According to the New York Times, this Monday, the Obama reelection effort will take advantage of our National “Conversation” about women’s issues to launch a mailing campaign aimed at female voters in battleground states. Materials will be sent to independents, with “separate versions for mothers, young women and older women.” Additionally, organizers will reach out via “phone banks, campus activities, house parties and media events featuring local residents helped by the [the administration’s new heath care] law,” all of which will be capped off by a “Women’s Week of Action” later in the month.
While women have long tended toward the Democrats, the Obama team has been presented with a unique opportunity to win over a large swath of undecided voters who, it has become clear, are increasingly put off by the Republican candidates’ apparent fixation on their sex lives. (Rick Santorum and his vociferous anti-birth control/prenatal testing/single motherhood views seem to draw particular ire.) Via the Times:
“Everybody is so busy telling us how we should act in the bedroom, they’re letting the country fall through the cracks,” said Fran Kelley, a retired public school worker in Seattle who voted for Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama in the 2008 election. Of the Republican candidates this year, she added, “They’re nothing but hatemongers trying to control everyone, saying, ‘Live as I live.’”
And then — of course! — there’s Rush Limbaugh who, while not technically a Republican politician, added his signature brand of fuel to this fire with his “slut” outburst. Following that, the Right has attempted to drum up similar disgust for liberal commentators, with mixed results: Last week, comedian Louis C.K. backed out of his hosting gig at the Radio & Television Correspondents' Association, right after Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren announced she would boycott the event over his presence. Referring to his use of the word cunt to describe Sarah Palin, she said, “He denigrates all women and looks to the crowd to laugh." Similarly, Republicans have called for a pro-Obama Super PAC to return $1 million donated by comedian Bill Maher, who has used the aforementioned slur in reference Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. This morning, during an appearance on ABC’s This Week, Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer shot down the idea:
"Rush Limbaugh's comments were just nasty and directed at a particular young woman who had a particular point of view and was expressing herself. Bill Maher's a comedian. It's much different...Rush Limbaugh has tremendous weight in the Republican Party and no one will rebut him. Bill Maher's a comedian who's on at 11 o'clock at night, but has very little influence on what's happening here."
Of course, it’s true that comedians like Maher and C.K. (and MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, who recently apologized for calling Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut”) do not have the kind of party influence that Limbaugh does. The fact that so many people consider Limbaugh to be the de facto leader of the Republican Party is the Republican Party’s (and Mitt Romney’s!) problem. And, as mentioned, the Republicans’ apparent inability to produce a leader who can manage to re-frame this issue is good for the Democrats. However, it would be a good thing for everyone if all this shouting resulted in something besides votes for one side or another — like, perhaps, a bipartisan commitment to coming up with words other than slut for women with whom you disagree. As the Washington Post’s Melinda Henneberger pointed out, “The problem is that somehow, a sexist rant is only a sexist rant when it’s an attack on a woman in our own party.”