Are women fed up with Democratic pandering?

Tom Edsall makes some interesting observations in this piece in The New York Times from over the weekend. If you haven’t read it, you should.

His topic is the impact of Barack Obama’s rather overt bids for the renewed affections for key Democratic constituencies and interest groups defined by demographic identity. Unsurprisingly, Edsall finds that the voting public at large is suspicious of such moves. For instance, while the public is evenly split on the subject of gay “marriage,” there is widespread cynicism toward the president’s embrace of the notion:

Some evidence that Obama must walk a fine line as he seeks majority backing can be found in the May 15 CBS News/New York Times poll, which showed that 67 percent of respondents said Obama came out for same-sex marriage “mostly for political reasons,” while just 24 percent said he made the decision “mostly because he thinks it is right.”

But the really surprising thing he finds is the way, after all the gyrations Democrats have gone through in recent months, including the “war on women” and other absurd rhetoric, the president has lost ground among women:

In an equally troublesome finding for Obama, the Times poll recorded a dramatic drop in the level of support for Obama among women, with Romney actually pulling ahead, 46-44. Obama’s support among female voters has fallen from 49 to 44 percent over the past two months, while Romney’s rose three points.

Stephanie Cutter, deputy manager of the Obama campaign, has challenged the accuracy of the Times poll, arguing that the methodology – calling people who have been previously surveyed,  known as a “panel back” — resulted in “a biased sample.”

But even if the poll findings can be reasonably disputed, they still suggest that Obama’s aggressive bid to strengthen his support among women may be backfiring. Separate polling by Marquette Law School in Wisconsin shows Obama holding a strong, but declining advantage among women voters. In February, Obama had a 21 percentage point lead among women, 56-35; by mid-May, his margin among women had fallen to 9 points, 49-40….

Could it be that you just can’t go past a certain point in pandering to women without insulting their collective intelligence? It would appear so…

42 thoughts on “Are women fed up with Democratic pandering?

  1. `Kathryn Fenner

    I’ll stake my intelligence against anyone’s, and my intelligence is not insulted in any way by President Obama’s standing up for women’s rights.

    The poll numbers most likely show the regression to the mean.

  2. bud

    I don’t find it “pandering” to suggest GOP policies are bad for women. It certainly is as much of a “war” as the so-called wars on poverty, drugs and especially terrorism. I do think women are more complex than just the invasion of the uterus laws supported by Republicans. Consequently the huge gap seen earlier is likely to narrow. Still I’d think on balance women are much more likely to support Obama come November.

  3. Brad

    That would be the expected pattern, and I’d be shocked if the Democratic candidate didn’t do better among women than among men.

    What this poll Edsall is writing about does is show some slippage in that general trend.

    Of course, we make these generalizations and stretch them to the point of absurdity. We say things like “Women go for the Democrat” when in truth millions of women vote Republican. Same deal with men on the other side. Plenty of men vote Democratic, but the general trend is that a few more vote Republican.

  4. Brad

    Oh, and I know y’all don’t think it’s pandering. Which shows the extent to which smart people can rationalize rhetorical excess…

  5. Bryan Caskey

    Or maybe it has to do with something else entirely. Women don’t vote as a monolithic block. I’m sure there are plenty of women who feel that the economy and financial matters are the number one issue.

  6. David

    It certainly is as much of a “war” as the so-called wars on poverty, drugs and especially terrorism.

    So this “war on women” is as much of a war as the “war on drugs” and “war on terror” where people — including women — are killed, you know, with actual guns and bombs?

  7. bud

    One man’s rationalizing is another man’s (or woman’s) reasoned thinking.

    It is certainly true that even Democrats can sometimes overstate their case. I’d maintain the Republicans are far more likely to do so, especially when it comes to issues related to the military. But I’d also suggest the Democrats have to go over-the-top simply to get their message across. As a statistician I’m probably more put-off by over-statements of evidence than anyone. But presenting all the nuance of an issue is likely to be disregarded as “wonkish”. You can’t win for losing.

