The Republican Party has struggled in recent election cycles with a growing gender gap – the Democratic advantage with women voters has made a critical electoral difference in races nationwide. On this, GOP officials do not have their heads in the sand, and they’re eager to improve their standing with women.
The efforts will not, however, include changing the Republican policy agenda in any way. Rather, party leaders are convinced that if they simply change the way they talk about their agenda, women voters en masse will be persuaded. The difference between success and failure, the GOP believes, is appropriate word-choice.
There’s ample reason to believe rhetorical wisdom won’t trump substantive disagreements over issues like reproductive health, but there’s a more immediate problem for the party: a few too many Republicans still haven’t mastered the part about avoiding stupid comments.
Take Ken Buck, for example. Buck’s extremism on women’s issues contributed heavily to his failed U.S. Senate candidacy in Colorado in 2010, but he’s back in 2014, apparently having learned very little.
Speaking on a talk radio show on Wednesday, Buck attempted to explain his anti-choice absolutism — he opposes abortion in all cases, including rape and incest — by likening a woman’s desire to control her own body while pregnant to how he felt when he had cancer.“I am pro-life,” Buck said. “While I understand a woman wants to be in control of her body – it’s certainly the feeling that I had when I was a cancer patient, I wanted to be in control of the decisions that were made concerning my body – there is another fundamental issue at stake. And that’s the life of the unborn child.”
Remember, Buck has had four years to figure out how best to talk about his opposition to reproductive rights. The best he can come up with is comparing pregnancy to cancer as part of a larger pitch on why he doesn’t think a woman should “be in control of her body.”
If Republicans are being coached on how to talk without offending people, Ken Buck might need a little extra tutoring.
Of course, he’s not the only one.
Meet Republican congressional hopeful Richard “Dick” Black of Virginia.
As a state legislator, Black opposed making spousal rape a crime, citing the impossibility of convicting a husband accused of raping his wife “when they’re living together, sleeping in the same bed, she’s in a nightie, and so forth.”Black has referred to emergency contraception, which does not cause abortions, as “baby pesticide.” … He has argued that abortion is a worse evil than slavery. And once, to demonstrate why libraries should block pornography on their computers, Black invited a TV reporter to film him using a library terminal to watch violent rape porn. […]Black entered politics in the late 1990s after retiring as a military prosecutor. He spoke frequently to media outlets about sexual assault in the military, and called military rape “as predictable as human nature.” “Think of yourself at 25,” Black told a newspaper in 1996. “Wouldn’t you love to have a group of 19-year-old girls under your control, day in, day out?”
Can the gender gap continue to get worse? Of course it can.