Can Rand Paul Get Votes From Women? (Hint: He Already Has)

Just a week ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a leading GOP figure for libertarian policies geared around reducing the size, scope, and spending, was assailed at Time.com for prematurely declaring that the "war on women" is over and the women had won. According to Paul:

“The whole thing with the War on Women, I sort of laughingly say, ‘yeah there might have been,’ but the women are winning it."

After wrangling with stats that showed women surging ahead of men in some areas and lagging behind in others, Charlotte Alter wrote,

The fact that Rand Paul thinks the war on women is over means he had no idea what it was about in the first place. Nobody accused the Republican party of standing in the way of women going to veterinary school– women’s financial and educational advancements are propelled by social changes that aren’t being specifically debated on the Senate floor. The “War on Women” is about abortion rights and access to affordable contraception more than anything, and Paul is fighting against both of them.

Read the whole piece here.

Yesterday in The New York Times, columnist Maureen Dowd interviewed Paul and seemed more sympathetic to him, even dubbing him "not-so-bland," which practically passes for a Mae West-style come-on from the the author of Are Men Necessary? The junior senator has figured out a legitimate way to "make Monica haunt Hillary's dreams."

Paul reiterated to me that he disdains the Democratic “hypocrisy within the party that wants to blame Republicans for somehow not liking women, that somehow we’re this party that has some kind of war going on, and they have as a leader and one of the most prominent fund-raising people in their party still to this very day, a person who seems in some ways to have his own private war on women.”

He's speaking of Bill Clinton, of course. Dowd continues:

Veterans of Hillaryworld admired Paul’s savvy appeal to the base. As one noted dryly, “When you’re playing with the hard-core base, there’s no statute of limitations on crazy fooling around with an intern in the Oval Office.”

I agree that Paul’s aim was true. He distracted from the Republicans’ abysmal war on women by pointing at an abysmal moment in feminist history, when feminists betrayed their principles to defend a president who had behaved in a regressive way with women because he had progressive policies on women.

Instead of owning up, Bill Clinton forced his humiliated wife, a feminist icon, and women in his cabinet — Madeleine Albright and Donna Shalala — into the dreadful position of defending him when he was lying about his conduct.

Paul also tells Dowd, "I’ve never met a Republican who was against birth control or who thought that somehow we would try to prevent women from having birth control.”

Read the whole column.

Is Rand Paul accurate when he says that Republicans aren't against birth control? I did a quick search for GOP leaders who have inveighed against the very idea of contraception. Not an exhaustive search by any means, but nothing turned up, even among the strongly Catholic folks such as Rick Santorum. There's no question that the Republicans are often, even typically, against state-funded birth control, and strongly against forcing employers to cover contraceptives via Obamacare mandates (among liberals and those further out on the left, there is often no distinction between allowing something and having the government pay for it).

There's no question that Paul is strongly anti-abortion. Yet contra Charlotte Alter in Time, it's far from clear that being in favor of abortion in any way reflects gender. As Gallup has shown for decades, men's and women's positions on abortion are essentially the same (indeed, by some measures, men are more supportive of abortion). Pew documents that women are more likely to favor the contraceptive mandates in Obamacare and they are more likely to identify as Democrats (in 2012, for instance, about 52 percent of women identified as Democratic, compared to about 42 percent of men; while the numbers change, that 10-point gap has stayed pretty constant).

Yet it's clear that on at least some issues, Republicans who follow Rand Paul's lead on foreign policy and war are in synch with female voters. Women, Pew finds, are substantially more likely than men to favor diplomacy and cast a cold eye on military strength as a means to "achieving peace."

The "War on Women" meme isn't going away any time soon, of course, but as women achieve economic parity with men (as Alter notes, women make up 57 percent of college students and 48 percent of med school grads; Millennial women make 93 percent of what their male counterparts do), it's likely that gender will fade as a clear indicator of voting preference. If Rand Paul can charm Maureen Dowd - and score points with "veterans of Hillaryworld" - while convincing women that he's not an existential threat to contraception, he may be a national GOP figure who will close the gender gap in 2016. In his 2010 Senate race, after all, he won women by 1 percentage point over his challenger.