  8. bud

    Setting the womens issues aside for the moment a very good example of over-charged rhetoric on both sides is the Keystone pipeline. Clearly Republicans can’t seriously think that thing will actually have any material effect on gasoline prices or the unemployment rate. Yet they level charges against the administration making just those types of absurd claims.

    The Democrats for their part probably do overstate the environmental impact. But it is something to consider. If they simply state it as a concern then it gets dismissed as a non-issue.

  9. Brad


    Tim, I’m sorry that you and Kathryn have trouble understanding why I find myself drawn to the subjects that disturb me the most. But I’ve always been that way. It’s one of the characteristics that drew me to opinion writing.

    One of the barriers to our mutual understanding, of course, is that y’all fail to see what I see — that these subjects are brought up by the people in politics NOT to solve the conflicts they embody, but to use them to separate us. THAT is what disturbs me. And rather than let them do that without my protesting, I point it out.

    This is essential to who I am, and to why I can’t be comfortable on either end of the current political spectrum.

    I could, of course — since on the grand scale I want Obamacare to succeed — do what Democrats do and excuse all of this away, and pretend that the administration has not unnecessarily dragged us into the realm of Kulturkampf. But it has, and I will not pretend otherwise. So I can’t be a Democrat.

    Nor will I go along with Republicans who want to allege that ANY national system for paying for health care is inherently intrusive to an unacceptable degree. That is NOT unavoidable.

    I just don’t know how to explain it to you, except by pointing to everything I’ve ever written, and hope that your own particular filter doesn’t act as a barrier to seeing what I’m saying.

  10. Juan Caruso

    “I’ll stake my intelligence against anyone’s…[my note: not the first time you have informed us of such]” -KF

    As one of the world’s most intelligent women, what drew you to practicing law rather than science, medicine or architecture, KF?

    Do those professions trivialize women more than the legal profession? I had the pleasure of watching a SCETV documentary about a distant relative of mine, Hilla Sheriff, MD. When she retired in 1974, she held two state offices: Deputy Commissioner of the State Department of Health and Environmental Control and Chief of the Bureau of Community Health Services.

    By 1941 she had obtained her Master’s of Public Health degree from Harvard University on a Rockefeller scholarship.

    When I met her, it was obvious she did not wear a big chip on her shoulder customary among too many modern women.

  11. Tim

    Please, enough with the patronizing “if you only saw things correctly” attitude. When you use terms like “Pick a fight” over and over, and shall I say, OVER again, you have firmly planted your flag in a particular view point.

    “If only they wouldn’t keep knocking the block off the Bishops’ shoulders this would all be good.” Meanwhile, every American Bishop pays income taxes that fund all manner of things that they claim they don’t like, the same as we all do.

    You agree with the Bishops on this one; I don’t. I also don’t think that an employer who is an scientologist should be able to exempt his non-scientologist employees from psychiatric care; or a Jehovah’s Witness employer can exempt his non-jehovah’s witness employees from getting blood transfusions, ad nauseum. Let’s just let everyone exempt everything.

  12. bud

    “like” what Tim said. I suppose any employer could claim to be a religion and then opt out of any law. Only way around it is single payer or perhaps the public option.

  13. Brad

    I think maybe y’all have just taken the “slippery slope” statement to its theoretically limit. You’ve gone as far as you can go.

    Because, yeah, of course, acknowledging the church that traces its lineage to the Apostle Peter as the bishop of Rome NATURALLY leads automatically to “any employer could claim to be a religion…”

    Come on, guys. As Cheech and Chong said, this is the whole Catholic-a Church, with-a the priests and the nuns and the little bambinos

    But seriously, folks… if only we could get EVERYONE to agree that the one and only solution is single-payer, I’d be happy.

