up for the 2014 midterms, and the Republican response. As Dovere reports, Democrats are thinking beyond reproductive rights to recast income inequality, workplace protections, and possibly even immigration as “women’s issues.” Dovere casts that decision as a purely political one, but one reason the strategy works is because the evidence supports it: Women are disproportionately affected by income inequality and a lack of workplace protections, and feminist organizing might is throwing itself behind the issue of immigration reform

Still, expect to hear plenty on the standard war-on-women issues, too:

As much as they expand the women’s argument into economics, Democrats believe that nothing moves female voters like abortion rights — and they think they’ve got more than enough to go on, between GOP Senate candidates like North Carolina state House Speaker Thom Tillis, who supports a personhood amendment, and Montana Rep. Steve Daines, who’s against abortion exceptions for rape and incest, or the mandatory ultrasound bills signed by Republican Govs. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, Rick Scott of Florida, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio.

Plus, there are all those Republican primaries and local town halls that Democrats are confident will produce a searing “legitimate rape” comment they’ll be able to spread far and wide, despite Republican media training aimed at keeping candidates from these kind of stumbles.

Dovere writes about this as if highlighting the way that your opponents differ with voters on major issues in hopes that the voters will pick you instead is somehow especially dirty or unusual, when it’s actually just a perfect marriage of politics and policy that the Democrats would be crazy not to pursue. And the Republicans are apparently ready this time, prepared to fight back on this “false war on women.”

“The Democrats can continue their desperate and dishonest war on women, but voters are beginning to wisen up and their message is getting old,” Republican National Committee press secretary Kirsten Kukowski told Dovere. “The minimum wage eliminating jobs will hurt female workers, Obamacare is hurting women who are more involved in health care decisions and household budgets.”

Kukowski’s party can try to wage its own counterwar, but it’s gonna be tough: Female voters tend to be more supportive generally of progressive values on economics, for instance, which is one reason Democrats have decided to craft their pitch to women so that it addresses these economic issues. I have a better suggestion for Republicans: If you want the war-on-women narrative to go away, stop waging it. The reason that “war on women” is such a simple, evocative phrase is that you don’t really have to explain what it means to the public. Indeed, the phrase was initially the “Republican war on women,” but the “Republican” part fell off because it was so clearly implied in the other three words. Just as the phrase “just do it” immediately calls to mind an athlete ready to spring in a pair of prominently featured Nikes, the phrase “war on women” immediately calls to voter minds a bunch of middle-aged men in suits trying to figure out how to take away control of the nation’s vaginas from the women who are currently sitting on them. The only way to erase that image is to stop waging the war, guys.