A running joke among liberals is that conservatives live in an alternate universe. The joke is so ubiquitous that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert built entire careers on it. But if the early reactions to their electoral defeats are to be taken seriously, then that joke about the alternate reality just became truth.
According to groups like anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List Mitt Romney should have spent more time debating President Obama on abortion. In a statement released Wednesday Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said Romney took a weak position on abortion that set the tone for Senate candidates and caused those losses as well. She said Romney was “wobbly” on social issues and called on conservatives to redouble their focus on abortion.
“Abortion meant rape in the minds of many voters because the debate was not fully engaged,” she said. Dannenfelser said Republicans seemed to have called “a de facto truce on social issues” while Democrats “launched a war.” Seriously.
But as Robin Marty points out, the opposite is in fact true. In races where abortion and reproductive health care were engaged to the electorate as a whole, voters rejected socially conservative candidates by wide margins. In cases where the hard-right candidates did well with voters they can thank the 2010 election prior. As Marty states:
Put them all together, and you see the power of re-districting, and the polarity of the voters at a glance. Ultra right-wing candidates were successful if they were incumbents, had a 50 percent chance of election if they were in a very conservative district, and when forced to appeal to the entire state versus a gerrymandered district overwhelmingly failed.
Social conservatives claim the answer to their electoral woes is to become more conservative, and that the answer to their shedding of women voters to become more anti-woman. For the rest of the Republican party, they might want to take Cecile Richards’ words to heart. “Anyone who doesn’t get this message — and I know there are people who don’t, because House folks are already trying to spin this — boy, it was clear in this country that despite Mitt Romney trying to say that women didn’t care about women’s health issues, they obviously did, because they didn’t vote for him,” Richards said in an interview with Huffington Post. “This was such an overwhelming statement about where women are in this country.”
“Back in the olden days, the Republican Party was the party that supported people’s individual rights and keeping government out of personal health care decisions, so I think there’s a history they can go back to,” Richards said. “A lot of Republicans used to support family planning, and Richard Nixon signed that first federal planning program into law. There’s a clear pathway to [win back women's support], and it’s to listen to the middle of their party instead of the extreme fringe.”
The problem, of course, is that social conservatives have taken over the Republican party and are no longer its fringe. And since they’ve established they don’t believe in reality, I guess we can expect to see a whole lot more anti-contraception, anti-abortion rhetoric from the right despite these losses.
Photo from DonkeyHotey via flickr.