Yesterday, Politico published a leaked report commissioned by two Republican lobbying groups on how the party can better attract female voters. The report, based on a recent poll of 800 female registered voters as well as a series of focus groups, is titled “Republicans and Women Voters: Huge Challenges, Real Opportunities.” The central challenge facing the Republican party is that women—particularly single women and women who have graduated from college—are “barely receptive” to its policies, and are likely to consider the party “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion,” and “stuck in the past.”
Here’s where the “real opportunity” comes in: If only the Republicans could explain to these women that they are wrong, their votes would come flooding in. The report says that it is a “lack of understanding” between women and Republicans that “closes many minds to Republican policy solutions.” Republicans can attract the female vote by attacking the Democratic claim that GOP policies do not promote “fairness” for women and dealing “honestly with any disagreement on abortion” before moving on to “other issues.”
Today, R.R. Reno, editor of First Things (a journal that promotes “economic freedom” and a “morally serious culture”), published a very helpful essay illustrating how this fresh new strategy might work in practice. Reno begins his piece with a richly-drawn portrait of a hypothetical female Democratic voter: She is a “single, 35-year-old McKinsey consultant living in suburban Chicago who thinks of herself as vulnerable and votes for enhanced social programs designed to protect against the dangers and uncertainties of life.” (Reno does not specify the number of cats she owns, but for the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume the answer is “several.”) Reno speculates that this woman (whom he has invented and preprogrammed with opinions) feels “judged” by a Republican platform that opposes gay marriage, because “she intuitively senses that being pro-traditional marriage involves asserting male-female marriage as the norm—and therefore that her life isn’t on the right path.” So she votes for the Democrat, who does not appear to be “intolerant” of her lifestyle.
Here comes the part of the exercise where Reno carefully instructs this fantasy lady liberal that she has chosen poorly, and that the Republican party is the logical choice for a woman in her circumstance. This woman is suffering from “various kinds of personal unhappiness related to the lack of clear norms for how to live,” Reno writes. She secretly “wants to get married and feels vulnerable because she isn’t and vulnerable because she’s not confident she can.” And so, actually, she should support the party that wants to force people into traditional marriages, thus improving her chances of getting married herself. (Perhaps she can marry a gay man?) If only our hypothetical cat lady could get on board, she would get a husband, the Republicans would get another married woman to add to their key demographic, and gay people would get totally screwed. (Yay?)
In short, Republicans understand women plenty—it’s women who don’t understand themselves. Sounds like a promising strategy that will work with many, many sad single ladies that Republicans have invented in their brains. Next step: Finally granting imaginary women the right to vote.