Mitt Romney won the faux “war on women” last week, not because he could point to a particular time frame during which women fared worse than men in the Obama economy, but because he got lucky and pounced when Hilary Rosen gave him the gift of gaffe.
The Wall Street Journal editors argue there are better argument to be made that current policies are anti-woman:
Most married women are second earners. That means their income is added to that of their husband’s and thus often taxed at a high marginal rate. This “marriage penalty” has never fully been adjusted for in the tax code. A married woman working on an assembly line keeps less of her paycheck than the unwed man who does the same job. That’s real inequality in pay for women. . . .
Mr. Romney might note the damage done to women by antiquated but still operative labor law, such as a provision in the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act that requires hourly workers who put in more than 40 hours a week to get overtime. While some women like overtime, a 1990s poll found that 81% said they’d rather pack more hours into fewer days and receive compensatory time off. . . .
Social Security can be generous to women who lose their husbands or who never work, but it perversely provides meager additional benefits for women who work their entire lives. Women more frequently are left to plan for death taxes.
Strictly speaking, these are anti-stay-at-home-parent or anti-second- earner. They are worth revisiting. But does Romney or the country win with a fight over who is more anti-woman? Or anti-Hispanic?
It is tempting for Mitt Romney to fight fire with fire, and based on this past week it’s hard to quibble with success. But ultimately it is a losing proposition to try to match Democrats stride for stride in the “anti” games. Democrats will always pander more, play the misogyny (or race) card more effectively and be more shameless in gimmickry (e.g. the Buffett rule). That they and their liberal allies in the blogosphere lay claim to the high ground is a tribute to their audacity.
Romney would do far better to decline to and indeed condemn the “anti” game. Romney’s advantage lies in articulating an inclusive, positive pro-growth, inclusive message. He needs to be the “no blue states, no red states” candidate. Truth be told, Obama’s economic policies don’t discriminate — they are rotten for men and women, old and young, and every ethnic group. The anti-business, anti-growth, anti-fiscal-discipline, anti-defense-spending Obama policies are the anti’s on which Romney should focus.
Romney caught a break this past week. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude fighting divisiveness with divisiveness is a viable campaign strategy.