Maybe the “Tea Party” Should Have a Tea Party for Women Voters?

Tea-Party-cookies-300x218Barack Obama won the 2012 presidential election. Not news, you say? Well, this fact is not always obvious if you peddle in the crock of conspiracy theories from the Wall Street Journal and others that claim that Obama would have lost the election if the Tea Party hadn’t been  “thwarted, diverted and stopped” by the alleged IRS targeting of some conservative groups’ 501(c)4 tax exempt status.

The WSJ has taken to sports analogies in its discussion of this topic and is demanding that Obama’s victory come with an asterisk for when a record or accomplishment is somehow tainted with controversy, a la Shoeless Joe Jackson.

The problem – beyond an utter lack of understanding for the truth – is that Tea Party gains in the 2010 mid-term election have always been overstated. If these conservatives really want to win and win big, their mantra should be —  It’s the women, stupid. But as long as the Tea Party peddles in the pro-life holy trinity of faux political arguments — women can’t be trusted, contraception is for sluts, and abortions should be illegal without exception — they will never win a national election like, let’s say, the presidency.

The hoped-for 2010 mid-term “shellacking” never happened because the Tea Party converted a sleeping electorate into a monster through organized political protest. In fact, the Tea Party tapped into a loud, yet minor, base that turned “large” due to underwhelming voter turnout of old, white, rich Republicans.

Bear with me as I think about rewriting history with an asterisk  — if young voters, women, and minorities had turned out for the 2010 mid-terms, the Tea Party would have been seen as the GOP extremists they are rather than the over-hyped and under-performing voting bloc they represent. Mid-term elections have never been sexy for progressives and, by in large, they skip them. This is a horrendous problem that needs to be fixed, but suggesting that the IRS killed the Tea Party through a “Nixonian” conspiracy that hindered an easy Mitt Romney victory is preposterous: those Tea Partiers never even liked Romney to begin with.

Let’s not forget that the GOP dug its own grave by attempting to suppress minorities through voter ID laws that then only served to mobilize and encourage voters to stand in historically long lines in Florida and shamed almost half of the electorate by labeling Medicare participants, Social Security recipients and anyone else that receives government benefits as “takers.”

But it was the women, stupid that the GOP and the Tea Party angered and drove to the polls to re-elect Obama. Women may not be a monolithic voting bloc, but what most women do agree on is that abortion should be legal (with restrictions), contraception should be readily available and rape – no matter what—is a horrific crime. At no other point in history has an election been decided along pro-choice lines. Make no mistake: the 2012 election was not about the silencing of the Tea Party through the IRS, it was about the fear of an abortion-less, contraception-free United States.

If you need any kind of reassurance about the power of the pro-choice woman, there is no greater example than the decline of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Komen, the purveyors of everything pink in the name of breast cancer research, has been struggling to rise from the ashes after it proposed to drop its funding to Planned Parenthood. After vocal opposition to that plan, Komen reversed course, but it has not been able to thrive since. Komen recently announced it would drop its fundraising events by half. No asterisk needed there: Komen is struggling because its board didn’t care or didn’t realize that, by and large, women support Planned Parenthood and view the organization as a first-line-of-defense health care provider that serves all women—regardless of income—and provides a range of options like breast cancer screenings; abortion just happens to be one of them.

As long as the GOP and the Tea Party continue to view the 2012 election like an onion with its “real” victory unfortunately wrapped in thin, conspiracy layers, all the while denying that their pendulum must swing away from the anti-choice rhetoric that likens fetal “pain” to masturbation, pregnancy through rape as something that rarely happens, and transvaginal ultrasounds as a state-mandated must, the GOP will continue to lose national elections and lose them big.

Contributor Liz Henry raises hell and wins awards for it. She’s the voice behind The Six Year Itch and was voted a BlogHer Voice of the Year in 2012. Her writing will be featured in a forthcoming book from Seal Press later this year. Liz lives in Philadelphia.

Image courtesy Joanne Bamberger. All rights reserved.

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