November 9, 2014
A funny thing happened in the “war on women” — Mia Love and Joni Ernst won, Wendy Davis and Sandra Fluke lost. The representative who will be the youngest woman ever to have served in Congress, Elise Stefanik, is a Republican who won a formerly Democratic seat — not in Oklahoma or Texas but in New York. Senator-elect Ernst is a 21-year veteran of the Army Reserve and National Guard who served overseas during the Iraq war; Representative-elect Love, a daughter of Haitian immigrants who came to the United States fleeing the Tonton Macoutes, is a former city councilman and mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah.
The difference could not be more dramatic: The Democrats’ vision of an American woman’s life was best expressed in the Obama campaign’s insipid “Julia” cartoons, in which a faceless, featureless woman at every crossroads in her life turns to the federal government, as personified by Barack Obama, for succor and support. From negotiating a salary to managing her pregnancy, Julia cannot do anything for herself — at every turn, she is reminded that she enjoys political patronage “under President Obama,” in the campaign’s psychosexually fraught and insistently reiterated phrase. So much for the Democrats. And the Republican women of 2014? They helped fight wars and made new lives for themselves on foreign shores. They were women who ran for office on policy platforms, not on their uteruses.
Wendy Davis came to national prominence after filibustering a Republican-backed bill that would have enacted some restrictions on abortion in Texas. Fighting such modest restrictions has become a leading “women’s issue,” even though American women, like American men, broadly support policies such as restrictions on late-term abortions. Some 80 percent of Americans believe that third-trimester abortions should be illegal — but only 19 percent of Americans say that they could only support a candidate who shared their views on abortion, while 28 percent say that abortion is not a major issue to them and about half say that it is one important issue among many. Which is to say, for most Americans — including American women — abortion is not a make-or-break issue, and most Americans — including American women — hold views on the subject that are much closer to George W. Bush’s than to Wendy Davis’s. But Wendy Davis is a women’s champion for attempting to conscript women into support for a position that few of them actually hold.
Democrats believe that women have a congenital duty to support Democrats, as though being in possession of ovaries should naturally make a human being more eager to submit to Harry Reid. (One would think the opposite would be the case.) Jessica Valenti, writing in the Guardian, makes this line of thought explicit: “In a way, female Republicans almost bother me more than their male counterparts. I can almost understand why a bunch of rich, religiously conservative white men wouldn’t care about the reality of women’s day-to-day lives — they’ve never had to. But throwing other women under the bus? For what? Lower taxes? Three minutes on Fox News in the 3 p.m. hour? It makes me wonder what is wrong with you.” Thus do the champions of diversity and women’s autonomy reveal themselves: If a woman believes that perhaps Barack Obama and Harry Reid are doing the country more harm than good — if a woman believes that lower taxes are in fact a pretty important issue — that’s not a disagreement: It’s a sign that something is “wrong with you.” Pro-choice? Sure, but not when it comes to your politics — on that subject, the Left is as anti-choice and ruthlessly conformist as it is possible to be.
American women and other traditional Democratic client groups did not seem particularly eager to knuckle under to the Left’s demands for supine fealty in 2014. Davis not only lost Texas; she lost spectacularly in a 21-point blowout, barely outperforming pro-forma Democratic candidates for other offices who did not even campaign. In Texas as in the rest of the country, big cities tend to be solidly Democratic, but Davis lost liberal-leaning Houston and vast swathes of other metropolitan areas. She didn’t even secure a majority of women’s votes, and she lost white women by a two-to-one margin. Her own Fort Worth state-senate seat was taken over by Konni Burton, a pro-life tea-party activist and Ted Cruz ally.
Meanwhile, the Battleground Texas campaign, which used Davis as a fund-raising totem to pour money into the real contest — potentially competitive state-house races in largely Hispanic areas — was a bust. The Democrats lost every one of these races, and most of them were not even close. Texas Republicans, unlike their national counterparts, have figured out that the way to win Hispanic votes is to recruit good candidates and campaign like they mean it in Hispanic areas. The purported white man’s party put up some great women this year and, thanks in part to the efforts of George P. Bush, is developing a deeper Hispanic bench: Hispanic Republicans won state-house races in west San Antonio (63 percent Hispanic), Kingsville (64 percent Hispanic), and Pasadena (75 percent Hispanic), while the mostly Anglo suburbanites of Round Rock and northwest Dallas also sent Hispanic Republicans to the state house.
Maybe Mexican-Americans don’t want to be condescended to by politicians, either.
Recruiting good candidates — or at least candidates who are not committed to remaking themselves into the cartoon version of Republicans offered by the media — makes a big difference, as does having a “Recovery Summer” that has now had more sequels than the Star Wars franchise. But there is something else at work here: Who do Americans want to be when they grow up? Do women aspire to a life like Julia’s, or to one more like that of Lieutenant Colonel Joni Ernst? Would you rather be a sanctimonious sack of woe, like Wendy Davis, or a happy warrior, like Mia Love? Would you rather vote for a party that speaks to you as a citizen, family member, entrepreneur, taxpayer, etc. — or one that insists you owe it not only your vote but your obedience simply because you have a certain configuration of chromosomes or a certain surname?
It is one of life’s little ironies that it is the feminists and the party of so-called women’s issues who in the 21st century still have not quite figured out that women are individuals, and that there is more to them than the sum of their parts.
— Kevin D. Williamson is roving editor at National Review.