Attacking Half the Electorate Surprisingly Not a Winning Strategy

Next Tuesday, voters in Virginia will choose their state’s next governor. After months of hard-fought campaigning, the race is clearly tilting in favor of the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, and against Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli. As recently as May, Cuccinelli was ahead in the polls, but the most recent poll shows that McAuliffe has taken a double-digit lead – almost entirely because of an astonishing 24-point gap that’s opened up among women.

And why is there such a yawning gender gap, you may ask? Well, I’m happy to say that it’s because Virginian women are paying attention!

You may remember Cuccinelli as the sitting attorney general who urged citizens to break the law, as I wrote about in January. Since then, he’s made hostility to women the centerpiece of his campaign. He’s expressed support for a “fetal personhood” amendment that would ban all abortion and some common forms of birth control. Failing that, he’s lobbied for a law that would subject women seeking abortion to an invasive, humiliating and unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound. He was also the first attorney general to file a lawsuit against Obamacare on the grounds that private employers should be able to deny their (female) employees insurance coverage of birth control.

But all that, I’m sorry to say, is unexceptional sexism by the standards of the modern Republican party. No, where Cuccinelli really stands head and shoulders above the rest in anti-sex weirdness is this: He’s campaigning to reinstate Virginia’s “crimes against nature” law, which would ban all sex acts except heterosexual vaginal intercourse. No kidding. The fact that the Supreme Court declared such laws unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas seems not to trouble him at all. (Wait, Cuccinelli is seriously campaigning for a ban on oral sex? The only thing I don’t understand is why he’s not suffering a 24-point deficit among men as well as women!)

I personally don’t think very highly of Terry McAuliffe, but compared to his opponent, he’s the second coming of Thomas Jefferson. And unless the polls are drastically off, Cuccinelli’s expected collapse next week will earn him a place in the halls of Republican candidates tripped up by their own misogyny, like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. Mitt Romney, too, lost the presidential election in large part because of a 12-point deficit among female voters, in spite of his binders full of women.

Cuccinelli wouldn’t even be the only attorney general in that company. He’d join Phill Kline, a former Kansas attorney general, who was effectively disbarred by the state supreme court this month for ethics violations. Kline used his time in office to carry on an ideological crusade against Planned Parenthood and Dr. George Tiller, harassing them with nuisance subpoenas and unfounded charges.

Among other things, Kline trawled through state records to identify Kansas women who’d had abortions, purportedly to identify victims of sexual abuse, despite having no complaint or other reason to believe a crime had occurred; he then made copies of this confidential patient data and lied to the court about possessing it after he was ordered to return the files. He also misled a grand jury, giving them a definition of sexual abuse that he knew had been rejected by a higher court, and illegally filed subpoena requests without the jury’s permission.

What’s most amazing about this kind of conduct from the GOP isn’t how evil it is, but how stupidly and self-destructively evil it is. As America becomes more diverse and the conservative-white-guy vote that the Republicans have long depended on dwindles, you’d think they’d recognize the vital importance of appealing to groups beyond their historical base. Instead, bubble intact, they’re striking out boldly in the opposite direction, fighting more tenaciously than ever to exclude and intimidate minorities and women, and likely sealing their fate as a party in the process.

There’s no better illustration of this – and, for liberals, no better source of schadenfreude – than the fact that the ultra-strict voter ID laws recently passed in Texas and elsewhere, intended to disenfranchise Democrats, may instead be the biggest hindrance to married, older women: in other words, the women who are most likely to vote Republican. Young, feminist women who aren’t married or who kept their names when they married will breeze on through!

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Jane Chiarello

    I fail to see how these wankers perpetuate their agendas. He has violated so many privacy issues it beggars belief and yet there will still be some sheep who will vote for him. Why is controlling the sex life of the electorate so bloody important to these people. Get out of my bedroom and I’ll get out of yours, you pervert !!!!!!!!!

