Is The “War On Women” Over?

Reviewing some of the Democratic delusions shattered by Tuesday’s election results, Byron York remarks on how thoroughly the Democrats’ effort to paint the GOP as fundamentally hostile to women flopped:

There were times when the midterm Senate campaigns seemed entirely devoted to seeking the approval of women voters. The Udall campaign in Colorado was almost a parody of such an appeal to women, focusing so extensively on contraception and abortion that the Denver Post called it an “obnoxious one-issue campaign.” Beyond Udall, most Democrats hoped a gender gap would boost them to victory. As it turned out, there was a gender gap in Tuesday’s voting, but it favored Republicans. Exit polls showed that Democrats won women by seven points, while Republicans won men by 13 points. The numbers are definitive proof that, contrary to much conventional wisdom, Democrats have a bigger gender gap problem than the GOP. The elections showed precisely the opposite of what Democrats hoped they would.

Matt Lewis hopes this defeat marks the end of that scare tactic:

The war on women meme was always a farce to begin with. Republicans are moms, sisters, and wives. The attack rings especially hollow in a year when Republicans have elected so many firsts. West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Iowa’s Joni Ernst, for example, will both become the first female senators ever elected from their respective states. New York’s Elise Stefanik last night became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. And Utah’s Mia Love became the first Haitian-American member of Congress. I could go on…

But Ramesh doubts Democrats will give it a rest:

Gardner’s win and Ernst’s likely win won’t end this campaign tactic, because Democrats figure that it motivates low-propensity voters to show up–and therefore will assume it will work better in 2016. The tactic will have to be seen to fail in a presidential year before they will abandon it.

Marcotte blames the failure of the “war on women” talking point on the war on women itself, noting that the GOP’s 64 percent share of the white men’s vote was their widest advantage among that demographic in 30 years. That was no accident, she argues:

[I]f you turned on conservative media, you heard a much different story than the cautious moderation that actual Republican politicians were trying to sell. Conservative outlets spent the past few months really ramping up the narrative of poor, put-upon white men who are under attack by women. Or, more specifically, single women. A small sampling: Tucker Carlson of Fox News complaining that the country needs “Older White Guy Appreciation Day.” Rush Limbaugh claiming there’s an “all-out assault” on marriage from liberals and suggesting that single women need to be married off so they stop voting for Democrats. Kimberly Guilfoyle of Fox News arguing that single women are too busy being “healthy and hot and running around without a care in the world” to handle civic duties like voting and jury duty properly and therefore should busy themselves with “Tinder or” instead.

In addition to securing the female vote, this line of attack was supposed to help turn out young voters for the Democrats, but it didn’t do that either. Elizabeth Nolan Brown wonders if they might have had more success with Millennials if they had run on a broader youth-focused platform:

I’d love to be able to peer into some alternate reality where Democrats like Udall had campaigned on opposition to CIA torture and NSA spying; or had attempted to motivate their minority bases by focusing on issues like those coming out of Ferguson, Missouri; or had hitched their wagon to marijuana legalization in states where it was on the ballot. These are some of the issues that matter most right now to young voters …

Could campaigns that emphasized opposition to civil-liberties abuses, police brutality, and drug criminalization have captured more ballot-box love from millennials? As we’ve seen in poll after poll—from Harvard’s to Pew Research Center’s to our own here at Reason—millennials are massively dissatisfied with traditional partisan options and more likely than any young cohort previously to consider themselves political independents. And those issues are ones not necessarily beholden to a natural partisan divide. A Republican or a Democratic candidate who ran with them could well capture post-party, post-Hope millennial passions (along with older independents, too, of course).