Heading into the midterm elections, the Republican party is well aware that the women’s vote could be what makes or breaks their ability to take control of both chambers of the legislature this year. They’ve held classes on how to talk to women, they’ve brought in female spokespeople to campaign on their behalf and they’ve done massive polling to try to better understand what it is women want and will vote in favor of when picking candidates.
All that money, all that research, all the effort and they still can’t get it right. Now they even have the report that proves it. Politico received a copy of a report detailing the GOP’s ongoing “women’s issue,” a report compiled by two large GOP political action committees. The report explains that despite the party’s attempts to woo female voters, they still aren’t any more popular than they were before.
“The report is blunt about the party’s problems. It says 49 percent of women view Republicans unfavorably, while just 39 percent view Democrats unfavorably,” reports Politico. “It also found that Republicans ‘fail to speak to women in the different circumstances in which they live’ — as breadwinners, for example. ‘This lack of understanding and acknowledgment closes many minds to Republican policy solutions,’ the report says.”
Tucked into the article’s list of ways the GOP has failed to make inroads in winning over women is an explanation that the party’s two major policy attempts to attract female voters — charter schools and flextime work schedules — have actually been two of the topics women voters have shown the least interest in. Republicans seem perplexed as to why more women aren’t excited by these key issues. In reality, the fact that the GOP thinks flextime would be the most exciting perk to offer a woman voter shows exactly how out of touch they really are about the realities of women in the workforce.
Flextime as a concept seems like an amazing idea. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to consolidate or change her work hours to better fit your lifestyle? But taken as a real world solution, flextime doesn’t do anything to aid most women workers. Flextime is the luxury of office jobs and managerial level or higher work, which is far more likely to be the realm of male workers. Women workers, meanwhile, make up more than half of minimum wage jobs, are prominent in service industries and as domestic workers, as well as health services and education. Many of these jobs are lucky if a person can make a living wage and especially support a family, and are manual and face to face and cannot be done remotely or in partial shifts.
Flextime, as the GOP presents it to women, is an option for mothers to be more involved in their children’s lives while still working a job and earning money, too. Child care situations don’t fit into any sort of flextime model, tough. Flextime workers are still at the whim of a school system and before and after school care rules that don’t offer any additional flexibility. What good is a 4 day, 40 hour work week if you cannot find a daycare open for the entire time you are at work for those full four days, or if you are going to get charged the same for four days of care as you would for five? Who will care for your children if you are working on the weekends in order to have time off to do school pickup during the week? Or worse yet, if you split a shift at reduced hours to manage work and family, how will you afford the mortgage or groceries, and will you have just lost your medical insurance since you no longer work full time?
It’s no wonder that, as a carrot for the women’s vote, flextime has been decidedly unpopular. The small pool of women it would actually assist, salaried, white collar working mothers, isn’t deep enough to do much to change the numbers when it comes to an election. Yet real reforms that could assist everyone — equal pay, affordable health care, quality public schools and universal pre-K and daycare subsidies — are all on the list of issues the GOP either wants to simply ignore or actively crusade against.
Republicans know they have a woman voter problem, and instead of answering it with real, popular, effective policies, they are instead asking themselves how little they have to give in order to get just enough voters to push them over the top and secure the senate in November.
That, right there, is the GOPs real problem with women. That we are only something that needs to be assuaged enough to get them where they want to go, and nothing more. That’s the lesson we need to take to the polls in November.
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