  • Loren Petrich

    It’s nice to see right-wingers bitten by unintended consequences. Like the governor of Georgia getting perplexed at the shortage of farm labor after he signed a bill for cracking down on illegal immigrants.

    They’ll claim persecution, of course. Nothing bad that ever happens to them is ever their fault, it seems.

  • Chris Hallquist

    >I personally don’t think very highly of Terry McAuliffe, but compared to his opponent, he’s the second coming of Thomas Jefferson.

    I don’t think you’re giving McAuliffe enough credit here. After all, McAuliffe has never owned slaves.

    (Sorry, the “American founders as paragons of virtue” thing gets me.)

  • Ricker

    It’s because sex should only be for reproductive purposes, not pleasure. Hell, the dude has the Duggars and Michael Farris campaigning for him. If there was ever an epitome of the “Every Sperm is Sacred” mentality, it would be those people.

  • arensb

    Obama used to get credit for “playing three-dimensional chess”. Perhaps, rather, it’s that some Republicans are still struggling with tic-tac-toe.

  • Jason Wexler

    I agree that the founders were hardly paragons of virtue, and I think they are highly over-rated in other contexts as well. However in this case I believe that Adam was probably referencing Jefferson’s philosophical and rhetorical brilliance. And relying on the fact that whatever he may feel about Jefferson and whatever we may feel about Jefferson, there are probably many people reading this article who are happy to accept the wonder bread version of American history they were taught in their high school propaganda classes in which Jefferson was the greatest mind who ever lived, and like all the founders a paragon of everything good.

  • RayRobertson

    Is it a fair statement to say that atheists and Christian fundamentalists are both led primarily by white males? Just wondering.

  • Shawn

    Attacking approximately half the electorate is a perfectly good strategy, one that Karl Rove and his imitators successfully used to win many elections. The difference being that Rove in his glory days had a pretty good idea that he’d have 50% +1 more person at the end of the day than his opponent did. He’s lost some steps these days but he’s been pretty adamant that the Republican Party has to do some outreach to Latinos and other non-traditional GOP voters in order to stay competitive; he can still count to 50%. The Tea Party, on the other hand, has decided to declare all-out war on everyone who’s not a white male. To steal from Feynman, they appear to be practicing Cargo Cult Politics, where they repeat what works in super-conservative Southern areas and then are endlessly surprised that it doesn’t work everywhere.

  • DavidMHart

    Well, firstly, most atheists don’t consider themselves to be ‘led’ in the first place; there are people who articulate our position well, but we tend to consider them simply as prominent atheists, rather than leaders – and they tend to get a lot of flak from the wider atheist community when they say or do dim-witted or otherwise harmful things.

    But to the extent that you consider these prominent ‘movement’ atheists to be analogous to the leadership of the fundamentalist Christians, yes; a disproportionate number do seem to be white males at the moment. We’re working on that; trying to be more inclusive (against a rearguard action from some reactionaries). Why do you bring the subject up?

  • GCT

    Yes and no.

    Yes, because all institutions or ideologies or whatever are subject to patriarchy and white privilege. Atheism is not exempt from this. This includes the fact that white males tend to get more press, are seen as being more authoritative, etc. There are also elements within the set of atheists that don’t see a problem with this and are actively fighting to ensure that it stays that way.

    No, because atheism has no set teachings that denote that men or white men are particularly favored as the Bible does. Atheism doesn’t have leaders. Also, many atheists are working hard to make sure that minority voices are included, although we acknowledge there is much work to be done. I know of no such efforts in the world of Xian fundamentalism (and many sects that wouldn’t be considered fundamentalist also don’t seem to be making strides in the right direction).

  • busterggi

    Ah, but as much of the electorate doesn’t vote then it can be disregarded for the rabid minority that can be counted on to vote for extremists. Sad but true.

  • Octavo

    Thank you. I cringe every time I see someone praise the guy who forced slaves to work in his personal nail factory.