In 2012, the Republican Party's "war on women" became a major focal point of the election year and very likely exacerbated the existing gender gap. With 2013 half-over, GOP policymakers appear to have learned very little, and have been just as aggressive in pursuing the same policies.
But McKay Coppins reports that the Republican National Committee believes it has an opportunity to turn the tables.
Republicans are hoping the latest picture of Anthony Weiner's genitals -- along with his confession this week that he continued his online sex chat habit well after he was first caught in 2011 -- will give momentum to their effort to throw the "war on women" attack line back in the Democrats' faces. [...]
With a flurry of public memos, tweets, and op-eds, the RNC is working to make the Democratic Party take ownership of Eliot Spitzer, who resigned the New York governorship after a prostitution scandal and is now running for city comptroller; San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, now facing allegations of sexual harassment; and Weiner, whose online sexual dalliances have driven the political news cycle all week, and given RNC communications director Sean Spicer some irresistible ammunition.
This is, of course, Political Strategy 101 -- take your rivals' isolated troubles, tie them together, and try to apply the condemnation as broadly as possible. To this extent, the RNC's plan certainly makes sense, and the Democrats in question -- two candidates and one office holder -- appear to have given Republicans plenty to work with.
But the RNC strategy only works on the most superficial of levels, and requires the audience to lose sight of what makes the "war on women" important as a matter of public policy.
If, for example, the allegations against Bob Filner have merit, there is no defense for his disgusting misconduct. Likewise, Weiner's personal judgment appears bizarre, and Spitzer's recklessness was an obvious mistake.
When we talk about a "war on women," however, we're talking less about Republican misdeeds towards specific individuals and more about a systemic issue of GOP policymakers pursuing a radical agenda that affects all American women.
Whether the RNC is comfortable with this or not, at issue here are efforts to restrict reproductive rights, scrap Planned Parenthood, close health clinics that provide important services to women, force medical professionals to lie to women, and force women to undergo medically unnecessary exams for political reasons. In recent years, as Republican politics has become more radicalized, the party has also used inexplicable rhetoric on rape, opposed pay equity laws, and pushed antiquated views on gender roles.
That's a war on women.
What's more, note that Filner, Weiner, and Spitzer have drawn considerable criticisms from other Democrats, while the vast majority of the Republican Party still believes this radical policy agenda targeting women's rights is worthwhile and something to be proud of.
That said, if Republicans want to make the case that the Filner, Weiner, and Spitzer controversies are comparable, they're certainly welcome to make their case. Maybe Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) can lead the charge?