Opinion

Nicholas Wapshott

2016: The women’s election

By Nicholas Wapshott
July 3, 2013

Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis (L) speaks at a protest before special session of the Legislature in Austin, Texas, July 1, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Stone

Governor Rick Perry of Texas made little impression on the 2012 election.

Once billed as a class act, he emerged as a comic turn. There was the “I’ll never forgetwhatshisname” debate flub when he couldn’t remember one of the Cabinet departments he was committed to abolishing was Energy.  And there was his tired and emotional stump speech in New Hampshire when, well, I’m not quite sure what he was talking about. Perhaps it was his Dean Martin impression.

But Perry is sure to make a strong impression on the outcome of the 2016 election. When he signs into law the Texas anti-abortion measures, he will spark a women’s revolt that is sure to reverberate across the nation.

The 2012 contest left the Republican Party backed largely by old white men. The 2016 election is likely to be dominated by women’s issues. When the Coen Brothers set their movie “No Country for Old Men” in the high desert of West Texas, they could not have imagined their title would become an election slogan.

The proposed new Texas anti-abortion law, sure to be passed before long, does not just restrict itself to preventing terminations after 20 weeks, a practice that is rare in any case. (The number of abortions conducted after 20 weeks is just 1.3 percent.) The measure goes well beyond, swamping clinics with so many regulations that 37 are expected to close, leaving only six to serve 13 million Texan women in a state that is 773 miles wide and 790 miles long. In addition, women who have been raped may not cite that as a reason for wanting an abortion.

The thousands of women who descended on the Texas state capitol in Austin last week to register their opposition to the bill appear to have taken the Republicans in Texas by surprise. Did they imagine that trying to overturn a woman’s right to choose, established in 1973 by the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, was going to be easy?

The protest has made Wendy Davis, the Texas lawmaker who filibustered the bill, an overnight celebrity who looks ready to take her message about the Republican assault on women’s health across the country.

She is the Democrats’ answer to Sarah Palin — but with a Harvard law degree. Some Texas Democrats hope she will run against Perry for the governorship.

But the revolt over women’s health does not stop at Texas. Restrictions on a woman’s right to choose have been passed in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota (which bans abortions after six weeks), Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.Other anti-abortion measures were defeated, for the time being, in only Pennsylvania and Idaho. Sixteen states — Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia — have bans on “partial-birth” abortions.

The occupation of the Texas state capitol by angry women caught the national imagination, perhaps due to the drama of Davis’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” moment, which immediately went viral over the social networks. Similar mass protests by women have taken place elsewhere, too, including last week in Ohio — a pivotal presidential election state — where the Statehouse was crowded with women dissenters.

The importance of Davis’s stand, however, is the way it has inspired a nationwide discussion about the creeping encroachment on abortion rights that has been taking place without widespread media coverage in statehouses across the nation.

Republicans in 2012 said it was preposterous to suggest they were waging a “war on women.” But in more than 30 states now, they have won battles even if they have not yet won the war. State lawmakers introduced more than 300 bills last year attempting to restrict abortion rights. Just two weeks ago, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to ban abortions after 20 weeks.

If the fury unleashed in Austin is any judge, the outrage surrounding Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” gaffe will be nothing compared to the concerted female fury at the polls in the midterm elections next year and in 2016.

Some Republican men still do not understand the offense caused by their ignorance about how a woman’s body works and the reasons women reluctantly choose an abortion. Perry’s intrusive personal remarks about Davis, in which he said she was “born into difficult circumstances” and hadn’t “learned from her own example,” even shocked the Republican speaker of the Texas House, who said the governor had “crossed the line.”

The last election cycle saw now former Representative Todd Akin (R-Mo.) seriously suggest that after what he termed a “legitimate rape” a woman’s body was able to “shut that whole thing down” and that abortion was “even more” “un-American” than slavery. And the Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock, running for senator, claimed “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

During the Texas debate, Republican state representative Jodie Laubenberg expressed a bizarre take on why rape victims don’t need abortions. “They have what’s called rape kits,” she said, “that the woman can get cleaned out.”

When it comes to women’s issues, it seems even Republican women cannot help making fools of themselves.

The Supreme Court, in its wisdom, has for many years ducked the issue of the nullification by state legislatures of federally guaranteed abortion rights. But last week the nine justices requested the Oklahoma state court provide more details of a state law intended to limit the use of drugs commonly prescribed to induce abortions. When Oklahoma provides the answers, the justices promise they will rule in their next session on whether the ban is constitutional.

So, come what may, the wider issue of abortion is sure to be federalized before the midterms.

It is against a background of largely female protests about abortion rights and other women’s health issues that both the midterms and then the 2016 presidential campaign will be fought. Having been beaten into second place by Barack Obama, there is a groundswell of support for Hillary Clinton among women of both parties. There is a sense, particularly among older women, that since we have now elected an African-American to the White House, it is time the United States elected a woman president.

