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!