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Mitch McConnell gets the credit for being the first to invoke the gender card against Hilary Clinton. That means that the pundits have started talking about what it will mean in the coming election for Hillary Clinton, and The Washington Post‘s Plum Line has a better-than-average summation.
The first item of concern to Republicans is the historic symbolism of the possibility of the first female president. Of course, the logical response to that is to refer to the less-than-stellar results we received by making history with Obama. Hillary’s people will be hoping for that response, because it will lead to the inevitable question: Why do we need a woman president… other than to make history?
Hillary’s campaign is hoping to bring up what they consider women’s issues, which Plum Line’s Paul Waldman correctly lists as abortion, equal pay, paid sick leave, and child care. Normally, these have been disastrous issues for Republicans to navigate, mostly because the standard argument against government intervention in employment issues is a non-starter. Sure, it resonates with a base that prizes free markets or at least some level of governmental deregulation, but it doesn’t fly with people who are more concerned with how they will pay for day-care. Hillary is targeting women voters, and this is why she could win.
But, what happens if Republicans counter with more than just “keep government out of business”? Leaving abortion out of this — since Planned Parenthood is arguably helping to take that issue off the table for Republicans now anyway — the focus in 2016 will probably be on workplace issues. Instead of trying (yet again) to point out that women tend to choose jobs with lower pay scales, a better argument from conservatives would be that we need to encourage women to learn how to negotiate for higher wages.
The call should be for a change in society that removes the negative image that is often attached to women that stand up for themselves, and Republicans already have a messenger for that in the form of Carly Fiorina. Sick leave and child care are both sometimes offered by low-wage employers, but — when they are forced to meet radically higher wage requirements — those perks tend to dry up.
That is something else that Republicans should be able to show women, thanks to the social engineering experiments in minimum wage increases in Seattle and elsewhere. The point is to say more than just “that’s not true” about these issues. Start offering some real proof, and more importantly, real solutions. Hillary will not be doing that, if her current speeches are any indication. She’s sticking with playing on people’s emotions, and talking only in broad strokes, not details.
Finally, the biggest weapon that Hillary will have against Republicans is conservatives’ desire to attack her. As painful as it may be, we need to give up the habit of beating up on Hillary, because she’s fully prepared to play that victim card right after she pulls the gender one. It’s a smart move on her part, too. After Obama spending all these years dividing everyone, anything that is remotely close to negative isn’t going to play well with the masses. Be nice, and stick with the issues. Just say no to the personal attacks, and mean memes on social media. Be the bigger person. No, it’s not realistic to think that everyone will follow those rules, but at least the candidates need to do that, until we’re down to just one. Even then, keep it all business, and leave the personal attacks out of it.