Polls show women have an overwhelmingly favorable opinion of Clinton, they thoroughly approve of her performance as secretary of state and support her running for president by two to one. It is telling, perhaps, that Republicans in general and white men in particular oppose her candidacy. Though whether that is because they think she might win, simply don’t like her, or both, is unclear.

Short of Davis throwing her hat in the ring, Clinton appears to have the race to herself. If she wants to run, Democrats are only too happy to let her. Currently she is the favorite by far, with Vice President Joe Biden a distant second. Until she declares one way or the other, no Democratic donor will waste their money on another candidate.

While Clinton says, “I’m flattered. I am honored” with the suggestion she may run and insists, “That is not in the future for me,” she quickly added, “Obviously I’m hoping that I’ll get to cast my vote for a woman running for president of our country.” And she said, “I really do hope that we have a woman president in my lifetime.” Those who know the Clintons best are in little doubt she will run.

2016 is therefore set to be the Women’s Election. Republicans have already started their campaign against Clinton, hoping to stick her with the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi and the suggestion that at 69 she will be too old. (Perhaps they forget Ronald Reagan was inaugurated two weeks before his 70th birthday.)

So who will the Republicans pick to stand against her? There are some who suggest the publicity surrounding Perry’s anti-abortion stance in Texas will propel him into the race.

In which case we may be set to enjoy a battle of the sexes every bit as colorful and entertaining as that between Petruchio and Katherina in “The Taming of the Shrew.”

Nicholas Wapshott is the author of Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics. Read extracts here.

 

PHOTO (Insert A): Republican presidential candidate Texas Governor Rick Perry gestures during a debate in a GOP debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Jan. 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

PHOTO (Insert B): Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in Chicago, Illinois, June 14, 2013. REUTERS/John Gress

 

Comments
10 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

The “women’s election” was their chance when Hilary Clinton ran for president.

Instead, they voted for a young, charismatic black man with absolutely no experience to hold the office of president.

Clinton has essentially been doing all the “heavy lifting” for Obama, proving she would have made a better president, while he basks in glory he has not earned.

What a waste in every way possible.

Timing is everything since second chances do not come often in life.

Good luck on that one for 2016.

Meanwhile, I see the whining has already begun.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

Wow, 2016. Sort of like the Second Coming, or in your case, the Proletariat World Revolution; the golden future. But I can understand not wanting to dwell on the prospects for libs in 2014.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive
 

Was Obama v. McCain a battle of the races? I don’t think a reference to a play that was written when women in England were chattel like slaves is appropriate.

All of the states passing political restrictions on abortion are controlled by Republicans. They have been getting away with passing restrictions under the radar for years. I still recall the photo of the smirking men standing around Pres. Bush as he signed the ‘partial abortion act’ in 2006. It is about time this got the attention it needs. President Obama helped my making it a central issue of his first campaign for President.

Posted by yooper | Report as abusive
 

It’s looking like women will decide the next President of the U.S. Republicans will miss that point. I guess they think we still vote the way our husbands do. Big mistake.

But Rick Perry? AGAIN? Who in their right mind would put money into his campaign after his last and thorough humiliation?

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

“In America you’re cursed no matter who you vote for.” Jay Leno

Posted by butlermarty | Report as abusive
 

I spent my 4th of July watching the HBO miniseries “John Adams,” highlighted by some sweet, juicy watermelon and buttery popcorn. A great relaxing way to spend Independence Day. Watching the birth of our nation is always fascinating, but I couldn’t escape the fact that our nation’s origin allowed for slavery and drastically reduced rights for women, like no access to the ballot and no representation in our government. (Taxation without representation was one of the major factors for our revolution against Great Britian.) Fortunately for our nation, the wisdom of women still bore a major influence on how our country took shape through the influence they wielded over their husbands. It’s hard to imagine John Adams accomplishing much of anything without Abigail. But hardly an acceptable arrangement in the land of freedom and liberty.

237 years later the Republicans still seem incapable of letting go of that mindset, working on the basic assumption that they know what’s best for women and that decisions affecting the lives of women should be left up to men. For those of us who don’t buy into this assumption it strikes us as bazaar and grossly presumptuous. The Republicans have a penchant for alienating most voting demographics except for older white males (though I’m an older white male and I find nothing attractive about the GOP agenda.) One would have thought that after the 2012 election they’d have recognized this political Achilles heel, but instead they seem to be doubling down on the very approaches that are making it increasingly harder for them to win national elections. I can only assume that they intend to rely entirely on spin and BS, manipulating us dumb, naive voters into supporting their candidates with the same blind arrogance that our Founding Fathers had toward women, that only older white men have what it takes to govern and make the decisions that affect our daily lives. Good luck with that.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive
 

This will not happen. Perhaps it will draw a few more women to the polls to vote for their favorite pro-abortion candidate. But this time there will be a large number of women and men, mostly conservative who will vote that didn’t vote last time.

