By Adrienne Kimmell
Two major Republican groups paid for eight focus groups and surveys of 800 female voters to find out what I could have told them for free: Women think the GOP is stuck in the past.
The report offers three strategies to help the party connect with women who see them as “out of touch”; “stuck in the past”; and “intolerant.” Two of them focus on flipping the narrative when faced with talk about the party’s awful track record supporting fairness for women and changing the subject when asked about abortion.
Of course, not all Republicans are the problem; it is the party’s overall image that is. To be sure, there are plenty of Republican voters who agree the party has lost touch and is moving further from representing their values when it comes to fairness and equality.
They, too, are sending a message to the party itself: You can talk all you want, but women want to see you walk the walk. If the party is serious about gaining ground with women, they need to be serious about the third prong of their strategy: “inject[ing] unexpected policy proposals into the debate.”
The report lists things like improving job-training programs and expanding home health care services as ways to innovate their policy debates. But how about listening to women and following through on what they’re telling the party, loud and clear? The focus groups and polls found that women believe ensuring equal pay for equal work is the policy that would help women the most. Yet, time and again, Congressional Republicans have blocked legislation that would do just that.
The GOP doesn’t need a three-pronged approach to mitigate the damage caused by years of out-of-touch policies and foot-in-mouth moments by men in their party. They need to see women for the powerful voting bloc and economic drivers they are – and treat them that way (like people, perhaps?). Women account for 85 percent of consumer purchases and are 51 percent of the population. They have the power of the purse and at the polls.
Many Republican office holders say they support equal pay for women, but their votes prove otherwise. They need to make bold moves to show women they will buck tradition and evolve into this century. They can start by supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act and other proposals to level the playing field for women at work.
And here’s another idea: Show women the party is serious about changing its reputation by working to elect more women to represent them (There are currently 23 Republican women in the U.S. House and Senate combined, compared to 76 Democratic women).
Voters believe we need more diversity in office, including more women who are in touch with real life. They give woman points for “getting it” in a way that men don’t. If the GOP wants to connect with women, they can start with their own candidates.
Now, that would be unexpected.