  14. bud

    Even with single payer the members of the Catholic Church, including the Bishops, would still pay for birth control pills through taxes. Unless of course you’re proposing not to pay for contraception. In that case even single payer won’t solve many of the healthcare problems in America.

  15. bud

    I think maybe y’all have just taken the “slippery slope” statement to its theoretically limit. You’ve gone as far as you can go.

    That only makes sense if you’re a Catholic. Since I’m not it’s not a slippery slope at all. To me it’s just another institution and should not be treated as anything different from other religions not matter how big or small. Are you suggesting that because it’s a very large, old, established religion it is somehow more legitimate?

  16. Doug Ross

    “Come on, guys. As Cheech and Chong said, this is the Catholic-a Church, with-a the priests and the nuns and the little bambinos…”

    And Sister Mary Elephant.. “I still gotta go to the can, Man.”

    Cracked me up in 1973.

  17. `Kathryn Fenner

    @Juan–there are many things disputable about my worth, I do not claim to be beautiful, graceful, emotionally stable, glowing with health or even musically gifted, but I am indisputably intelligent. My strengths are most significant in language arts–written and oral, so naturally law was appealing. I was not particularly interested or nearly so gifted in math and science (although I was on the Aiken High School math team). I didn’t understand graduate school in English, although that might have been a fair alternative. I briefly considered an MBA, but perhaps influenced by all the idealistic lawyer shows of the 70s, I chose law. As I have said before, I appreciate my legal education, but I do not get along well with the actual practice of law, perhaps due to shortcomings recounted above.

  18. Brad

    I’m not “suggesting,” I’m saying, loudly and clearly, that you can’t equate a religion that old and established with some employer willy-nilly deciding to call itself a religion. This is not even a subject for rational debate, it’s not possible. Unless we’re prepared to say night equals day.

    This has NOTHING to do with my or your religious beliefs. It has to do with the most elementary ability to read history, to look at facts and recognize them for what they are.

    It is incontrovertibly a case of taking the slippery slope to extremes when you would take something that is practically the dictionary definition of established and acknowledged, and equate it to something made up for ad hoc reasons.

  19. Mark Stewart

    No, Brad, a slippery slope is starting with a church and extended religious protection to schools, universities, hospitals, social welfare entities, camps, stores, breweries, etc., etc. because they have some sort of religious affiliation with that church.

    I think we have pretty well established throughout the history of America that people are first and foremost citizens of this country before they are anything else. That puts the rule of law before the dictates of religious fiat. The Catholic Bishops (and Priests and Nuns) can do unto themselves as they see fit, but they cannot do it to everyone else. That is not the law of this land.

  20. Tim

    Thanks, once again, Brad, for calling someone who disagrees with you with meritorious arguments as “irrational”. Do you want to go with the religions that are older than yours? Okay. Judaism. Buddhism. Jainism. Hinduism. I know I am missing a few… But, then, you know that. You want your religious beliefs respected, but dismiss with a waive of the hand anyone else’s. phtt… I mean, like a Mormon or something could be President. That’s just crazy talk. I mean… come on… Mormon is what, 150 years old? Catholics have doorknobs older than that. Mormons are only maybe 7.5% as legitimate as the Church.

  21. Brad

    Mark, you have it completely turned around. This isn’t about the church deciding to “do something to” someone.

    This is about the GOVERNMENT telling the church to do something. In the course of practicing its faith. Which is what those hospitals and social welfare entities ARE. They’re not some unrelated appendage. They ARE the ministries of the church. The ARE the belief system being carried out in action.

    The church isn’t going out and doing some hostile takeover of secular institutions and telling them they have to obey church doctrine. These are Catholic institutions, from the get-go. They would not exist except as expressions of Catholic belief. The government telling the church how it can run these things is the government telling a religion how it will practice its ministries.

