By Dana Raphael.
If you’re ever on the Internet you may have noticed the presence of some impending elections. And by noticed, I mean bombarded with every type of ad humanly possible. Per usual, candidates are desperately trying to rake in the last few undecided voters in a Hunger Games-esque showdown for control of the Senate.
The 2012 elections dealt Democrats a sweet card in garnering the female vote: Republican politicians Akin and Mourdock made ignorant and offensive comments about pregnancy resulting from rape, each insinuating, respectively, that the female reproductive system has a way to “shut that whole thing down” and that the pregnancy is a “gift from God.”
Not entirely unsurprisingly, Obama won reelection by 12 points among female voters. Romney won men by 8 points. The total 20-point gender gap was the largest the Gallup poll ever measured.
Fast forward to 2014. Republicans have been much more meticulous about attracting female voters, in part by staying mum on reproductive rights. In fact, Republicans are portraying the Democrats’ campaign of ending the “War on Women” as unnecessarily distracting attention away from the issues that women really care about, such as the economy and national security. This tactic seems to actually be working. As the 2014 midterm elections approach, Democratic candidates in key swing states seem to be losing their once-enjoyed gender gap. Gallup reported that Republicans lead Democrats on eight of the nine most important issues in the 2014 elections. A recent Washington Post poll shows that while Democrats still lead Republicans on contraception issues, voters consider contraception one of the least important issues in the 2014 elections.
Naturally, the Democrats waited for the right wing to let something slip about women to form a rallying cry and bring contraception and other women’s issues back from depths of issue-importance oblivion. It seemed there might be no such slip – until Fox News’ Kimberly Guilfoyle from “The Five” insinuated that young women shouldn’t vote. Her comments animated traditionally liberal websites nearly instantly.
Though Guilfoyle never directly said that young women should not vote, she did make comments that could lead a rational viewer to conclude that was her intent. The show began by talking about how women are not buying the “War on Women” anymore – seen in the narrowing gender voting gap in swing states. Co-commentator Dana Perino attributed this narrowing to women seeing jobs and the economy as the number one issue. Bob Beckel then chimed in, reminding viewers that we sometimes misinterpret the gender gap because married women traditionally vote for Republicans and single women vote for Democrats. Greg Gutfeld concurred, adding that voting Republican “also correlates with age…With age comes wisdom and it’s a known fact that the older you get the more conservative you get.” Putting that observation aside, Gutfeld continued that women seem to have caught on to the “big joke” – Democrats think that women are inherently unable to take care of themselves and must thus rely on the government to take care of them.
Guilfoyle then provided the gem the Dems had been waiting for. In response to Gutfeld, Guilfoyle claimed:
“Right, that’s the thing, but when you’re young like that you think – the same reason why young women on juries are not a good idea. They don’t get it. They’re not in that same, like, life experience of paying the bills, doing the mortgage, kids, community, crime, education, healthcare. They’re, like, healthy and hot and running around without a care in the world.”
Beckel interjected, reminding Guilfoyle that young women do indeed have the right to serve on juries, to which Guilfoyle continued, “I didn’t say they shouldn’t be, I just thank and excuse them so they can go back on Tinder or Match.com.”
So did Guilfoyle directly say that young women shouldn’t vote? No. Did she imply that young women wouldn’t make good jurors because of self-infatuation? Yes. Did she make this comment in the context of talking about garnering young women’s votes? Also yes.
Guilfoyle later denied that she implied young women should not vote, stating, “I take the right to vote very seriously; I take the right to serve on a jury very seriously and I think you should be informed when you do both things.”
The key here is her definition of an “informed” voter. “Making smart decisions on who to vote for is difficult,” she offered, “especially if all you see are ads like this.” She then played an ad of women lip-synching to Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” which encourages women to vote to prevent Roe v. Wade from being overturned. The implication is that women who vote on issues such as contraception are not making informed decisions.
For most people, news of Fox commentators making sexist comments is not really news at all. Just take a look at Gutfeld. He famously joked about women being unable to drive, titled an article “Women are Stupid,” and compared government spending to a “wife and her credit cards.” So why is Guilfoyle’s comment news?
Because the Democrats have grown to rely on Republican missteps to advance their agenda on contraception. This is not entirely unsurprising; the party out of power tends to have the advantage in midterm elections while the party in power is left to defend their acts. Because Republicans have largely ignored contraception, they didn’t force the Democrats to defend their stance on contraception. That choice to ignore the issue, in tandem with how contraception is rated one of the least important issues to voters in the midterms, left Democrats scrambling to differentiate themselves from Republicans in a way that appealed to voters. However, the Republicans lead on eight of the nine issues voters consider the most important, such as the economy.
Which brings the Democrats back to contraception, the only issue (other than Obamacare) on which the Democrats have a lead over Republicans. How to generate more support? Generate more rage. And the rage stems from ignorant comments that, at this point, the Democrats desperately need the Republicans to keep making.