While some Republicans think they may get by now and in 2014 by simply pointing fingers at the numerous Obama administration scandals, forward-looking Republicans are trying to attend to the party’s message and policy deficits. The YG Network, a 501(c)4 founded by John Murray, former chief for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, has rolled out a new Web site, Woman Up.
Its introduction argues:
Nearly 40 percent of working wives out-earn their husbands and in another 20 years it is expected that a majority of women – not men – will be the ones who bring home the most bacon for their families.
With the shift in breadwinning, comes a shift in financial decision making as well. The 10th anniversary edition of Prudential’s “Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women” study suggests, “Women are more involved than ever in their households’ investment and financial decision-making. In fact, 95 percent of women are the financial decision-makers in their households.”
Women vote. They make money. They make financial decisions. And their numbers are growing in business, too. Yet Washington politicians continue to try to herd women into the corner and address only the things they perceive as women’s top issues: abortion, contraception.
Moreover, from a GOP perspective, women voters are more easily gettable in larger numbers without a majority adjustment in the party’s policy objectives. However, to expand its appeal, the GOP will need to reset its priorities.
In national polling, the YG Network found that among women voters, the GOP would do better to “move beyond simply debt and deficit reduction, and should focus on growing the economy and creating jobs.” The numbers are striking:
By over a two-to-one margin (64% to 31%), respondents say a growing free market economy that creates more jobs and better paying jobs in the private sector is more important than a larger federal government that is able to provide more service and benefits to the needy and middle class families. . . .
Eight in ten (80%) agree that the 3.5 million able-bodied adults with no dependents who receive food stamps risk long-term dependency and should be obligated to work or actively seek employment in exchange for food stamps. . . .
Three in five (59%) agree we should expand drilling off-shore and on federal lands after knowing that the United States has enough natural gas to meet our energy needs for 90 years.
Many items on the conservative reform agenda are popular with women voters, regardless of ideology (e.g. transparency in college tuition costs, domestic energy development).
Among women voters, the straight “no” line isn’t all that popular. But “instead of X, then Y” gets more support. For example, “55% believe the immigration system is broken because of previous broken promises about enforcement and [they] support incremental reforms that would require securing the border and verifying legal status before any illegal immigrants are given legal status. One in three (33%) believe large-scale deportations are impossible and the current broken system must be fixed on a comprehensive basis with legal status for illegal immigrants and commitments to enforce immigration laws.” And on health care, more women favor fixing Obamacare (34 percent) than repealing it (27 percent).
Republicans who seek appeal beyond the core base of voters (who aren’t sufficient to win at the presidential level and in many Senate races) should look with interest at this data. In fact, the things that appeal to women voters — focus on the economy, a pragmatic approach to immigration, skepticism about Obamacare, support for energy development — also attract independent voters and reach nonwhite voters.
The get-rid-of-all-government mantra may excite some pundits and think-tankers but it holds little appeal for those beyond the core right-wing base. Simply cutting government and repealing Obamacare aren’t political winners for the GOP. A reform agenda that embraces energy development, making college more affordable, immigration with border security and measures to promote work and encourage a vibrant private sector are much more attractive for the voters Republicans must reach.
Too many ideologues on the right react with revulsion to the suggestion that government must help people and that voters expect “fairness” from government and some empathy from leaders. These conservatives have become so accustomed to talking within the conservative echo chamber that they have stopped listening to and trying to understand the majority of the electorate.
The alternative to liberalism isn’t liberalism-lite, but neither is it some theoretical vision of a greatly shrunken federal government. It is about describing a vision of limited government in which what government chooses to do is done effectively and with an eye toward empowering voters. That’s the key to the GOP’s future.