  22. Brad

    Going back a few… Bud raises a relevant concern when he says, “Even with single payer the members of the Catholic Church, including the Bishops, would still pay for birth control pills through taxes. Unless of course you’re proposing not to pay for contraception. In that case even single payer won’t solve many of the healthcare problems in America.”

    Yes, when the government is the single payer, we will naturally have political debates over coverage. That’s inevitable. But in the end, those will be debates over how tax money is spent just like other debates over tax money is spent. Just as we fight over public funding of abortions now, we would fight over that — and over abortifacients — then. For the simple reason that vast swathes of the public — far beyond the number of Catholics — object to those things. Just as we have debates over the government conducting war, and other things about which citizens have strong and often-conflicting beliefs.

    And in the end, the government would do what was decided through the deliberative processes of representative democracy, everyone having had their say.

    And no one would be telling the church or any other institution that the programs that IT runs must provide services inimical to the values of that institution. Which is a gigantic, qualitative difference, and not just a matter of degree.

    So yeah, there would be controversy. But it wouldn’t be THIS kind of controversy.

  23. Brad

    Tim, seriously — there’s nothing more insulting than telling someone he’s so stupid, so blinded by his own cultural prejudices, that he can’t see that others can present arguments about the validity of their beliefs, which they hold just as passionately and deliberately.

    How thick do you think I am?

    In order to see what I’m saying (and please don’t be insulted by my continuing to try to get my point across, I place the blame on myself for not communicating clearly enough, not on you), try to imagine that we’re not talking religion here. That puts it outside the realm of sensitive issues about legitimacy and the like. Which is useful, because I’m not talking about “legitimacy” here at all.

    You mention doorknobs. OK, let’s talk doorknobs. Let’s say you have a doorknob that’s been around for 2,000 years. Of all the people who believe in doorknobs, more people have chosen to put this particular type of doorknob on their doors than any other in that period.

    There’s just no question that it’s a doorknob, and has functioned as a doorknob for all that time. Even people who choose other means for opening their doors — a majority in this country — do not dispute that it is in fact, and always has been, a doorknob. Even people who not only don’t believe in doorknobs, but believe doors should not be open, or that there should not be doors, or that there ARE no doors.

    Now, someone suggests that another item — say, a baseball — could, for reasons of its own, suddenly decide it was a doorknob. And because it SAYS it’s a doorknob, that makes it exactly the same as the thing that we have all known was a doorknob for 2,000 years.

    And I’m suggesting that it’s really not hard to separate the two — whatever one’s personal beliefs regarding doors and means for opening them.

  24. Brad

    Well, Mark, we’ll just have to disagree. Which is cool. We don’t disagree about very much; it’s bound to happen sometimes.

  25. Tim

    I have to say, your dudgeon is surprising in light of the many of your statements. You have stated we are irrational, avoid addressing “facts”, and make phony, fallacious arguments, when, dare I say most, everyone else posting here, at least from what I have read, agree to some degree are legitimate. And you are making a ludicrous use of the doorknob analogy. Don’t like slippery slope arguments, but adore the Argument from Authority fallacy.

  26. Mark Stewart

    We wouldn’t disagree if you would just see my point of view!

    Seriously, that lies at the heart of my issue with this dustup. It’s not about the Catholic church or it’s beliefs. My issue is when any entity in this country attempts to assert its own particular beliefs on others and the society as a whole.

    The doorknobs thing is kind of funny. But maybe we could frame this issue as if we were talking about the Puritans and their interest in blending civic participation and religious observance? That might enable the kind of distance and dispassion that just isn’t going to happen when people talk about their own hot-button issues.

  27. `Kathryn Braun

    Mark and Tim are right, but they won’t convince Brad because Brad has the TRUTH on his side, he just knows it.

    You do realize how deeply offensive it is for you, a man, to presume that “women” are fed up or need you to point out that we are being pandered to. I guess I need to check my message boards more closely to find out what we all are supposed to think. We are, as we know, nowhere near as important since we don’t carry the name.

