Remember the 1992 presidential campaign in which Democrat Bill Clinton defeated incumbent President George H. W. Bush? That was the election in which famed Democratic consultant James Carville created the slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
The slogan had a compelling underlying message. First, the economy was indeed in terrible shape, warranting the removal of the president from the White House. Just as significant, however, was Carville’s obvious emphasis that the Democrats should focus on nothing else but the economy. He was inveighing against his fellow Democrats his view that bringing other issues into the campaign would divert attention from the winning economic message.
In 2022, the GOP has developed a “values” vulnerability which may be just as fatal to its prospects in this year’s midterm elections as was its economic vulnerability in the Presidential election year of 1992. That vulnerability can be summarized in one word: Misogyny. The word “misogyny “is defined as dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.
This Republican misogyny reputation became a matter of public attention during the US Senate confirmation hearings of Ketanji Brown Jackson earlier this year and the abusive treatment of her by Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Josh Hawley of Missouri. The recent news, in the form of a leak as to how the Trump- appointed US Supreme Court will reverse Roe v. Wade is one more conclusive item of evidence that the Republican Party has become a party of misogyny. The reversal of Roe v. Wade will eliminate nationally federal protection of the right of abortion choice.
The elimination of abortion choice per se is not an act of misogyny. A person can be anti-abortion, regarding abortion as the wrongful taking of a human life, and not be hostile or insensitive to women.
What makes the forthcoming reversal of Roe v. Wade an unquestionably outrageous act of misogyny is the methodology by which the decision is being implemented. Three of the five justices committed to Roe v. Wade reversal were appointed by President Donald Trump, the most flagrant misogynist to ever serve as president, a corrupt figure whose undeniable record of hostility to women includes a plethora of allegations of sexual predatory activity. Two of the five anti-abortion choice justices, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh were the subject of clear and convincing evidence of misogyny at their confirmation hearings, to wit; 1) sexual harassment in the testimony of Anita Hill against Clarence Thomas; and 2) outright attempted sexual assault in the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford against Brett Kavanaugh.
The credibility of the Thomas and Kavanaugh denials of misogyny was further damaged after their confirmations. The Thomas credibility was damaged by his refusal thus far to recuse himself from cases involving challenges by Trump and his allies to 2020 election results, in spite of evidence linking his wife, Ginni to these efforts. The Kavanaugh credibility was damaged by his misleading conversations with Maine US Senator Susan Collins as to whether he regarded Roe v. Wade as “settled law.”
Polls taken since the leak of the forthcoming Roe v. Wade reversal show the electorate to be both appalled by the prospect of an end to Roe v. Wade abortion choice protection and mistrustful and disillusioned by the Supreme Court performance since conservatives took it over. This strengthens the case for a Democratic national slogan of “It’s not anti-abortion: it’s misogyny, Stupid!”.
The Republican Party, is no longer a political party in the traditional sense. It is a cult, dedicated to the acquisition of power by Donald Trump. The cult has three significant features: Fascism, racism, and now misogyny. And it is the feature of misogyny that in this midterm could drive millions of women into the Democratic column, particularly suburban and college educated women.
In past elections, the Republican threat against abortion choice has not been a major factor in motivating women to vote. Outright Trumpist misogyny, however, could prove to be a major fear factor in both motivating women to vote and persuading them to support the Democratic line.
The Republican spinmeisters are already at work to minimize the significance of these “women’s issues,” claiming that abortion and misogyny will be non-factors in the 2022 midterms and that midterm Republican House and Senate candidates will be “safe at home” if they ignore the abortion issue and focus on the major economic issue: Inflation.
This strategy, however, ignores a fundamental truism propounded by the late renowned Democratic political scientist and psephologist, Ben Wattenberg. The Wattenberg axiom is that when it comes to elections, values matter most.
Applying this Wattenberg maxim, it is clear that the Democratic Party values of democracy, ethnic and racial tolerance, and gender equality are far more in harmony with traditional American values than the current prevailing Trumpist values in the GOP of fascism, racism, and misogyny. It is too early for me to make any definitive predictions on the Midterm House and Senate outcomes. Based upon the values context of this election, however, I would not bet against the Democrats – and the trend is running in their direction.
Alan Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.