(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/04/article_nm_women_voters_080826_ssh.gif)“The focus of the Republican Party on turning back the clock for women really is something that’s unacceptable and shows how callous and insensitive they are towards women’s priorities,” Democratic National Committee chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz explained on CNN over the weekend. If there is a figure who personifies the unwelcome mat the Democratic Party rolls out to men, it is the abrasive Wasserman Schultz. Like Bella Abzug and Pat Schroeder before her, the latest incarnation of Representative Manhater serves as the poster child for why once again men won’t vote Democrat this year.
There is a gender gap in American politics. The headlines—“Gender Gap Daunting for GOP” (Christian Science Monitor), “Republicans Brought the Gender Gap on Themselves” (US News and World Report), “Obama Opens Big Gender Gap in Swing States” (USA Today)—highlight the advantage the president currently enjoys among women voters. But they obscure a decades-long aversion that American men have shown to supporting the president’s party.
Any moron can do the math. There are just two sexes, so if Republicans trail among women yet remain a competitive party then Democrats must trail among men. This isn’t hard to figure out. It is hard to say. People will laugh at you if by “gender gap” you mean to highlight the growing disconnect between Democrats and dudes. Like most truths, this one is better thought than said.
No Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of male votes in any of the last eight elections. Barack Obama earned a plurality of male ballots over John McCain and Bill Clinton’s 41 percent of men’s votes edged out George H.W. Bush. But exit polls show that most men have cast ballots for someone other than the Democratic nominee in every presidential election since 1980. Democratic presidential candidates all received a lower percentage of votes from men than they did from the electorate as a whole. And in 2010’s mid-term elections, Democrats managed a measly 43 percent of the votes cast by American men in House races.
What caused the malienation?
One possible explanation is that the interest-group pandering practiced by Democrats to attract women has repulsed men.
The message to men from the current administration is a not-so-subtle you-don’t-matter. ObamaCare supports numerous offices of women’s health despite the life expectancy of American males trailing the life expectancy of American females by more than five years. Where’s the Office of Men’s Health? Kathleen Sebelius’s Health and Human Services boasts a womenshealth.gov website. Search for the menshealth.gov site. It isn’t there. Instead, clicking on one of six tabs on the womenshealth.com site takes the browser to nineteen subtopics, one of which is “men’s health.” Earlier this month, the administration hosted a White House Forum on Women and the Economy. The male unemployment rate actually eclipses the female unemployment rate. The president created by executive order a White House Council on Women and Girls in his first months in office. What about the fellas?
From sex-based affirmative action to the birth-control mandate requiring insurance to provide a product that men pay for but can never use, Democrats advance policies to help women that sometimes come at the expense of men. This has electoral consequences.
Democrats imagine women as an interest group. But the notion of forging a male identity politics seems too preposterous to fathom. Yet, in a round-about way, Democrats have unintentionally fostered this disadvantageous situation. Of course, one can’t speak of the “men’s vote” in the same way that one speaks of a fairly homogenous “black vote” or “evangelical vote.” The interests of men, like those of women, are too diverse to fit into a genuine voting bloc. But men have proved far more loyal to Republican presidential candidates than women have to Democratic presidential candidates. In the last eight presidential elections, Republicans won a majority of women voters three times (whereas Democrats didn’t once win a majority of male voters). So why does all the talk about a gender gap revolve around Republican presidential candidates?
The narrative has less to do with documenting the past than it has to do with scripting the future. Barack Obama won with 56 percent of women’s ballots in 2008. His party got “shellacked” in 2010’s House races with the support of just 49 percent of American women. The president will no longer be president if women vote in 2012 as they did in 2010.
Contra Wasserman Schultz’s claims, it is Obama—not his enemies— “turning back the clock for women.” The president needs women to behave in the ballot box in 2012 as they did in 2008 if he is to win a second term. But there is no magic number of “war on women” incantations that can turn a ballot box into a time machine.
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