I know just as many women who are anti-abortion as I know men who are anti-abortion and the women are far more vocal. I do live in upstate NY in a fairly rural area but even in the suburbs most people somewhat lean that way. It isn’t only old white males who are against abortion. 64% are against abortion second trimester and 80% are against it second trimester. I would guess that probably 50% of the people who vote are against abortion totally.

This time the main focus willed be the failed Obama policies and the wrecked economy. I think there will be another recession/depression before 2016 and the Republicans will have an easy time winning in 2016, even if they nominate a very outspoken anti-abortion candidate. I would be very surprised if a Democrat could win in 2016. Any Democrat, even Clinton. There are only a few women who believe that the right is waging a war against them (most of them do not vote).

It wasn’t the Republicans positions on gay marriage and abortion that made them lose in 2012. It was the fact that many people, especially African Americans, still had a good opinion of him. If he would have been white I think Obama would have lost in 2012. If you take away the extra support from blacks and add in extra support from Christians and Republican types that did not vote in 2012 (because they didn’t like Romney) I think the Republicans would have won. But I think 2016 will be a pretty big win for the republicans – maybe 350 electoral votes or more. I know most people will not think it’s possible but that is how it works. Two terms for Reagan, two for Clinton, two for Bush, two for Obama. Almost every time it switches to the opposite party after two terms. This time will be no different but more pronounced – Reagan-like.

You heard it here first. I doubt I’ll be wrong.

BTW, I am not a Democrat or a Republican. Both have their problems.

Posted by gutenburg | Report as abusive
 

“Some Republican men still do not understand the offense caused by their ignorance about how a woman’s body works and the reasons women reluctantly choose an abortion.”

Liar. Most abortions are out of convenience. Less than 1.5% are performed due to incest or rape.

http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/ 3711005.pdf

Around 12% cited physical problems with their health and 13% said health of the fetus.

And respondents were allowed multiple answers (ie. this is NOT a 1+12+13=26% scenario)

Additionally, you and other libs continue this false theme that women are all on one side of this issue. Keep up the lies.

Posted by blah127guy | Report as abusive
 

It is not just about eliminating abortion. Gov. Perry is attempting to eliminate poor women’s access to any form of birth control as well. The plan is not just to shut down abortion providers, but to shut down any women’s clinic providing birth control to poor and disadvantaged women. Of course, eliminating birth control for large numbers of women will actually increase abortions.

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive
 

blah127guy proves the point that Republicans just do not get it!!!! Any given woman seeking an abortion may have one or several different reasons for doing so, but the most critical issue involved IS FREEDOM OF CHOICE CONCERNING HER OWN BODY AND HER OWN POTENTIAL CHILDREN!!! Republican opposition to abortion amounts to FORCING women to do something THAT WILL IMPACT HER, AND HER CHILDREN, FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES!!! Excluding the military draft, where men, usually, are FORCED to put their lives on the line for a conflict they may or may not agree with, THE ONLY OTHER MAJOR ISSUE THAT IS COMPARABLE TO FORCING A WOMAN TO HAVE CHILDREN SHE DOES NOT WANT, WAS SLAVERY!!! Most slaves were FORCED to live their entire lives in accordance with the will of their masters, and they had NO control over their own lives… beyond choosing to commit suicide instead of continuing to live under the steel grip of some right wing slave owning dictator! IN A NUMBER OF CRITICAL WAYS, BANNING ABORTION CAN HAVE THE SAME IMPACT ON A WOMAN AS ENSLAVING HER WOULD HAVE HAD! Most women, even fairly young ones, and most Liberals… not too bright in Conservative eyes… understand this. APPARENTLY, Republicans, especially Conservative Republicans, just are not as smart as young women or Liberals, or a number of other peoples and groups that Republicans look down their noses at! IF SOME WOMEN CHOOSE TO OPPOSE ABORTION, THAT IS THEIR BUSINESS… BUT NO ONE, MALE OR FEMALE, SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO PREVENT A WOMAN WHO WANTS AN ABORTION FROM HAVING ONE, UNLESS HER DOCTOR STRONGLY ADVISES AGAINST IT FOR MEDICAL REASONS!!! Strong Republican opposition to abortion is going to make this issue a major one in near future elections, and Republicans are going to discover that only dictators and fools would stand in the way of women who DEMAND the ultimate freedom of deciding whether or not they wish to bring a new life onto this often grim and unpleasant planet!!!

Posted by JohnDille | Report as abusive
 

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