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Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli lost the gubernatorial race in Virginia. A couple of weeks before the election, I wrote a piece predicting he would lose and that it would be driven by the war on women. While I recognized then and now that there are many factors that affect an election’s outcome, I find this one particularly troublesome for many reasons: It was a major element in the Democratic strategy against Mitt Romney in 2012, leading to his loss; it was a huge part of the ad campaign against Cuccinelli, and he lost despite gains in the late hour due to the Obamacare rollout; and it will be a significant component of the Democratic strategy in 2014 and 2016.
But, you might be saying, the Democrats use a variety of issues to demonize the right, not just the war on women—they use allegations of racism, the environment, immigration, etc. I agree. However, the war on women is light-years more significant—and deadly. Here’s why.
Republicans believe they have a winning message with Obamacare. The rollout has been a disaster, and people are waking up to see that they’re actually going to have to pay for the “Affordable” Healthcare Act. The Obamacare debacle even had an impact on the Virginia race, as McAuliffe saw his lead among women shrink in the days leading up to the election. The truth about Obamacare was winning the day, leading many Republicans to believe that they can win if they just stick with this message. Women, surely, will turn against the Democrats and their war-on-women narrative and vote for Republicans to get rid of Obamacare. That’s the silver lining. That’s the hope.
Except for one thing: The Democrats already have a plan in place and they’re going to neutralize the GOP Obamacare advantage among women by convincing them that Obamacare itself is a “woman’s issue.” The war on women will not be lessened by the abominable healthcare act; it will be intensified and even strengthened. The GOP’s greatest advantage could become it’s greatest weakness.
Liberal culture warriors are already on the move: Stephen Colbert—the news guru for many young women in America—mocked Fox News this week for being “outraged” that under Obamacare “women are equal to men.”
Oh, Obamacare—so rife with problems! The disgrace of having a barely functional Web site is overshadowed only by the appalling fact that the healthcare act makes women (gasp) equal to men!
“When it comes to medical care, men always get the short end of the long end of the scope,” joked Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report.” “You see folks — up until now, health insurance in America has always struck a delicate balance. Women paid higher premiums than men, and in return, men paid less. The system worked.”
“Under Obamacare, men will pay the same amount as women,” said Colbert, expressing mock outrage, “and yet we still don’t get to pass a cantaloupe with toenails through our genitals!”
- The Los Angeles Times and other media are already exposing how heartless conservatives are for not wanting women to have maternity coverage. The exchange between Kathleen Sebelius and Renee Ellmers (R-NC) is fuel for their fire—and it’s spreading:
Anti-Obamacare conservatives are chuckling over an exchange from the House’s grilling of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday morning, in which Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) challenged Sebelius to explain why men should have to pay for maternity coverage in their health insurance plans.
“To the best of your knowledge, has a man ever delivered a baby?” Ellmers asked. Ellmers and her cheering section seem to think this was hilarious, a conclusive, slam-dunk, let-me-hear-a-rimshot punchline. “Ellmers was on her ‘A’ game,” the deep thinkers over at Breitbart decided. The reality is, of course, that Ellmers’ question revealed only her profound ignorance about how health insurance works, and her lack of desire to learn. And that goes for everyone else who thought this was a smart, telling blow.
The article goes on to explain why maternity care is so important—and necessary:
- It takes two to tango. It’s true, as Ellers observed, no man has ever given birth to a baby. It’s also true that no baby has ever been born without a man being involved somewhere along the line. Limit maternity coverage only to women of childbearing age, and you’re giving many of these guys a free pass.
- Society has a vested interest in healthy babies and mothers. And that’s all society, because unhealthy babies and mothers impose a cost on everybody — in the expense of caring for them as wards of the public, and in the waste of social resources that comes from children unable to reach their full potential as members of society because of injuries or illnesses caused by poor prenatal and postnatal health.
- Universal coverage is the only way to make maternity coverage affordable.
- Liberal activist groups are already in motion. A campaign called #GetCovered is being promoted by organizations hell-bent to convince women that no matter the costs or failings of Obamacare, it’s worth it because it’s about protecting women’s health and their rights.
After the rollout, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) tweeted, “Being a woman is no longer a preexisting condition.” This will be repeated from now until election day 2016. And it will resonate. It will resonate because women will become convinced that Republicans who want to delay, defund, repeal, or fix Obamacare want to take away their reproductive health coverage. Nasty Republicans want women back in the kitchen, barefoot, pregnant, and uninsured.
As Elizabeth Warren said, “I have a daughter and I have granddaughters and I will never vote to let a group of backward-looking ideologues cut women’s access to birth control. We have lived in that world and we are not going back. Not ever.”
Now, groups like the Feminist Majority, Get Covered America, Young Invincibles, and the National Women’s Law Center are in full community-organizing mode to push the narrative that Obamacare is good for women, and anyone who wants to get rid of Obamacare is against women.
- The left is glossing over Obamacare’s failures with war-on-women messaging, motivating women to support the healthcare act because they’ve been treated unfairly by men in the past. This headline from the New Republic speaks volumes : “Obamacare Makes Men Pay for Maternity Care. Good!”
Stories of real-life Obamacare “rate shock” have revived an old debate: Previously, health insurers could charge women higher premiums than they charged men. Insurers could also exclude maternity benefits. Obamacare prohibits those practices and conservatives are angry. Why should men have to pay higher insurance prices for services they will never use directly?
This is it. This is the narrative. It’s about women’s rights. The GOP wants to take those rights away. It’s the “old debate” and it’s ongoing (the left will never let it go as long as it’s working). Under the “old system,” women were taken advantage of by men. Under Obamacare, women are protected and given equality. And conservatives are angry about it!
Conservatives are the enemy, ladies, and don’t you forget it. The problems with Obamacare—the higher prices, limited choices, lower quality of care—pale in comparison to angry conservatives wanting to take away your equality and your rights. Don’t let them. Vote for Democrats. #GetCovered.
- Democrats are there to help, no matter how confusing the law is. They’re the compassionate ones. As Kaiser Health News says,
You’ve heard people arguing about Obamacare (officially known as The Affordable Care Act or ACA) for months … but you may have tuned it all out, because it’s all so confusing and you don’t even know how — or if — it affects you.
But starting in 2014, the law will require people who can afford insurance to carry it or risk paying a fine, so now’s the time to pay attention. And the fact is, you may discover that there are lots of benefits you’ll be able to take advantage of.
And what are those benefits?
- You can stay on your parents’ health policy until you turn 26.
- You’re entitled to free preventive care, including birth control.
- You’ll have maternity coverage, no matter what. You can’t be charged more than a guy.
- You can’t be rejected for having a “pre-existing condition.”
- If you’re a breastfeeding mom, you can pump at work more comfortably. …The law also requires health plans to cover the costs of breastfeeding equipment and breastfeeding counseling without a copay.
This is the message. This is what will be promoted to counter the failures of Obamacare. And if the GOP doesn’t invest some brains and money into a counter-narrative and take this “war on women” seriously, they will lose. Yes, the debacle of Obamacare could be an advantage—but the left isn’t going to sit idly by and let it become a club in the hands of the GOP. They’re not sitting idly by now. They’re on the move. What is the GOP doing?
Photo Credit: Tabitha Kaylee Hawk/southerntabitha on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)