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  • Doctor Whom||

    Of course the teathuglicans are against birth control. Not giving away something for which a third party has been forced to pay is exactly the same thing as banning it.

  • WTF||

    Not giving away something for which a third party has been forced to pay is exactly the same thing as banning it.

    It's access. By not paying for it you are "denying them access".

  • Pulseguy||

    You're forcing them into making that cold decision of 'a new pair of shoes?', or birth control. How cruel.

  • ||

    The great rebuttal to access is: "Condoms are 5.99 at Walmart."

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The “War on Women” is about abortion rights and access to affordable contraception more than anything

    It's always refreshing when Progs admit they're mendacious twits with all the moral sophistication of a toddler in the midst of a tantrum.

    Thanks Alter, you hipster piece of shit!

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Considering that you couldn't even spell "mulatto" correctly, I'm not surprised the irony behind my forum handle, not to mention the allusion to an old literary trope, is well beyond your comprehension. Of course, your education solely came from reading the back of cereal boxes, so I'm not surprised.

  • Adam330||

    I think this is the first time I've seen one of them admit this. I recall some conservatives claiming the War on Women meme was just an abortion thing during the election, and all the liberals denying that it was limited to that, claiming it was also about equal pay, workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, and the like.

  • Pelosi's Rabbit||

    Actually, it's still a lie: it wasn't about affordable contraception, but free contraception.

  • pmains||

    Hm. I guess I don't see where Alter is owning up to any of that. It appears to me that he's just moving the pea under a different shell.

    Irregardless, I've always thought of the War on Women as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.

  • gaijin||

    You mean to suggest that 'women' are not some homogenous block of hive-minded humans whose identity is defined only by their genitals?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    No, you're thinking of Evangelicals.

  • gaijin||

    So evangelicals and progressives do have something in common :)

  • Crusty Juggler||

    All women think Andie McDowell is beautiful and Jennifer Love Hewitt is a big slut slutty-pants.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Paul is right to gently mock the 'war on women'. There's a thread of pure hysterical nonsense running through the theme and some women are aware of the manipulation. I'm sure Paul knows about the marriage gap in voting patterns. He's nudging it with this comment.

    My instinct is to drive an ice pick through the eye of the next talking head or dem politician who uses it.

  • GILMORE||

    Serious dialog, Mary.

  • pmains||

    Does anybody recall what the gist of Mary's comment was?

  • pmains||

    I am sure I will be sorry if I actually find out, but the phantom comment suggested by the extra indentation is tantalizing.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    A sister is not down with the cause? GET HER!

  • Eitan||

    To my mind the "war on women" is the new "won't someone think of the children". It's just a political dog whistle bereft of any substance meant to put an opponent immediately on the defensive.

  • Sunmonocle Backwards Tophat||

    I don't understand the rallying appeal of the "War on Women". I hate feeling manipulated. If the GOP started a "War on Libertarians" movement with a bunch of black-rimmed cosmotarians standing behind John Boehner, I'd be less likely to support whatever he had to say. Imagine an ad that discussed grain subsidies with the headline "Would a caveman eat grain? Then why should you be encouraged to?" That stereotyping would turn me off, even though I hate grain subsidies and eat a paleo-influenced diet. Is the appeal that you're part of a victimized group?

    Also, TIWTANLW.

  • eyeroller||

    I don't think it's appropriate for the Reason Foundation to be promoting Rand Paul so much.

  • GILMORE||

    What do you mean by 'appropriate'?

    Is there someone in congress who is a more interesting, libertarian-leaning candidate who's not getting enough exposure?

  • KevinP||

    As a political independent, I am perplexed whenever I hear about the so-called Republican War on Women. There are plenty of Democrats and liberals involved in the "War Against Women". You will never hear about them in leftie circles because they get a pass in spite of their disgusting and sexist actions.