  28. bud

    We will certainly have to agree to disagree on this. But what frustrates me so much about this issue is how genuienly beneficial contraceptives are to the health and wellbeing of our society and how we continue to debate something that is so astonishingly obvious. And this is a major point of contention between me and the Bishops. I find their objections extremely distasteful and downright nauseating. Any hope that the Catholic Church may some day gain my respect has been thrown away by this debate.

  29. Brad

    But Kathryn need not wait until that day. She can be reassured now that I did not say the things she finds “deeply offensive.” In fact, I said the opposite of suggesting that women are “all are supposed to think” the same things.

    I call your attention to the following from my previous comment: “Of course, we make these generalizations and stretch them to the point of absurdity. We say things like “Women go for the Democrat” when in truth millions of women vote Republican. Same deal with men on the other side. Plenty of men vote Democratic, but the general trend is that a few more vote Republican.”

  30. Brad

    What we have here is a shift of three to five percentage points among the subset of respondents who are women.

    And if it’s somehow illegitimate to wonder whether those women feel pandered to and are sick of it, I fail to see how, under anyone’s ideology.

    The basis for wondering about the pandering is related to this passage in the story: “A second interesting political development in recent decades is that Democrats have paid a higher price for policies favoring their constituencies, especially the poor and minorities, than Republicans have paid for doing the same thing on behalf of the rich.”

    In other words, it hasn’t hurt Republicans to pander to what is seen as one of their key constituencies (although even that an oversimplification, since there are plenty of well-heeled Democrats), but Democrats have been hurt by pandering to groups considered key constituencies for them. What jumps out in the aforementioned poll shift is that in this case, the negative movement is coming among the group itself (a subset of a subset, nothing more), rather than being a reaction among other groups, at the very time when the party is trying as hard as it has ever tried to enlist that demographic in its cause.

    Oh, and if you want to be offended by “women” being referred to as a monolith that thinks and acts together and has exactly the same interests and views, you need to read some of the Democratic Party propaganda that I am bombarded with daily — especially from the DCCC. Those who push the “war on women” meme are the champions at making women sound like they all came off an assembly line somewhere.

  31. `Kathryn Braun

    The number of women of childbearing age who use contraception, even Catholics, approaches 100%. I suppose that is as close as you can get to a monolith.

    Why the push to block funding for a pharmaceutical that has proven health benefits and cost benefits as well? I think it’s a bit like the experiments on African-Americans in the 20th century, or pogroms of Jews–their descendants get kind of sensitive to anything that smacks of a repeat, just as women get sensitive to anything that smacks of keepin’ ’em barefoot and pregnant.

  32. Silence

    @ ‘Kathryn – I’m completely tired of all this garbage that keeps getting spat out about the “cost benefits” of birth control. K. Sebilius was falling into it as well!

    Children are a short term liability – but long term, when they grow up to be people – they should be an asset. Once they are properly fed, watered, educated and exposed to sunlight they should grow up to be productive members of society and produce economic benefits.

    If the government’s math says that each additional person is a liability, we need to change the math, not downsize the number of people.

    If people (or certain KINDS of people) are viewed as a liability or a “cost” then we have a real public policy problem.

    I should note that I’m 100% in favor of contraception in all forms, I just disagree with that particular line of economic arguement.

  33. bud

    Brad, on this very same issue I’d suggest the GOP is engaging in just as much, if no more, pandering with it’s phony support of the separation of church and state. Heck, they have zero problem imposing religion into government on money, with prayer school, blue laws, etc. So why do they suddenly discover religion when it comes to the contraception issue? It’s pandering pure and simple.

  34. `Kathryn Braun

    Prenatal care, childbirth, well baby care, etc. cost health care payers considerably more than contraception, not to mention the long term health benefits of hormonal contraception. from a social perspective, some children are assets; some are liabilities. No one, so far, is questioning the expenditures for having children. It’s the much smaller expenditures for not having them.

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