As Republican candidates figure out how to best win over women voters, Iowa GOP Senate candidate Mark Jacobs thinks he has the answer: appeal to their emotions. In an interview Sunday with WHO-TV in Des Moines, host Dave Price asked Jacobs what the "biggest difference between men and women" is, in terms of reaching out to them as voters. "I think you have to connect with women on an emotional level," said Jacobs. "And with a wife of 25 years and an 18-year-old daughter, I've had a lot of coaching on that."
Just last week, Politico reported that that Republican officials are making a real effort to "teach" candidates how to talk to (and about) women. "Let me put it this way, some of these guys have a lot to learn," one Republican staffer said.
There are roughly a thousand good ways to answer that question. Price's response isn't one of them.
Amanda Terkel talked to Jennifer Lawless, the director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, who explained that women, like men, want to know their candidates are "competent, can lead and have a sense of empathy and integrity." Lawless added, "It's not about talking to the female electorate as though you are their husband or father. In fact, doing so plays into damaging stereotypes and reinforces the notion that women need to be treated in a way that is somehow less serious and cerebral."
Exactly. It's a point GOP officials would be wise to incorporate into their much-needed tutoring sessions.
But stepping back a bit, let's also not forget that this training overlooks the more salient detail that Republicans struggle to appreciate: the gender gap is fueled less by rhetorical missteps and more by policy disputes.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Politico last week, "Some of our members just aren't as sensitive as they ought to be." Perhaps not, but as we've discussed before, Republicans have chosen to present themselves as the party of requiring medically-unnecessary ultrasounds; fighting equal-pay laws; restricting contraception access, closing clinics, combating reproductive rights, and targeting Planned Parenthood.
"Sensitivity" and "connecting on an emotional level" is not only condescending, it's beside the larger point.