The Democrats'...views of what counts for "women's issues" are stuck back in the disco days, about the time Ms. Clinton came of political age. Under the title "A Champion for Women," the New York senator's Web site promises the usual tired litany of "equal pay" and a "woman's right to choose." Mr. Richardson pitches a new government handout for women on "family leave" and waxes nostalgic for the Equal Rights Amendment. Give these Boomers some bell bottoms and "The Female Eunuch," and they'd feel right at home. Polls show Ms. Clinton today gets her best female support from women her age and up.Read the whole thing. Strassel argues that GOP candidates are best positioned to move beyond the "progressive" rhetoric of women's "rights," to instead focus on women's "choice," "opportunity," and "ownership."
The rest of the female population has migrated into 2007. Undoubtedly quite a few do care about abortion rights and the Violence Against Women Act. But for the 60% of women who today both scramble after a child and hold a job, these culture-war touchpoints aren't their top voting priority. Their biggest concerns, not surprisingly, hew closely to those of their male counterparts: the war in Iraq, health care, the economy. But following close behind are issues that are more unique to working women and mothers. Therein rests the GOP opportunity.
Here's an example of how a smart Republican could morph an old-fashioned Democratic talking point into a modern-day vote winner. Ms. Clinton likes to bang on about "inequality" in pay. The smart conservative would explain to a female audience that there indeed is inequality, and that the situation is grave. Only the bad guy isn't the male boss; it's the progressive tax code.
Most married women are second-earners. That means their income is added to that of their husband's, and thus taxed at his highest marginal rate. So the married woman working as a secretary keeps less of her paycheck than the single woman who does the exact same job. This is the ultimate in "inequality," yet Democrats constantly promote the very tax code that punishes married working women. In some cases, the tax burdens and child-care expenses for second-earners are so burdensome they can't afford a career. But when was the last time a Republican pointed out that Ms. Clinton was helping to keep ladies in the kitchen?
For that matter, when was the last time a GOP candidate pointed out that their own free-market policies could help alleviate this problem? Should President Bush's tax cuts expire, tens of thousands of middle-class women will see more of their paychecks disappear into the maw of their husband's higher bracket. A really brave candidate would go so far as to promise eliminating this tax bias altogether. Under a flat tax, second-earner women would pay the same rate as unmarried women and the guy down the hall. Let Democrats bang the worn-out drum of a "living wage." Republicans should customize their low-tax message to explain how they directly put more money into female pockets.
Friday, August 31, 2007
The GOP and the Women's Vote
Kimberly Strassel's essay this morning argues that on women's issues this presidential campaign season, the Democrats are back in the seventies. The party's retro take on "what women want" provides an opening for GOP candidates to snag women voters with market-based approaches to gender equality (or really, equity):