    There Is a War on Women, But Not From Republicans:
    http://http://www.usnews.com/o.....r-on-women

  • KevinP||

  • KevinP||

    Boston Herald: Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Carlos Henriquez still working although he is in prison for 
assault and battery of a woman he was dating

    http://http://bostonherald.com....._henriquez

  • KevinP||

    "I got a boner when I walked into the office today when I saw you" - NY Democrat Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak

    http://www.jammiewf.com/2013/d.....i-saw-you/

  • Sunmonocle Backwards Tophat||

    The grammar is the most offensive part.

  • KevinP||

  • KevinP||

  • KevinP||

    Washington Examiner: The Peace Corps (liberal stronghold) refuses to provide information on the sexual assaults on its volunteers to its own Inspector General

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/.....le/2540121

  • Shamus||

    It's not just a matter of paying for contraception. Rick Santorum is on record stating that he believes states should be able to ban contraceptives altogether.

  • Acosmist||

    Rick Santorum, relevant in your mind and nowhere else.

  • Shamus||

    He was a front runner for a while to be the Republican nominee in 2012 and carried 11 states. The srticle states that the author could find nothing showing that Santorum was against the idea of contraception. Santorum spoke about the "dangers of contraception" in an interview with the evangelical Christian blog Caffeinated Thoughts.

  • MJGreen||

    access to affordable contraception

    These people just cannot use language. It's one thing to say, "access to contraception, and by access we mean affordable and thus realistically obtainable by all." But qualifying contraception with affordable makes that redundant, and so the only possible interpretation is, "there cannot be impediments to buying affordable contraception." What has Paul done or proposed to create such impediments? What has he done to deny access?

    It goes without saying that the FDA is guilty of precisely this, as it could make the pill OTC and remove a huge barrier to affordable contraception. But subsidizing contraception is not increasing "access to affordable contraception," because the contraception is supposedly already affordable. And now my head is imploding.

  • GILMORE||

    "MJGreen|2.3.14 @ 10:54AM|#

    ""access to affordable contraception""

    These people just cannot use language

    FRAMING.

    They know what they're doing.

    It doesn't even matter what republicans are doing. Its the fact that they're NOT supporting Obama's sops to wimminkind that makes them hateful obstructionist womenhaters.

  • R C Dean||

    as women achieve economic parity with men . . . it's likely that gender will fade as a clear indicator of voting preference.

    I doubt that. I think the wiring that makes women more favorable to BigGov (generalizing!) goes deeper than a cold economic calculation that will change when they "achieve economic parity".

    And thanks for accepting the flawed premise that women haven't already achieved economic parity in the sense that they are being paid market rate for what they actually do, and there are no external barriers to them doing, and getting paid for, pretty much anything they want.

  • GILMORE||

    "feminists betrayed their principles to defend a president who had behaved in a regressive way with women because he had progressive policies on women"

    Wait, what?

    ok I had to read that like 3 times before it actually made sense. "Chauvinist Creep Supports Policies Women Favor"

    When I think about this, though - what policies did Clinton actually impose other than to make the whole univocal 'pro-choice' moniker a defining wedge issue for the democrats?

    (and I note= Obama is trying to resuscitate immigration as a major wedge issue out of desperation, because other *actual policies* are failing miserably)

    I really don't think aside from the now-old RU248 there's been any single major push by the GOP to do anything federal about birth control. The fact that some states are still fighting the kulturwars, and that one of the major challenges to the ACA has been on religious objections to paying for contraception, has been levered into some kind of "outrage revival" where the Dems are trying to create some kind of thematic reason to keep women pulling the TEAM BLUE lever regardless of how incompetent they are.

    I'd think the right strategy here would be to Point Out what the Dems are doing = they're treating women like their own little protected species, and telling them not to think for themselves. Its insulting. I think rand had a decent idea in declaring the whole thing stupid, but I'm not sure he pulled it off well in the end.

  • Christophe||

    He managed to essentially defuse the question, forcing the ones pushing that line of reasoning to back it up.

    Now they're forced to acknowledge the sticking point is just abortion and subsidized contraception, and it's a lot harder to make that stick.

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